In the latest Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb campaign, Emily Ratajkowski pulls the proverbial pin on a grenade full of perfume. But in the bigger sense, EmRata herself is the grenade. The 31-year-old is strategically popping flashbulbs and champagne bottles at a string of runway shows and party entrances—smile, wave, flash, repeat—that started at Marc Jacobs, where her wig made headlines (“Yeah, sorry, I loved that bob, but I’m probably never cutting my hair short,” she laughs when I ask her about it). There she goes down the catwalk at Simkhai, closing the show after Raf Simons’ muse Julia Nobis and Prada face Kai Newman saunter by. There are also the tabloid gasps about her rumored-but-likely connection to comedian Eric André, because now that a gorgeous woman is back on the market, the public needs to know everything about her love life.
In the past, sex symbols like Pamela Anderson and Britney Spears were forced to let other people’s cameras do the talking, to the detriment of their own health, and more remotely, the health of many women worldwide. But the difference between a bombshell and a grenade is that you can weaponize one for yourself, and Emily Ratajkowski finally has the cultural and technological tools to do what eluded those who helped create the Hot Girl Industrial Complex in the past—namely, a microphone and a WiFi connection.
“I used to be afraid of the sound of my own voice,” Ratajkowski tells ELLE.com just before the official debut of her Flowerbomb campaign. “I really disliked how I sounded, and I would usually cringe if I had to hear a recording of myself. Like, ‘Oh god, my voice! No!’” she laughs. “Even when I was writing my book [2021’s My Body], I was very nervous when I realized I’d have to record the audiobook version. Putting my thoughts down on paper was the first step towards reclaiming my voice, I guess, but it was still only part of the picture. But now, because I do a podcast [High/Low] every month, I’ve really had to face the mic, and give a literal voice to who I am. That has made me deeply scared, at first, but also it made me feel…I don’t know, more calm? Because I’m finally a three-dimensional person. I’m not just an image out there. I’m me.” I ask Ratajkowski if that means her Disney princess is The Little Mermaid, because she finally gets redemption by reclaiming her voice. “Oh exactly,” she laughs. “It’s all Ariel.”
Ratajkowski’s latest podcast guest is none other than Donatella Versace, whom Ratajkowski calls “a real one” before adding, “My experience has been, ‘Don’t meet your heroes,’ unfortunately. But I think she’s the exception. She tells it like it is. Though I will say, for better or worse, I hate small talk. So whether I’m talking to you on the podcast or at a party or dinner, I’m just going to pry a little bit! People are so interesting, so I want to get to the meat of things…but the podcast has also made me realize that I’m what they call an ‘active listener,’ which basically means I’m an interrupter,” she laughs. “I’ll say, ‘mm-hmm’ or ‘yeah’ or I’ll tell my own story to show I’m listening, or we’re on the same page. Hearing that on a podcast has made me realize that, now that I have the mic, I can learn to shut up a little bit more. That’s not a bad thing!”
Those watching the Flowerbomb commercial for the first time might notice she’s not wearing too many clothes, but Ratajkowski herself thinks that getting dressed is the first step to putting on perfume. “It’s the last touch before I go out the door. I’m sure that’s not the proper way to do it, but it’s what I do, because I think perfume is the last moment of doing something for yourself before you walk out the door and meet other people. It’s that moment of connecting it to my look, and my mood. And Flowerbomb has a real power to it. It’s a shot of confidence and glamour.”
Fans of the video ad might also recognize Ratajkowski’s gravel-flecked voice at the end. “I recorded that during the photo shoot,” she says. “We went into a very quiet room in the photo studio and locked the door. Then they made me say ‘Flowerbomb, the iconic fragrance by Viktor & Rolf’ like a million times. There was a director going, ‘Okay, now say it with a little more levity. Now try it with a little bit more energy. Okay, now more cool. Okay, now be sexy.’ I’m glad they got what they wanted, and that they thought my voice sounded like such an epic fragrance,” she says, “because something I know is, I’m always just going to sound like me.”
Editor at Large, ELLE.com
“Her beauty and her brain go not together.” —William Shakespeare