She’s Sexy & She Knows it

Does everyone remember that breakout summer hit Blurred LinesIf you need a reminder, Robin Thicke asked what rhymed with “hug me” and they had two versions of the music video including an unrated version in which the three girl stars wore close to no clothing. One of the female stars is a standout and can be identified by her assets. Due to her eye-popping performance and over sexualization, Emily Ratajkowski has become something of a household name overnight. Despite the fact her name is a bit of a mouthful, she was just crowned Esquire’s Woman of the Year.

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Considering the way Ratajkowski is portrayed in the video, a few descriptions may come to mind including sexbomb, risqué, heterosexy and maybe even grotesque depending on your standards. These words are accurately mirrored by her Instagram profile that currently stands at 512,161 followers and counting with a total of 569 posts. The emrata instagram profile is one I became aware of thanks to several of my guy friends liking her photos and thus making it a familiar trend on my Facebook News Feed. After a brief look at the emrata profile and you can easily surmise that Emily Ratajkowski is a working model and at the ripe old age of 22 she is in high demand. There are few instances when a music video plays a central role in ensuring the overall popularity and cultural importance of a song but with Blurred Lines, that is exactly the case. Due to the video’s considerable sexual content the amount of media attention led to a more in depth profiling of the video’s leading ladies, namely Ms. Ratajkowski.

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Moreover, if you want to think about that infamous VMA performance, Miley Cyrus was building off the material already presented in the video albeit taking it a step further, yet the two girls are just over a year apart in age. It seems to be that in the case of Emily Ratajkowski, there is a level of scrutiny that is noticeably absent compared to someone like Miley even though Emily has become infamous for exposing her body and has even posed for the controversial photographer Terry Richardson. The video itself might have been under attack by certain critics but it was not directly addressed at Emily who continue to support the video even posting an instagram photo of fans dressing up as her for Halloween:

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Of course the trajectory of fame and attention between Miley and Emily are quite different, however, Emily hopes to utilize her current fame to become a top model while simultaneously transitioning into acting. Additionally, Emily was actually featured in a couple episodes of the tween show ICarly. Keeping in mind the similarities between Emily and Miley, it appears that Emily is treading a fine line between heterosexy and grotesque as Amy Shields Dobson coins it and her growing instagram reflects this present conflict. Her sultry poses and sexual prowess are intended to show her off as a woman for men to lust after while submitting herself to be viewed according to Mulvey’s Male Gaze. Many can view her shallow emphasis on her body as grotesque yet the girlishness meets porn mentality still allows her to fit within the heterosexy construct. As consumers of the material Emily is presenting us, we can keep in mind the way in which mass media feeds into the frenzy of sexualization especially considering the growth of certain stars like Kim Kardashian whose insurmountable popularity was primarily due to a sex tape.

As  Goffman discusses in Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life, when it comes to presenting the self, we are constantly performing. When it comes to celebrities, these performances can best be captured by their social media presence. In Emily’s case she isn’t just performing, she is creating a brand. With her social media presence, it is more than just how she acts via her posts but what it tells us about who she wants to be. Emily knows she is sexy and she isn’t about to shy away from this role. In Branding the Post-Feminist Self, Banet-Weiser explains that it is no longer enough to be a person with the character and skills to match, we feel that we must create an image that is marketable. In Emily’s case, she cannot be satisfied at just creating a consistent brand but it has to be one that is complex and unique. Through her social media presence, she can build on her social capital that exhibits that she herself is buying into a certain version of what she should be. Considering her claim to fame, she is boxing herself in with all the sexy instagrams all the while trying to break out of her identity as just that “girl from that video,” by also promoting her desire to be an elite model as well as an actress who loves cool bands and her parents.

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Her instagram photos express less of a happy go lucky 22 year old and more of a sultry temptress with an attitude that many men and women can either admire or detest. Given Emily’s obvious comfort level when it comes to showing off her body it can be said to demonstrate a strong level of self-confidence, however, her overall sexualization has granted her a platform for which she has been able to use the mass media to her advantage. Considering her explicit content on the popular social app, she does not seem to possess the same fear of context collapse or of Marwick and Boyd’s nightmare reader. Even when she is doing something considered more in the realm of high fashion, it still incites an array of reactions since she has obvious sex appeal.

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According to Giddens, the idea of authenticity is all about maintaining a stable narrative and considering the parallels between Emily’s performance in the video and the way she chooses to present herself on instagram, there is a consistency albeit a very provocative one. The story she is telling is aiming to go beyond that sexual personality in order to make herself a brand. It does not appear that Emily is submitting herself to self-ridicule either but rather continuing to grow her fan base who recognize her through this sexual narrative.

I believe her profile goes beyond what you see or feel about Emily when you look at these photos but what you see in yourself considering your reaction to them. I think we all harp on the word sexy whether we want to be it or prove that we don’t have to be sexy by doing things we deem boyish or what not. We easily critique a celebrity’s presence based on a culmination of jealousy, guilt and self-reflection. We want to criticize someone like Emily because we either want to avoid that we strive to be heterosexy considering that the male gaze teaches us to internalize a view of ourselves when we watch these female performances or face the fact that even if you don’t act sexually on social media, you engage in other things that deal with this message. We have taken the presentations given to us by personalities like Emily and either strive to emulate them, ignore them or denounce them all together to prove a sense of higher taste.

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