Your nipples change so much from hard to soft. We finished our meal relatively quickly, and I helped bring dishes to the sink as Jonathan washed them. I could feel the acidic burn of alcohol in my chest as we proceeded back upstairs. She was older than me and quiet. He didn’t respond well to this assertion. The next day, my lawyer informed me, on yet another billable call, that pursuing the lawsuit, expenses aside, would be fruitless. Legit. Through my contacts, I was assured that they would reach out to him to confirm that the study had been a gift from Prince to me and me alone. Is it commanding someone’s attention? He told me that when he Googled me prior to our meeting, he’d seen a particular shoot that left him with this impression. In the industry, I’d been taught that it was important to earn a reputation as hardworking and easygoing. I posted the image to Instagram a few hours later, placing text on top of it in bold white caps that read mood forever. As the night went on, I became sweaty and exhausted and bleary-eyed. He was very different from the other “fashion” photographers I’d met up to that point, men who tended to be L.A. The pool’s surface sparkled in the sunlight, nearly blinding me as I squinted to scroll through the list of ten, 20, 50 women’s names until I landed on mine. I was flattered by his desire to own the painting, but I didn’t feel the same urge to own the piece as he did. “Using and abusing? For the four days of letters and calls for which I had enlisted my lawyer’s services, I’d racked up a bill of nearly $8,000. At the end of last year, Jonathan published yet another book of the photos, this one hardbound. I knew that impressing these photographers was an important part of building a good reputation. “And the pictures are already out there now. I was both confused as to why Jonathan had left without a word and terrified that he would come back. The Instagram post I was sued for sharing in 2019. What if at the end of this I really would have nothing? I hate that Jonathan commented on something I’ve done throughout my life to comfort myself. He told me about his marriage’s undoing; that the actress, whom Jonathan had cast for a short film he’d been making at the time, came to live with them. A few years after my photo shoot, I received a call from a well-known magazine asking if they could help promote my new book of photographs. And from what was being said online, a lot of people believed the entire situation had been my doing. The giant image of me was hanging above the couch in his West Village apartment. Every time my name appeared in the news — if you can call gossip websites “news” — he was notified immediately via email. Later that week, the photos were released to the world. “I’ll check my old email server,” she promised. “I want this bouquet to look like her!” I’d said, grabbing a handful of lemon leaves. He paused then and turned, silently walking back downstairs to the kitchen. That was the name of the Nickelodeon show I’d been on for two episodes while in high school. My insides ached. Everyone had told me to shy away from being “sexy” in order to be taken seriously, and now an entire book containing hundreds of images of me, some of them the most compromising and sexual photos of me ever taken, was available for purchase. My mouth was chalky, but I remember I was still talking a lot — about my dating history, which guys I really loved, which ones were whatever. Tags: Something switched inside me then. “Yeah, no,” I said, laughing. This was something the industry calls an unpaid editorial, meaning it would be printed in the magazine and the “exposure” would be my reward. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”

