Emily Ratajkowski said that photographer Jonathan Leder sexually assaulted her following a nude photo shoot in 2012, in an essay she wrote for New York Magazine on Tuesday.
“I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own,” Emily Ratajkowski writes in a new essay in New York Magazine.
While we all may assume that any photo taken of us may, in some sense, belong to us, that’s not true legally, and especially not for models. For Ratajkowski, the loss of control of her own image dovetails with other issues that have plagued the modeling industry for decades: abuse of power, sexual misconduct, and the personal pain brought on by legal battles pertaining to copyright.
In the essay, Ratajkowski first cites a lawsuit a paparazzo brought against her for using a photograph he took of her on her own Instagram Story, an increasingly common legal headache that has also caught up others like Gigi Hadid and Khloe Kardashian.
Though, Ratajkowski’s issues also extend into the art world. She discusses in her piece the Richard Prince “Instagram Paintings” series, in which two images of hers were used by Prince, an artist who has come under fire a number of times for appropriation and pushing the limits of copyright law. She ended up purchasing the canvas with an ex-boyfriend, in efforts to reclaim her own image.
Emily Ratajkowski said that photographer Jonathan Leder sexually assaulted her following a nude photo shoot in 2012.
The model, now 29, recalled traveling to Leder’s home in the Catskills for an “unpaid editorial” shoot, during which she posed both in lingerie and without clothes, under instructions from her former agent.
Ratajkowski, who said she was “very, very drunk” after drinking wine with Leder, said that the photographer put his fingers inside of her without consent while they sat on a couch together following the shoot.
“Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling,” she wrote. “I don’t remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me. Harder and harder and pushing and pushing like no one had touched me before or has touched me since. I could feel the shape of myself and my ridges, and it really, really hurt.”
Ratajkowski said she “pulled his fingers out” and “didn’t say a word” to Leder, who walked away. She said she spent the night in one of the bedrooms they used for the photo shoot.
“I was both confused as to why Jonathan had left without a word and terrified that he would come back,” she wrote.
The photographer reportedly denied Ratajkowski’s allegations when contacted by a New York Magazine fact-checker, stating that her claims were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.”
According to the outlet, he added: “You do know who we are talking about right? This is the girl that was naked in Treats! magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”
In a statement to Insider, a representative from Imperial pictures publishing, which Leder co-founded, wrote that the photographer denied the model’s allegations.
“We are all deeply disturbed to read Ms. Ratajkowski’s latest ( false ) statements to NY Mag in her never-ending search for press and publicity,” the representative wrote.
Leder also told The Daily Mail that Ratajkowski’s allegations are “totally false.”
Several years after the shoot, Ratajkowski learned that Leder had published the photographs in a book titled, “Emily Ratajkowski” in 2016 without her permission. According to the model, it included some of the most “revealing and vulgar Polaroids he had taken of me.”
In a series of tweets, she wrote that she tried to avoid speaking about Leder but “had enough” after learning about the book.
Ratajkowski added that the book and the use of the photos without permission were a “violation” and an “example of exactly the opposite of what I stand for.”
The model’s retelling of these abuses of power are distressing, but unfortunately happen far too often in the fashion industry. Young women trying to start their careers are frequently taken advantage of—even if they do have a solid agent backing them.
Instagram accounts like Shit Model Management (which posts models’ stories of abuse in addition to memes that speak to a model’s tough lifestyle) and the model Cameron Russell have publicized hundreds of harrowing recounts of sexual misconduct and rape.
Ratajkowski’s article published today will be part of a larger collection of personal essays, the model stated in an Instagram post.