You undoubtedly know Emily Ratajkowski, even if you don’t recognize her name. The year was 2013 and that obnoxiously overplayed Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines” was dominating the pop music charts. And then the “unrated” version of the song’s music video came out, featuring the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Ratajkowski (among a few other fantastically hot models) doing the exact same dance moves they had previously done in bikinis, now topless. It literally broke the Internet and Ratajkowski instantly became a major star.
It’s not as if she hadn’t done anything before that video was released, but it had been relatively below the radar. Her modeling career was alive and well and she had appeared in a few episodes of the popular teen show iCarly, but until the provocative “Blurred Lines” music video, she was just another beautiful face in a vast sea of them.
However, the video made an impression, the Ratajkowski had a real wave to ride. Men were obviously turned on by it (Esquire Magazine named her “Woman of the Year”), some women applauded Ratajkowski’s uninhibited performance, while others pointed out the sexist and almost pro-sexual assault undertones of the song itself and condemned Ratajkowski. Either way, it kept the conversation going.
Over the next few years, Ratajkowski has appeared in a few more films, namely as Ben Affleck’s young affair that more or less becomes the inciting incident in the David Fincher film Gone Girl; as well as appearances in the dreadful movie version of Entourage and underwhelming electronic music homage We Are Your Friends. This has allowed her to maintain a presence in popular culture, but nothing like her sex symbol establishing turn in “Blurred Lines.”
Has Ratajkowski’s career stalled? Maybe. She’s more than just a sometimes actress and most of the time model, as Ratajkowski has been regularly outspoken about her political views, arguing she can be both a feminist and a sex symbol—though many notable feminists tend to disagree. However, the fact that she does more than collect a paycheck and live the celebrity lifestyle says something about her… right? Or is she just trying to justify her popularity due to getting mostly naked in a popular music video in order to extend her shots at the next big break just a little longer?
Either way, where does she go from here? Ratajkowski is in a entertainment career gray area, where everyone recognizes her and there is no shortage of work to pay the bills as long as her beauty lasts, but there is no defining role or career trajectory that will make her any more than an afterthought five to ten years from now. Based on her small sample size of onscreen acting work, she just may not have the chops to have a career as an actress—but she is clearly more than just a pretty face and body, with a sense of what she represents to culture at large.
What Ratajkowski really needs is another onscreen performance that takes everyone by surprise, be it in a film, television show or—more realistically—a short, shareable piece of art. What that is, only a genie can say, but Ratajkowski’s future career undoubtedly depends on it.