Years passed, and Jonathan released a second book of my images, then a third. Private photos of me — along with those of hundreds of other women hacked in an iCloud phishing scam — were expected to leak onto the internet. His work on Google looked celestial and pretty. He managed to make himself sound like a sought-after photographer and me some random model who had been desperate to shoot with him. She will continue to carve out control where she can find it. I, after all, had posed for the photos. I arched my back and pursed my lips, fixating on the idea of how I might look through his camera lens. When our relationship ended, about a year and a half later, I assumed he wouldn’t want the canvas — a giant picture of me, now his ex — so we began to make arrangements to divide our belongings, including the artwork we had bought together. I was still holding on to a faith in our system, a system I had thought was designed to protect people from these kinds of situations. As I spoke, I absentmindedly rubbed my feet against one another and against his for warmth. Since 2013, when I appeared in a viral music video, paparazzi have lurked outside my front door. I’d heard from friends that Jonathan was a rich kid who had never needed a paycheck in his life. Of the hundreds we had shot, only a handful were included, mostly black-and-white ones. I knew I had never signed anything; I had never agreed to anything. I touched my forehead with the coolness of my palm and breathed in through my nose. The next thing I remember is being in the dark. “You want coffee?” he asked. He was asking me about my boyfriends. Confused, I searched my name online. I found myself touching the place on my scalp where my hair had fallen out. Maybe we’ll shoot very early tomorrow, I figured. There it was, in plain text, the way I’d seen it listed before on class roll calls: so simple, like it meant nothing. Pictures meant only for a person who loved me and with whom I’d felt safe — photos taken out of trust and intimacy — were now being manically shared and discussed on online forums and rated “hot” or “not.” Rebecca Solnit wrote recently about the message that comes with revenge porn: “You thought you were a mind, but you’re a body, you thought you could have a public life, but your private life is here to sabotage you, you thought you had power so let us destroy you.” I’d been destroyed. My advice …” he began. Downstairs, Jonathan was making coffee, and the makeup artist was already up and dressed and sitting hunched over a mug. I thought about something that had happened a couple of years prior, when I was 22. I liked the comment he left on this one far better than his comment on the black-and-white study, where he asks, “Were you built in a science lab by teenage boys?”

When I realized we had the opportunity to procure this one, it suddenly felt important to me that I own at least half of it; we decided to purchase it directly from the artist and split the cost down the middle. The problem with justice, or even the pursuit of justice, in the U.S. My body felt like a superpower. We’d shoot in Woodstock, for some arty magazine I’d never heard of called Darius, and I’d spend the night at his place, she said. I liked to check out the first few Polaroids Jonathan took with each new “look” and adjust my pose and body accordingly before we continued. I stiffened as her presence dissolved from the living room. It seemed crazy to me that I had ever valued school over the financial security that modeling was beginning to provide. A couple were favorites I’d pointed out to Jonathan on the night of the shoot. Can’t wait to see pics! I felt protective of my image. “You girls always end up spending too much money on shoes and bags,” he said. I thought about Jonathan’s daughter. I should be appreciative, I thought. Harder and harder and pushing and pushing like no one had touched me before or has touched me since. I chewed on my lower lip as I handed the neat stack of Polaroids back to Jonathan. Even if we did “win” in court, all it would mean was that I’d come into possession of the books and maybe, if I was lucky, be able to ask for a percentage of the profits. I learned the next day from my own lawyer that despite being the unwilling subject of the photograph, I could not control what happened to it. “It must have been forged,” my lawyer announced. He told me he liked “that foot thing you’re doing,” and I remember this moment more clearly than anything else. I was upset with her for leaving me, but I didn’t want to admit to myself that her presence had made a difference. It had been only two years since the 4chan hacking. “I’m not sure why she would want to stop her fans from viewing these Polaroids,” he said in an interview. Jonathan sneered. She wrote that she hadn’t found an email in response with the release signed by him. Kind of weird, I thought, but I had seen weirder. My face was hot from the wine, and my cheeks glowed and throbbed. “You know, big-boned. The more disinterested he seemed, the more I wanted to prove myself worthy of his attention. He offered me a glass of red wine, which, in my nervousness and desire to seem older and wiser than I was, I accepted and drank quickly. Richard Prince is an important artist, and the implication was that I should feel grateful to him for deeming my image worthy of a painting. Email

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google
Privacy Policy and
Terms of Service apply. I sat up on an antique brass bed frame, my knees pressing into the faded floral-print sheets. The makeup artist finished setting up and began working on my face while Jonathan cooked dinner. I took deep sips as the makeup artist painted a thick, black, wet liner onto the tops of my eyelids. I thought about all the other young models who must have come to this bus station in the Catskills and sat in this car. Jonathan didn’t react much to my arrival. “These are just kind of … boring and stiff,” he said with a sigh. No hurt. Jonathan and I were on his couch, and the rough texture of his jeans rubbed against my bare legs. That, more than anything, in my opinion, set her apart from so many other models.” I felt myself on the carpet of Jonathan’s living room, the texture of it rubbing into my skin as I posed and talked about art-making and felt a deep twinge of shame. When people visited, they’d rush toward it and yell, “Oh, you got one of these!”

