In a lengthy essay published today in New York magazine, model and activist Emily Ratajkowski accuses photographer Jonathan Leder of sexually assaulting her during a photo shoot at his New York home in 2012.
The (very well-written) essay is difficult to read. It’s moving, it’s disturbing, it’s raw. In it, the 29-year-old recounts an unpaid photoshoot she did with Leder as a 20-year-old for a magazine called Darius. As Leder’s home at the time was located in Catskills in upstate New York, the modelling job required an overnight stay.
A young and naïve Ratajkowski reportedly accepted Leder’s offer of having a few glasses of red wine, in an attempt to appear more mature. After being shot in her underwear, Ratajkowski says Leder then suggested they try naked shots.
“The second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated,” Ratajkowski writes. “I began to float outside of myself, watching as I climbed back onto the bed. I arched my back and pursed my lips, fixating on the idea of how I might look through his camera lens. Its flash was so bright and I’d had so much wine that giant black spots were expanding and floating in front of my eyes.”
After the shoot, Ratajkowski recalls feeling “very, very drunk” and, after the crew had left, found herself huddled underneath a blanket on the couch with Leder. “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,” she writes. “I didn’t say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs.”
The model says she caught the train home the next morning.
Years later, as Ratajkowski’s star rose, Leder’s images were published inside a book by Imperial Publishing. Ratajkowski and her agent claim these photos were published without the model’s permission.
When questioned about the images, New York magazine claims Leder responded with: “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?”
But it’s Imperial Publishing’s response to Ratajkowski’s claims that is perhaps the most shocking of all.
“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 rep says in a statement released uploaded to their website today. “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 routinely.”
Google “Imperial Publishing” and the first book to appear on their roster is Leder/Ratajkowski Collector’s Edition. Click on the site and there’s a bevy of products all born from the same shoot; a linen-bound book titled “Two Nights With Emily”, framed prints of the shoot in question, the list goes on. But it’s the former book’s blurb that is currently still published to the site that is completely disrespectful and inappropriate given Ratajkowski’s accusations.
“In May 2012, photographer Jonathan Leder found himself alone in a house with a Polaroid camera and Emily Ratajkowski,” it reads. “‘She was very, shall we say, comfortable with her body,’” Leder writes in the forward. “‘And as far as shoots go, I would say it was fun.” By the looks of it, she was having a good time, too. Whatever the vibe was during their two nights together, Leder/Ratajkowski is the document.”
Reading this after reading Ratajkowski’s essay is numbing.
In this post-Weinstein world, how is it ever OK to meet a woman’s claims with the assumption that she must be “sad”, “vindictive” and a “liar”? How is the Leder/Ratajkowski book still heroed on Imperial Publishing’s website? How is the above blurb still live on the site given Ratajkowski’s account? How?
It’s placement on the site is to say Ratajkowski’s experience can be exchanged for monetary gain. That she is not believed. That her body is not her own. And that’s just not right.
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When does a model own her own image? "Since 2013, when I appeared in a viral music video, paparazzi have lurked outside my front door. I’ve become accustomed to large men appearing suddenly between cars or jumping out from behind corners, with glassy black holes where their faces should be." Tap the link in bio to read @emrata’s first-person essay on buying herself back. Photo by @tinatyrell Set Design by @ericmestman