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She was spotted snogging Harry Styles, but there’s more to Emily Ratajkowski than you think 

Ten years ago this week, a pop single by a U.S. artist named Robin Thicke was released and instantly catapulted to the top of the charts.

Today, that catchy single, Blurred Lines, holds several distinctions, some more positive than others.

For while it became one of the biggest selling singles of all time, its lyrics and accompanying video were mired in almost immediate controversy, panned for being misogynistic, chauvinistic and perpetuating a culture of date-rape.

Featured in the video were three models cavorting around in not very much at all, to the accompaniment of the memorable line: ‘I know you want it.’

Thicke has rather faded from public view since then, but one of the women on the video certainly hasn’t.

She is Emily Ratajkowski (the 'j' is silent), EmRata for short, who's enjoyed a stratospheric rise to fame as, variously, a supermodel, influencer, businesswoman, feminist ¿ of sorts ¿ divorcee, mother, and one of the most photographed, and body-confident, women on the planet

She is Emily Ratajkowski (the ‘j’ is silent), EmRata for short, who’s enjoyed a stratospheric rise to fame as, variously, a supermodel, influencer, businesswoman, feminist — of sorts — divorcee, mother, and one of the most photographed, and body-confident, women on the planet

And now, adding to that considerable list is the 'accolade' of being the latest glamorous older woman to fall for the charms of serial lothario Harry Styles, with whom she was pictured enjoying a passionate ¿ and very public ¿ embrace on the streets of Tokyo this week

And now, adding to that considerable list is the ‘accolade’ of being the latest glamorous older woman to fall for the charms of serial lothario Harry Styles, with whom she was pictured enjoying a passionate — and very public — embrace on the streets of Tokyo this week

Admittedly, at 31, she is young for 29-year-old Harry's usual tastes, although the gap seems to be shortening: his most recent lover, U.S. film-maker Olivia Wilde, with whom he split last year, has just celebrated her 39th birthday

If you haven't heard of Emily Ratajkowski, you most likely have seen pictures of her. And you've probably seen quite a lot of her, too

Admittedly, at 31, she is young for 29-year-old Harry’s usual tastes, although the gap seems to be shortening: his most recent lover, U.S. film-maker Olivia Wilde, with whom he split last year, has just celebrated her 39th birthday. If you haven’t heard of Emily Ratajkowski, you most likely have seen pictures of her. And you’ve probably seen quite a lot of her, too

She is Emily Ratajkowski (the ‘j’ is silent), EmRata for short, who’s enjoyed a stratospheric rise to fame as, variously, a supermodel, influencer, businesswoman, feminist — of sorts — divorcee, mother, and one of the most photographed, and body-confident, women on the planet.

And now, adding to that considerable list is the ‘accolade’ of being the latest glamorous older woman to fall for the charms of serial lothario Harry Styles, with whom she was pictured enjoying a passionate — and very public — embrace on the streets of Tokyo this week.

Admittedly, at 31, she is young for 29-year-old Harry’s usual tastes, although the gap seems to be shortening: his most recent lover, U.S. film-maker Olivia Wilde, with whom he split last year, has just celebrated her 39th birthday.

So who is this stunning brunette who’s broken the hearts of teenagers the world over?

If you haven’t heard of Emily Ratajkowski, you most likely have seen pictures of her. And you’ve probably seen quite a lot of her, too.

With 29.9 million followers on Instagram, 7.1 million on Facebook, 1.4 million on Twitter and another 2.4 million on TikTok, she’s a star for the social media generation.

There have also been numerous appearances in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, and there’s a book — aptly named My Body — a podcast series and her own swimwear company, Inamorata.

Yet despite a typically all-American childhood, growing up in California, Emily was born in London, to English professor mother, Kathleen Balgley, and art teacher father John, and once lived a stone’s throw from the Natural History Museum, in South Kensington.