My guests would cross their arms and study the painting, read Prince’s comment, and smile. He spread the Polaroids out on the table and scratched his head, inspecting them. I exchanged the safety of those hundreds of Emilys for one image — an image that had been taken from my platform and produced as another man’s valuable and important art. I had been working with my agent full time for about two years. 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. Xx,” as she had on other occasions. Eventually, Jonathan will run out of “unseen” crusty Polaroids, but I will remain as the real Emily; the Emily who owns the high-art Emily, and the one who wrote this essay, too. I can’t remember if we had stopped shooting and were just looking at the pictures together or what. She explained that the attorney behind the suit had been serially filing cases like these, so many that the court had labeled him a “copyright troll.” “They want $150,000 in damages for your ‘use’ of the image,” she told me, sighing heavily. I had a desire to disappear, to fade away. My agent hadn’t mentioned that the shoot would be lingerie, but I wasn’t concerned; I’d done countless lingerie shoots before. I saw photos of men in profile, gripping beers and wearing hipster jackets, standing inches from my naked photos, their postures slumped and their silly fedoras cocked back as they absorbed the neatly framed images. I was shocked. The next day, after I’d seen myself in the picture online, I sent it to Mary, writing, “I wish I actually had a flower bouquet for a head.”

“Ha! Photo: Tina Tyrell for New York Magazine. For years, while I built a career, he’d kept that Emily in the drawers of his creaky old house, waiting to whore her out. I’ve often stood in my kitchen and stared at myself in the large Richard Prince piece, contemplating whether I should sell it and use the money to sue. All these men, some of whom I knew intimately and others I’d never met, were debating who owned an image of me. I liked the idea of getting into collecting art, and the Prince seemed like a smart investment. 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. (When the fact-checker I worked with on this story reached out to Jonathan about what happened that night after the shoot, he said my allegations were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.” He added: “You do know who we are talking about right? He was excited as he scrutinized the pictures, holding one up close to his face and then letting it fall again. The gallery on the Lower East Side held an opening for the exhibition of Jonathan’s pictures of me, and I looked up photos from the event online. U lost the [anchor emoji]. My temples pounded. “You girls and your Instagram. The image of a morgue came to mind. Besides, I was 23; I hadn’t made enough money to comfortably spend $80,000 on art. I can handle him alone, I thought. I sat up, erect. is that it costs. “No one has shot her better,” he said over his shoulder, as I continued to riffle through the Polaroids. All these men, some of whom I knew intimately and others I’d never met, were debating who owned an image of me. “Reprint coming soon,” Jonathan announced on his Instagram.I tweeted about what a violation this book was, how he was using and abusing my image for profit without my consent. “We had a lot of discussions about music, art, the industry, and the creative process,” Jonathan said in the interview. I’d seen online that other subjects of the Instagram paintings were being gifted “studies,” the smaller drafts of the final works. Then again, she was the one who’d sent me to Jonathan’s home. No upset. This is exactly what she wants.”

