“We as a company stand for women’s empowerment, and that’s why I started our company,” Tory Burch told the small audience gathered on the third floor of her newly opened Mercer Street boutique Wednesday evening, as guests like Karlie Kloss, Ziwe Fumudoh, Tommy Dorfman, Kristine Froseth, Chanel Miller and more were settling in. She was introducing a conversation between “Three Women” author Lisa Taddeo and Emily Ratajkowski, who on Nov. 9 publishes her first book, titled “My Body.” The collection of essays examines how capitalizing on her body and her image has impacted her life and career and how she sees herself.
“Do you feel like now that it’s down, on paper, do you have a heavier sense of power?” Taddeo asked Ratajkowski at the beginning of their chat.
“I don’t know that I’m there yet,” Ratajkowski replied. “[My friend] said to me ‘a book is a moment in time], and you have to accept that. Because I think in some world I could’ve kept writing and editing this book forever.”
Ratajkowski told the audience that a large part of what drove her to write about her experiences was an attempt to regain control over the narrative.
And yet, “the funny thing about putting the work into the world is that it requires releasing control,” she said. “And it’s its own part of the process. Writing itself was very empowering. I think it’s actually a word that we hear a lot now and it can get overused or misused, and I say this in the introduction of the book but I don’t think I understood that word until I had written these stories and had this moment in time, this reflecting on my past and this questioning of my politics and my beliefs on paper.”
“What I loved about the book,” Taddeo told her, “was that beyond the stuff about the commodification of your image and all of that, the things with where you came from and your mother and your mother saying ‘that’s a woman that men like.’ I had a similar mom and there were similar rankings of other women, and I always found it so exhilarating and also punishing and awful. It sticks with you when you hear something at a young age.”
The essay Taddeo was referring to, called “Beauty Lessons,” is the opening to the book and Ratajkowski said she didn’t actually write it until after she had sold the book.
“I wanted to figure out the ideas I had about other women and comparing myself to other women and also how I have learned to watch myself at every moment outside of my body and be really aware of how attractive I could be to men in particular,” Ratajkowski said. “Because I remember that being something that I knew very young.”
Becoming a mother also impacted her process, and she told the crowd about why she dedicated the book to her young son.
“I wrote it to become the best version of myself for him, which meant facing hard truths about my past mistakes or how I saw the world, and being really honest with him so that I could be a better mother,” she said.
She also kept in mind parents of young girls.
“I think especially with young girls who maybe want to model or look to me and say, ‘oh, well you have all these things that I want.’ When I think about what I wanted when I was 9 years old, it was to live in New York City and have a cool house, and those are things that I was granted because I capitalized off of my body and my image and appealed to powerful men. So I would never tell a young girl not to model,” she said. “I think that the best you can do as an example for other women is just to be honest about the complexities about the good and the bad.
“I tried to be as honest as possible and there were some situations where power dynamics were really shrouded and unclear and at 19 I had no idea,” she continued, “all I thought which I think as so many young women do, is that you’re the one seducing, you’re the one in power because you’re beautiful and you have something that they want — but that’s just not the whole picture of the power dynamic. The reason that I wrote this book is to shine a light on those dynamics that we so easily ignore.”