Kathleen was a temporary lecturer at the University of London at the time and although the family returned to the U.S. shortly after Emily’s birth, they came back to the UK for a six-month stint when she was four.

Little Emily grew up padding around her father’s art studio and joined her mother on trips to the theatre, cementing a love of drama that grew when her parents returned to the U.S. and enrolled her in a theatre group.

Another, lesser known fact about Emily is that she’s equally happy in a pair of wellington boots, clambering around the Irish countryside. In fact, Ireland is the place that the model (whose middle name is O’Hara) calls her second home.

Both her parents have Irish heritage (mixed with Jewish, Polish and Scottish roots) and her childhood was punctuated by visits to their stone cottage in Bantry, in the idyllic far reaches of West Cork.

Her childhood was not all picture perfect, however. Emily recently wrote of her parents’ turbulent relationship in a series of deeply personal essays, revealing how they’d married after an ‘on and off’ relationship when Kathleen was pregnant.

‘I understood that even before I was born, my existence was the essential glue of their relationship,’ she said.

With 29.9 million followers on Instagram, 7.1 million on Facebook, 1.4 million on Twitter and another 2.4 million on TikTok, she's a star for the social media generation

With 29.9 million followers on Instagram, 7.1 million on Facebook, 1.4 million on Twitter and another 2.4 million on TikTok, she’s a star for the social media generation

Yet despite a typically all-American childhood, growing up in California, Emily was born in London, to English professor mother, Kathleen Balgley, and art teacher father John, and once lived a stone’s throw from the Natural History Museum, in South Kensington

There have also been numerous appearances in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, and there's a book ¿ aptly named My Body ¿ a podcast series and her own swimwear company, Inamorata

There have also been numerous appearances in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues, and there’s a book — aptly named My Body — a podcast series and her own swimwear company, Inamorata

Turbulent it may have been, but the marriage endured. Last November, Kathleen posted a throwback photograph on social media to mark their 30th wedding anniversary in which she looks strikingly similar to her daughter. 

The star’s notions about beauty appear to be inextricably bound up with her mother, now 70, whom Emily describes as ‘classically beautiful’.

She once wrote how she used to pray to be beautiful and as she grew up, developing curves ahead of her peers, was encouraged by her mother not to be ashamed of her body, telling her to ‘wear what you want, don’t worry about other people’. 

Notwithstanding that advice, Emily has also recalled how her academic mother would snap at the model-hunters prowling around her 14-year-old daughter, declaring: ‘She’s going to be a brain surgeon!’

These days, Mum has changed her tune completely, and has proudly shared images online of her daughter’s modelling shoots — even the racy ones.

Dad John, 75, is equally proud. Speaking to the Mail this week, he said: ‘Emily’s very bright; has been since she was a little girl, always did well in school. She has good vision, by that I mean she’s a good artist but she also sees life clearly.’

Had life unfolded differently, Emily might have followed her father’s creative path.

She went to the University of California, Los Angeles, for one year, studying art, until her modelling career took off and she changed course.

‘She’s a good artist,’ says John, recalling his daughter’s early artistic endeavours. ‘I would set her up with a big piece of paper on the studio floor while I was painting and we’d work together. It was wild abstract things — very clever, very imaginative.’

There was also a holiday home in Mallorca, an old house with no electricity or running water, renovated by John.

Emily would run around naked, at ease with herself and the topless sunbathers on the beaches — an uninhibited attitude that clearly stayed with her. 

She enjoyed an equally wild childhood in Bantry, which she described in a 2021 interview with the Irish Times, as ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth’.

‘I’ve been going there since I was a baby,’ she said. ‘I spoke my first sentence in Bantry. 

‘Both my grandmothers are from Ireland and I have spent every summer in Bantry since my father had the romantic idea 20 years ago to buy an old farmhouse on the west coast and renovate it.

‘I go back any time I get the opportunity and I have many friends who I still hang out with in the local pubs.