“You could always keep your clothes on and then you won’t be bothered by these things,” a woman wrote. Ratajkowski et al. Set design by Eric Mestman. My mother’s ex-husband, Jim (who, until I turned 8, I’d thought was my uncle), had Google alerts set for me. I was wearing a tank top that I’d tucked into the front of high-waisted shorts, and as we drove, I watched the soft blonde hairs on my thighs glisten in the sunlight. And a part of me was honored. I felt relief wash over me when a makeup artist arrived at the house and proceeded to set up on the kitchen table next to Jonathan’s kids. In bed alone, I used my thumb to scroll through the replies. A few weeks later, I realized — sitting up straight, half-asleep in my bed with my jaw clenched in the middle of the night — that I hadn’t collected the black-and-white study the studio had gifted to me. “I had worked with over 500 models by that point in my career,” he said. I knew of the gallerist through a bunch of different people and had met him once or twice, so it didn’t take long to find out what actually happened to the piece. I was considering my options when it occurred to me that my ex, whom I’d been with for three years, had countless naked pictures of me on his phone. My lawyer sent cease-and-desist letters: one to Jonathan’s makeshift publishing company and one to a gallery on the Lower East Side that had announced it would be holding an exhibition of the Polaroids. What if he was right? I could imagine her writing to me the next day, “Jonathan loved you. I climbed up the wooden stairs and into the room where we’d shot at the beginning of the night, then lay down on the thin, flowery sheets. I brought my hands up to the straps of my backpack and shifted my weight from side to side, waiting for instruction. I sipped my wine. Maybe this is just the stuff he puts on his Instagram? “Sure,” I half-heartedly chimed, opening Instagram. He came off as a nervous, neurotic artist type. They’d often turn back to me to ask if I knew what the comment above Prince’s, from some unknown user, said. 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. Jonathan never looked at me directly, but I remember feeling watched, aware of our proximity and my body and how I might appear from his driver’s seat. And I knew my boyfriend felt like this was some kind of conquest; he’d worked hard to get it. He showed me naked pictures, Polaroids, he’d taken during their affair. I didn’t bother to investigate further. Photo: Courtesy of Emily Ratajkowski

To my boyfriend’s disappointment, his gallerist friend texted him only a few days later to say that a big-time collector wanted it. I was livid and frantic. “And I didn’t sign anything he sent either!!!” she wrote. I enjoyed food more and didn’t think so much about the shape of my ass. “You never know who they’ll be shooting with next!” my agent would remind me. I turned and leaned against the counter, opening my phone. But mostly, I couldn’t imagine not having a claim on something that would hang in my home. The next time someone asked about the German comment, I lied and said I didn’t know. I felt the bristled texture of the old couch against my back. I stood awkwardly at the door in my short shorts and felt embarrassingly young — unwomanly even, like a kid myself. I didn’t have to; I wasn’t relying on modeling as much then. My lawyer and I got on the phone the next day with the agent, who was sure she hadn’t signed it. “You know, I thought you would be bigger. And while I did have fame, I didn’t have the kind of money I’d told Jonathan I hoped to have one day. The yellow lights were switched off, and I was cold, shivering, and huddled under a blanket. I don’t remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me. I wondered what kind of damage this would do to my career as an actress. 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. I guess, I thought. I was walking through Tompkins Square Park with a friend and her dog and sipping a coffee when Jim’s name lit up my phone. An intense headache began to beat into my temples, and my mouth was so dryI could barely close it. I’d been told by plenty of photographers and agents that my body was one of the things that made me stand out among my peers. One Great Story: A Nightly Newsletter for the Best of New York
The one story you shouldn’t miss today, selected by New York’s editors. I hate that sometimes, even now, when I rub my feet together because I’m cold or afraid or exhausted, I think of Jonathan. Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated. She was a buzzkill anyway. Still, I make my living off posing for photographs, and it felt strange that a big-time, fancy artist worth a lot more money than I am should be able to snatch one of my Instagram posts and sell it as his own. “And I can tell you that Emily Ratajkowski … was one of the most comfortable models I had ever worked with in terms of her body. magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. My body was sore and fragile, and I kept stroking parts of myself with the back of my hand — my arms, my stomach, my hips — maybe to calm them or maybe to make sure they were still there, attached to the rest of me. A lot. I was used to unusual setups on shoots, but I’d never been in a situation like this before. The gallerist said we might want to take a look at its upcoming show of Richard Prince’s “Instagram Paintings.” The “paintings” were actually just images of Instagram posts, on which the artist had commented from his account, printed on oversize canvases. Same,” she wrote back immediately. I wondered where he normally kept these Polaroids. That I am special. “What should we shoot next?”

