Emily Ratajkowski has opened up about being sexually assaulted by a photographer while doing a photoshoot at his home when she was 20.
The model recalled the occasion in an essay published for The Cut on Tuesday, where she wrote about travelling to Jonathan Leder’s home in Woodstock, New York, for an unpaid photoshoot set up by her agent early in her modelling career.
According to Ratajkowski, Leder shot numerous photos of her in lingerie and nude that night, while continuously pouring her glasses of wine. She says he later assaulted her while they were on the couch.
“The next thing I remember is being in the dark,” she wrote. “The yellow lights were switched off, and I was cold, shivering, and huddled under a blanket. Jonathan and I were on his couch, and the rough texture of his jeans rubbed against my bare legs. He was asking me about my boyfriends.”
The now-29-year-old also remembers rubbing her feet together for warmth and the photographer telling her he liked what she was doing with her feet.
“I remember this moment more clearly than anything else,” she wrote. “I hate that Jonathan commented on something I’ve done throughout my life to comfort myself. I hate that sometimes, even now, when I rub my feet together because I’m cold or afraid or exhausted, I think of Jonathan.
“Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. 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.”
According to Ratajkowski, she forcefully stopped the photographer, at which point she claims he abruptly stood up and went upstairs.
After Leder went upstairs, Ratajkowski said she was “confused” about why the photographer had left and “terrified that he would come back”.
I’ve been working on a collection of essays for the past year and couldn’t be more thrilled that @nymag has published “Buying Myself Back”. This is an extremely personal piece about image, power and consent. Thank you to the entire New York magazine team for this opportunity and all of their support. Link in my bio.
A post shared by Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) on Sep 15, 2020 at 5:40am PDT
The next morning, Ratajkowski said she woke up with a “vicious hangover”. “I dressed quickly in the clothes I’d been wearing the day before and noticed that my hands were shaking,” she recalled.
In the essay, the model explains that she and her agent eventually received a few of the polaroids shot that night by Leder, and she was “relieved to see that he’d done a tasteful edit”.
She wrote that years passed and she “never told anyone about what happened, and I tried not to think about it,” until she learned that Leder was publishing an $80 book of photographs of her from that night.
According to Ratajkowski, she first learned about the book when a “well-known magazine” called and asked “if they could help promote my new book of photographs”.
“When the news broke of a book being sold with my name on it - the cover was completely white and read only EMILY RATAJKOWSKI in bold black lettering - several media outlets reached out to me directly, thinking they were being generous by offering their support to a new project of mine,” she wrote. “Some of the images were posted on Jonathan’s Instagram, and they were among the most revealing and vulgar Polaroids he had taken of me.”
She says that she was “livid and frantic” to learn of the book and worried about what it would do to her career.
She also claims that she nor her agent gave Leder the right to use the photos taken in 2012 “beyond their agreed-upon usage,” despite the photographer reportedly supplying The New York Times with a signed model release giving him the rights to publish the photographs.
At the time, she tried to prevent its release but the legal fees were extensive and her lawyers told her pursuing the lawsuit would be “fruitless” as the pictures were already out there.
In a statement to The Cut, Leder said Ratajkowski’s allegations were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.”
“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,” he said. “You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”
In a statement to The Independent, Heather Tynan, editorial director of Imperial Publishing said: “Of course Mr Leder totally denies her outrageous allegations of being ’assaulted’. It is grotesque and sad that she is so vindictive to lie in such a way to the press."
Tynan also said the essay is “not our first encounter with her wrath," adding: “In 2016 Ms Ratajkowski tried to stop publication of Imperial's books. She hired famed LA lawyer Marty Singer to send us a bullying scare tactic ‘Cease and Desist' letter.”
Calling the essay “tawdry and baseless,” the statement continues: “We have every right to publish our books of Ms Ratajkowski. She knows that, and she knows she has no legal recourse, so bad mouthing the photographer ( again) seems to be her newfound answer. It is a shame, because the photos are really powerful and they are beloved by so many of her fans.”