‘I have great childhood memories of cow-tipping, going off and getting lost in the bog for hours and coming home covered in dirt.’

Indeed, Bantry’s under-16 boys’ basketball team are the rather unlikely beneficiaries of Emily’s trans-Atlantic love affair with Ireland.

Her father played for the Bantry team in the 1980s and is friends with the current coach, so when the team were struggling to find a sponsor in the wake of Covid, Emily paid for kits and training costs.

The town has an added note of affection for her family, since it was in Bantry last year that Emily’s mother learned she had been given the all-clear from cancer. She had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in 2018, but is now in remission.

Another topic on which Emily has much to say is feminism.

Two years ago, in a series of ‘feminist essays’, the model put a whole new perspective on that Blurred Lines performance when she accused Robin Thicke of groping her naked breasts during filming.

It was, she said, something she had only allowed herself to acknowledge ‘half a decade later’. Having said nothing on set, she described her own feeling of powerlessness. ‘I was nothing more than the hired mannequin,’ she wrote.

Little Emily grew up padding around her father's art studio and joined her mother on trips to the theatre, cementing a love of drama that grew when her parents returned to the U.S. and enrolled her in a theatre group

Little Emily grew up padding around her father’s art studio and joined her mother on trips to the theatre, cementing a love of drama that grew when her parents returned to the U.S. and enrolled her in a theatre group

Another topic on which Emily has much to say is feminism. Two years ago, in a series of 'feminist essays', the model put a whole new perspective on that Blurred Lines performance when she accused Robin Thicke of groping her naked breasts during filming

It was, she said, something she had only allowed herself to acknowledge 'half a decade later'. Having said nothing on set, she described her own feeling of powerlessness. 'I was nothing more than the hired mannequin,' she wrote

Another topic on which Emily has much to say is feminism. Two years ago, in a series of ‘feminist essays’, the model put a whole new perspective on that Blurred Lines performance when she accused Robin Thicke of groping her naked breasts during filming. It was, she said, something she had only allowed herself to acknowledge ‘half a decade later’. Having said nothing on set, she described her own feeling of powerlessness. ‘I was nothing more than the hired mannequin,’ she wrote

If Ratajkowski felt powerless then, she has certainly shown some clout in the years since.

Take the occasion, for example, when she agreed to appear in a series of daily videos for the Love magazine advent calendar. Ratajkowski’s video showed her pouring red wine on her chest and lying in a pile of spaghetti (in her underwear, naturally) on a table.

‘To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her,’ she said in the accompanying text.

‘The way I dress, act, flirt, dance, have sex — those are my decisions and they shouldn’t be impacted by men. Being sexy is fun and I like it. I should never have to apologise for that.’

When the presenter Piers Morgan described her as a ‘global bimbo’ on Good Morning Britain in 2017, Ratajkowski hit back: ‘Lol, never said my love video was a feminist statement. 

‘But now it’s worth saying that telling women what to do with their bodies and sexuality is actually just classic sexism.

‘I can have opinions about feminism and also do sexy photo shoots — okay. Thanks,’ she wrote.

These conflicting themes, of body positivity, female empancipation and sexual imagery are ones Emily returns to frequently in her book. She speaks powerfully of wrestling with the impact of her own sexuality on men when she was a child. 

More poignantly she writes about being raped when she was 15 and assaulted by a photographer.

Which must have been uncomfortable reading for her parents. Her father is nothing but full of pride and praise, however: ‘Because we share a surname, I got a lot of letters from young women who said they were influenced by Emily’s book and said she had described a lot of what they also went through.

‘But there was one young woman’s letter which still sticks with me and she said words to the effect … ‘before I read Emily’s books, I believed I was alone’.’

He is reluctant to elaborate, but adds: ‘It’s hard growing up.’