Time warped in the glow of the warm yellow lamps of Jonathan’s living room, the vintage lingerie draped over the musty, floral-printed armchairs. This is only a case of a celebrity looking to get more attention. She was neither shy or self-conscious in any way. I shivered uncontrollably. When I agreed to shoot with Jonathan, I had consented only for the photos to be printed in the magazine they were intended for. “It’s about how saggy my tits look,” I told my husband, whom I now share a home with. I don’t get it,” he said, shaking his head and drying a plate with a dish towel. Subscribe Now! No one had asked me. Jonathan had put up one of the Polaroids from the night before. The place was so packed they had to leave the door open and let the crowd pour out onto the sidewalk. New articles about the book, accompanied by images, were popping up hourly. Does she normally sleep in this bed?, I wondered. I began to float outside of myself, watching as I climbed back onto the bed. I had no sense of what time it was when the makeup artist announced she was going to bed. The internet is the internet,” he said to me matter-of-factly. The makeup artist painted on a bright-red lipstick, and I changed into a high-waisted pink lingerie set. “I love when they’re giant,” he told me. The paintings were going for $80,000 apiece, and my boyfriend wanted to buy mine. When he was done cooking, Jonathan, the makeup artist, and I all sat around the kitchen table eating pasta, as if we were a small family. As promised, Jonathan picked me up from the bus stop in Woodstock. I was relieved to see that he’d done a tasteful edit, and I went as far as to think he might have chosen the images he remembered I liked. My lawyer argued that Jonathan had no right to use the images beyond their agreed-upon usage. I liked the shot the paparazzo got but not because it was a good photo of me. I reached out to Prince’s studio. He had another show at the same gallery. His followers were skyrocketing, as were the followers of @imperialpublishing, a “publishing company” — I realized after just a few moments of research — that Jonathan had personally funded and set up solely for the purpose of making this book. “When the economy crashed and I started to get more opportunities to work, it just made sense that I’d pursue this while I could,’’ I said. When anyone mentioned the book or the show to me, I just shook my head and said softly, “So fucked up,” like I was talking about someone else’s life. Is it feeling wanted? I made sure not to eat too much, while Jonathan silently refilled my glass and I kept drinking. This guy shoots all these women, but I’m going to show him that I’m the sexiest and smartest of them all. I had no one in my life to swoop in and help cover the costs. Of me. He was turned away from me when he said, “Let’s try naked now.’’

I’d been shot nude a handful of times before, always by men. “Is it German?” they’d ask, squinting. I also knew, even though I never would have admitted it, that I’d been less concerned with my weight at the time of that shoot. I found an extensive new interview with him, and my chest tightened when I saw the headline: “Jonathan Leder Reveals Details of His Emily Ratajkowski Shoot (NSFW).” The article began with his description of how we’d come to shoot together. Hipster-y. I could feel him bristle as I exclaimed, “Oh, I like that one!”

“This one, though,” he said, holding the stack of Polaroids to his chest and flicking one around so I could catch a quick glance of it. At my home in Los Angeles with the Richard Prince Instagram “painting” in 2016. I watched as Emily Ratajkowski sold out and was reprinted once, twice, and then three times. “Thank you, that was so good,” I said politely. She had known me since I was 14, when I landed my first modeling and acting jobs, but she began to take my career more seriously when I turned 20. Jonathan’s kids were picked up by someone who did not come inside the house, while the makeup artist finished preparing my face. While we were together several years ago, my boyfriend befriended a guy who worked at an important international art gallery. It was dark, and my hair was still in rollers as I finished my third glass of wine, my mouth stained purple. Photo: JAB

