Interview: "Blurred Lines" Star Emily Ratajkowski Talks Controversy, Nudity, and "Rapey" Lyrics

The lead star of Robin Thicke's video for "Blurred Lines" explains the process behind the visuals.

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Complex Original

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Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is one of the hottest the songs of the summer. The track topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, but the accompanying (NSFW) video has been under heavy scrutiny. Some have said the chorus of "I know you want it" is "kind of rapey," as it promotes the idea that no means yes. The video also features three half-naked supermodels parading around indifferently with Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. But the video's lead model, Emily Ratajkowski, says the video is "making fun of itself."

Born in London and raised in Cali, Emily previously had a role on the Nickelodeon series iCarly and starred in a Carls Jr. commercial with Sara Jean Underwood. But it was her role in the "Blurred Lines" video that really caught people's attention. While promoting AXE's new Black Chill line at Comic Con, Complex spoke to Ratajkowski on the phone about her role in the video, the vision director Diane Martel had going in, and her opinion on the controversy surrounding it.

Interview by Ian Servantes (@ian_servantes)

Watch the SFW video of "Blurred Lines"

Why did you want to do the “Blurred Lines” video?
Initially, on paper, the video looked pretty crazy and I wasn’t inclined to do it. After I met with Diane Martel, the director, who is a very sophisticated, savvy lady, she explained the concept a little more. They were looking for a confident, kind of sarcastic woman with a little attitude, so I was more inclined to do the video.

What did you think of the finished product? Was it what you expected?
It’s so strange to watch yourself. It’s a really weird feeling, especially when you don’t see it [in the making]. You’re performing and it’s a day-long shoot. I didn’t really have time to look over footage and you don’t know how the editing is going to turn out. I didn’t really have any expectations because the more you do the job, the more you realize you have no idea what this is going to look like. I was very happy with how it turned out. I thought it was fun, silly, and really got to what we were trying to get at.

I’m glad that people are criticizing pop lyrics, because I think that’s an important thing to do. But I don’t find [the lyrics are rapey]. They're kind of playful.

What do you think of the criticism of the song and video?
It’s really important for people to be watching out for those things. That the video is making fun of itself, and that’s what’s very crucial about it. You have naked women dancing around in the video. It sounds pretty bad, right? But when you look more into the attitudes of the women and how we’re making direct eye-contact [with the camera]—we’re ignoring these guys, we’re having fun. You can see that [the females are] in the power position. Women’s bodies are beautiful. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We should be able to dance around naked and celebrate our beauty.

What about the lyrics? Some have criticized the lyrics for being kind of “rapey.”
I never even thought of that before. Like I said, I’m glad that people are criticizing pop lyrics, because I think that’s an important thing to do. But I don’t find that in the lyrics. I think they’re kind of playful. If anything they’re self-aware and saying, “I know you want it” and these girls aren’t really into it.

In an interview with GQ Robin Thicke said that he, Pharrell, and T.I. were the perfect artists to create a video like this since they’re married with kids. Do you agree with that?
Maybe it’s true that that the way they live their lives is a good example, but I think it was more about the actual execution of the artistic idea. The video was about these ladies being silly and a little sarcastic. 

In another interview, the other two models said they didn’t feel uncomfortable on set. Did you feel the same way?
I was never uncomfortable. I don’t think that nudity is something weird. I think it’s natural and it’s something to be celebrated.

YouTube video banned the video for three months before just recently re-publishing it. Do you think the video deserved to be banned in the first place?
No, I don’t think it deserved to be banned. I think there’s different kinds of nudity, and there’s different kinds of sexiness, and obviously it’s hard to distinguish those things. I think that the video was tasteful, beautiful, and there’s nothing offensive about it.

What was it like working with Diane Martel?
I love Diane. We connected really well. She gave me general ideas of what kind of woman she wanted to represent: someone powerful, eyes to the camera, marching around, dancing, having fun, being ridiculous. I loved the idea of this overload of images—[it's like] random things you would see on a Tumblr or Twitter feed. That’s why the hashtag worked so well, along with the random sheep, and our silly red lips. I think that’s why it was so successful because she used cultural references to bring it together and that’s why people connect with it so much.

What else do you have going on in your career right now?
I’m excited to be at Comic Con representing AXE and pushing the Black Chill product because [like the video], they're promoting that women are confident, and that Black Chill gives men the confidence that they need to be on the same level as women.

RELATED: Pharrell Acknowledges "Blurred Lines" Criticism, Defends Creative Expression
RELATED: Robin Thicke Thinks It's Ridiculous That People Are Saying "Blurred Lines" Is Rapey

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