What he and Kathleen made of the moment Emily contacted them — on FaceTime — to tell them she had got married in secret, after only two weeks of dating, to actor/producer Sebastian Bear-McClard in 2018 is unknown.

The couple had a son together, who’s now two, but she filed for divorce six months ago, following allegations he was a serial cheat.

This week, it emerged that multiple women had accused him of sexual misconduct. It’s alleged that he groomed two teenagers on Instagram, and slept with them, while making promises of job opportunities.

Emily, meanwhile, has embraced life post break-up. As well as enjoying a clinch with Harry Styles, she’s signed up to the elite dating app Raya. When asked, quite reasonably, why she felt the need to sign up, her response was: ‘I’m a woman, I’m a free, independent single woman.’

Indeed, she is. She’s had a dalliance with U.S. comedian Pete Davison, the popular ex of her pal Kim Kardashian and another well-known lothario (he’s also been linked to Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Kaia Gerber and Phoebe Dynevor, among others).

She was even rumoured to have been dating Brad Pitt for a short time last year.

She's had a dalliance with U.S. comedian Pete Davison, the popular ex of her pal Kim Kardashian and another well-known lothario (he's also been linked to Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Kaia Gerber and Phoebe Dynevor, among others). She was even rumoured to have been dating Brad Pitt for a short time last year

She’s had a dalliance with U.S. comedian Pete Davison, the popular ex of her pal Kim Kardashian and another well-known lothario (he’s also been linked to Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Kaia Gerber and Phoebe Dynevor, among others). She was even rumoured to have been dating Brad Pitt for a short time last year

Another, lesser known fact about Emily is that she's equally happy in a pair of wellington boots, clambering around the Irish countryside. In fact, Ireland is the place that the model (whose middle name is O'Hara) calls her second home

As well as enjoying a clinch with Harry Styles, she's signed up to the elite dating app Raya. When asked, quite reasonably, why she felt the need to sign up, her response was: 'I'm a woman, I'm a free, independent single woman'

Another, lesser known fact about Emily is that she’s equally happy in a pair of wellington boots, clambering around the Irish countryside. In fact, Ireland is the place that the model (whose middle name is O’Hara) calls her second home. As well as enjoying a clinch with Harry Styles, she’s signed up to the elite dating app Raya. When asked, quite reasonably, why she felt the need to sign up, her response was: ‘I’m a woman, I’m a free, independent single woman.’

Both her parents have Irish heritage (mixed with Jewish, Polish and Scottish roots) and her childhood was punctuated by visits to their stone cottage in Bantry, in the idyllic far reaches of West Cork

Both her parents have Irish heritage (mixed with Jewish, Polish and Scottish roots) and her childhood was punctuated by visits to their stone cottage in Bantry, in the idyllic far reaches of West Cork

Her childhood was not all picture perfect, however. Emily recently wrote of her parents' turbulent relationship in a series of deeply personal essays, revealing how they'd married after an 'on and off' relationship when Kathleen was pregnant

Her childhood was not all picture perfect, however. Emily recently wrote of her parents’ turbulent relationship in a series of deeply personal essays, revealing how they’d married after an ‘on and off’ relationship when Kathleen was pregnant 

‘I’m newly single for basically the first time in my life ever, and I just feel like I’m kind of enjoying the freedom of not being super worried about how I’m being perceived,’ she said last October.

Whether Harry Styles is just another stepping stone on that journey remains to be seen.

Back in the U.S., her father appears equally at ease with his daughter’s way of life — whether that means keeping her clothes on or off.

‘I can only speak as a father. I’m fine with everything Emily has done and is doing. I trust Emily to find a way to be happy in her life, and I think she is happy with her life. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for her.

‘What I’ve always enjoyed about Emily is that she’s able to cut herself off from that [publicity] and distance herself. She lives a very private life with her son.

‘She’s got a clothing business, modelling and she’s a writer and an artist,’ John says.

‘I’m as curious as everyone else is to see what my daughter does next.’

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