“What can I do?,” I asked again, but in a smaller voice. By that time, I’d stopped working with my agent, who’d quit the industry, but reading this, I called her in a panic. Especially pretty? I sat down on a bench and Googled my name, discovering that I was in fact being sued, this time for posting a photo of myself on Instagram that had been taken by a paparazzo. I didn’t say a word. What does true empowerment even feel like? I’d been lying next to a pool under the white Los Angeles sun when a friend sent me a link to a website called 4chan. And I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own. Did you?,” I asked, trying to catch my breath. The makeup artist rubbed her nails roughly into my scalp, loosening my curls. “This one is so good because of your nipples. Only his mouth was visible, the rest of his face eclipsed by his camera. *This article appears in the September 14, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. I felt free: free of the asshole bosses my friends had to deal with, free of student-loan debt, and free to travel and eat out more and do whatever the hell I pleased. I looked him up online occasionally; I almost felt like I was checking in on a part of me, the part of me he now owned. I didn’t think I could survive going through what I’d been through again. “See you’re getting sued. At the time, I’d made just enough money to pay for half of a down payment on my first apartment with him. It seemed strange to me that he or I should have to buy back a picture of myself — especially one I had posted on Instagram, which up until then had felt like the only place where I could control how I present myself to the world, a shrine to my autonomy. Of her. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. The New York Post headline for Jonathan Leder’s gallery show in 2017 read: “Emily Ratajkowski doesn’t want you to see this art show.” People went anyway. I was dumbfounded by his easy dismissal of my life’s plan, and began to panic. As Jonathan shot the first Polaroid, I explained that modeling was just about making money for me. I couldn’t believe how many people had turned up despite my very public protest. Jim was well meaning but an alarmist; he wished to maintain a relationship with me, and these alerts provided him with perfect opportunities to reach out. I felt suddenly terrified. There was no release. I’m sure she was sick of my posturing with Jonathan. “What book?”

By then, I’d appeared in David Fincher’s Gone Girl and on the covers of international magazines. He came over and put his arms around my back, whispering, “I think you’re perfect.” I felt myself stiffen. The next day, I wired my ex the money. The gallery responded by going to the New York Times and telling the paper that it had a signed model release from me. He talked about his “crazy” ex-wife and his affair with a “crazy” actress, now 21 (a year older than me, I noted). His Instagram was mostly pictures of his home and a few strange, retro images of a very young-looking Russian woman with obvious breast implants. All energy bunny now that it’s sunny,” it reads. I felt more comfortable upon her arrival; the pressure was off me to know how to be and how to compensate for Jonathan’s strangeness now that another adult was there and a woman. I’ve become more familiar with seeing myself through the paparazzi’s lenses than I am with looking at myself in the mirror. I opened an IRA and paid off my first and only year at college with the money I’d made. “Maybe take off the red lipstick, fuck up your hair.” He waved his hand at the makeup artist and went to the counter to open another bottle of wine, pouring fresh glasses for himself and me. She seemed so vulnerable in Jonathan’s photos, even though I could tell she was trying to look strong and grown up from the way she held her face square to the camera, chin up, her hair falling perfectly over one eye. We went back and forth via email until he told me I needed to pay him $10,000 for the study, a price he’d arrived at from his “knowledge of the market.”

“But it was a gift to me!” I wrote. This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. It’s fairly typical for agents to sign releases on behalf of models (a pretty unacceptable norm), but I knew she wasn’t sloppy. My ex told me he “hadn’t thought about that” and told me he’d moved the piece into storage. I developed a new habit of sleeping during the day. The piece was a reproduction of a photo from my first appearance in Sports Illustrated. I’d studied art at UCLA and could appreciate Prince’s Warholian take on Instagram. I felt my stomach turn. You’re obsessed! If I hadn’t been protected during my shoot with Jonathan, what did that mean for all the other thousands, maybe millions, of photos of me that had been taken over the years? I dressed quickly in the clothes I’d been wearing the day before and noticed that my hands were shaking. I was confident naked — unafraid and proud. Years passed, and I tucked the images and Jonathan somewhere deep in my memory. The arrangement was my own; I’d picked flowers from various buckets around the shop while telling the women behind the counter that my friend was turning 40. I hated them, and I hated the way I’d felt while shooting them. There was one of me in black-and-white: a nude photograph of my body in profile, seated with my head in my hands, my eyes narrowed and beckoning, an image that was taken for the cover of a magazine. I said nothing and nodded, confused but somehow feeling that he meant to insult me. I could feel the shape of myself and my ridges, and it really, really hurt. A few months later, my agent received the oversize, heavy magazine with the Polaroids printed in its pages. He had captioned it simply “iCarly.”

It was only as I sat on the bus headed back to the city that I realized Jonathan had never paid me back for the fare. I hung the giant Instagram painting, the image from the Sports Illustrated shoot, on a prominent wall in my new home in Los Angeles. My dad was a high-school teacher; my mom was an English teacher. When we arrived at Jonathan’s home, two children were sitting at the kitchen table. When my lawyer called the New York Times to let the paper know that whatever documents Jonathan and the gallery were claiming to have did not exist, he was informed that Jonathan had “supplied a copy of the release” signed by my former agent. I’d purchased the flowers for my friend Mary’s birthday at a shop around the corner from my old apartment in Noho. A post on 4chan had compiled a list of actresses and models whose nudes would be published, and my name was on it. In exchange for two other pieces of art, I received ownership of the Prince. My boyfriend asked the studio, and some months later, a 24-inch mounted black-and-white “study” arrived. I was used to defining myself with this explanation, to men especially. Besides, my agent was in full control of my career: I did what she told me to do, and in return, she was supposed to expand my portfolio so I could book more paid jobs and establish myself in the industry. “I’m like really, really tiny.”

I knew what pictures he was referencing, from early in my career. I began to take my career more seriously, too: I dropped out of UCLA to pursue modeling and was working quite regularly. The wild-looking flowers substitute for my head, as if the arrangement had grown skinny legs and thrown on dirty white sneakers — a bouquet hitting the concrete streets, taking a walk out on the town. Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. Later in the morning, I woke with a vicious hangover. It was a different shot than the large piece we had purchased, but I still felt victorious. I’d lost ten pounds in five days and a chunk of hair fell out a week later, leaving a perfectly round circle of white skin on the back of my head. When the piece arrived, I was annoyed. Jim was a lawyer, familiar with people calling him up to ask for legal advice and therefore used to doling out his opinion even when it wasn’t solicited. I hated most of the photos from that spread because I didn’t look like myself: The makeup was too heavy, there were too many extensions in my hair, and the editors had kept telling me to smile in a fake way. As I looked at the images, I grew competitive. Help me get him to back off this ridiculous ransom? I listened for a sign of him as I watched the blue light of dawn peek in through the window. I posted the photograph of me using the bouquet as a shield on my Instagram because I liked what it said about my relationship with the paparazzi, and now I was being sued for it. Does he think I’m smart? “He, like, sits under naked you.”

But it turned out Prince had made another Instagram painting of me, and this one was still available. “iCarly,” Jonathan said, smirking as he shot. There it was: Emily Ratajkowski, the book, priced at $80. Photo: Robert O’Neil / Splash News, Photo by Robert O’Neil, the subject of O’Neil v. This is the girl that was naked in Treats! But I like them when they’re gigantic,” he said, opening his phone to show me a vintage pinup of a woman with oversize nipples. I peered at the pictures from over his shoulder. To say she enjoyed being naked is an understatement. I could try to force him to cease production of his books; I could tangle him up in a legal fight that drains us both, but I’m not convinced that spending any more of my resources on Jonathan would be money well spent. If I wanted to see that picture every day, I could just look at my own grid. I remember the way she sighed as she turned away from me, vanishing. I never told anyone about what happened, and I tried not to think about it. A big girl,” he said, his brow furrowing as he picked up another Polaroid for inspection. When he laid out old-fashioned lingerie on a kitchen chair, I began to grasp what type of girl he wanted me to be. Just split it with him. Eventually, after enough people asked, I decided to translate the comment myself. I felt my frustration grow. “Giant and exaggerated.” He looked back to his phone, and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. I’m completely unrecognizable in it; only my bare legs and the big old-fashioned tweed blazer I was wearing are visible. We headed to the upstairs bedroom to begin shooting. I noted the time from a clock on the wall: How are we going to shoot today if it’ll be dark in just an hour and a half? I wasn’t doing anything fancy or important, mostly e-commerce jobs for places like Forever 21 and Nordstrom, but the money was better than what any of my friends were making as waitresses or in retail. I started talking faster and louder. I began to run through the countless shoots I’d done in my early career. I don’t know if it empowered her or she enjoyed the attention.”

I felt dizzy as I wondered the same thing. “It’s kind of awkward,” a friend of mine said, describing the painting’s placement in the gallerist’s home. In the photo, I’m holding a gigantic vase of flowers that completely covers my face. My fingers went numb as I read the comments from eager customers on Jonathan’s page. “I guess this comes with the territory of being a public persona,” he wrote in a follow-up text. “It’s not a way to save real money.”

“I don’t buy bags,” I said weakly, but I began to doubt myself. But I was still determined. He seemed distinctly disinterested in me and didn’t meet my eyes as he drove us in a vintage car over streets lined with tall grass. Fat.” He half-smiled. “I’m not dumb; I know modeling has its expiration date. But I did like a few of the images of me in body paint and had posted one of those pictures, which Prince then reused for this “painting.”

Prince’s comment on that post, included among several others at the bottom of the painting, alludes to an imagined day he has spent with me on the beach: “U told me the truth. I followed behind, shoeless and in my lingerie set. I was paid $150 for the shoot and a couple grand later, when the magazine came out, for the “usage” of my image. Speaking out about the images had only drawn more attention to the show, the book, and to Jonathan. I was pumped full of so much sugary wine that I felt wide awake, albeit very, very drunk. Were they all meticulously labeled in a giant filing cabinet somewhere in his attic, the names of young women written in ink on their assigned drawers? I blocked everyone on Instagram who was involved, but I didn’t let myself cry. I hated the way the stylist had made comments about my body, about how I could never be a fashion model. A little boring, I remember thinking. “I never signed anything. I put my lingerie back on, and we made our way back downstairs, Jonathan in front of me, gripping the Polaroids in his fists before dropping them on the kitchen table. She was making me look pretty, transforming me to fit Jonathan’s aesthetic vision. Photography assistance by Matt Shrier. I just want to save a lot of money and then go back to school or start making art or whatever.”

Jonathan frowned as he inspected the Polaroid. Sign up here to get it nightly. It was intoxicating to see what he’d done with this part of me he’d stolen. Freer. I stood up carefully, pressing my bare feet against the floorboards. Could they offer some clarity or assistance? Even the love and appreciation of a man I trusted, I had learned, could mutate into possessiveness. My name was written on the wall in black lettering. “But I am almost 100 percent sure I didn’t sign anything.”

The next day, she forwarded me an email sent in the days following the shoot, in which the agency had requested Jonathan’s signature on the model release. They were unrelenting. How validating. douchebags with strategically placed highlights in their hair who smelled like sweet cologne. In 2012, my agent told me I should buy a bus ticket from Penn Station to the Catskills, where a photographer named Jonathan Leder would pick me up and reimburse me for my fare. “She was very pleasant to speak with, and very intelligent and well-spoken, and cultured. When I looked up Jonathan’s work online, I saw a few fashion editorials he’d shot on film. Everyone, especially my boyfriend, made me feel like I should be honored to have been included in the series. I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I opened my iPhone’s selfie camera in my lap to check her work. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs. I promised myself that I wouldn’t look him up anymore. He had a small frame and was plainly dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.