Model Emily Ratajkowski has accused photographer Jonathan Leder of assaulting her during a 2012 photoshoot.
Ratajkowski also says that he later released a book of never-before-seen nude and semi-nude pictures of the shoot. Leder emphatically denied both allegations.
The model-turned-actress released her personal essay for The Cut, titled “Buying Myself Back When does a model own her own image?” on Tuesday morning, where she recalled driving to the Catskills in upstate New York for an “unpaid editorial” photoshoot with Leder at his home in 2012.
At the time, Ratajkowski was only 20 years old and trying to build a portfolio to impress creatives in the fashion industry because it was “an important part of building a good reputation.”
Ratajkowski remembered feeling “confident, unafraid, and proud” as she posed for the photographer in an upstairs bedroom—even remembering the first part where she wore vintage-inspired lingerie and, at his suggestion, went completely nude.
“My body felt like a superpower,” she wrote. “Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated. 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.”
Leder purportedly made comments about the size of the model’s nipples in one of the photos that made her feel particularly uncomfortable. “I said nothing and nodded, confused but somehow feeling that he meant to insult me,” she wrote. “I felt my stomach turn.”
Apparently, a female photographer was also at the location, but after she fell asleep, Ratajkowski was left alone with Leder, and that is when the situation escalated, she said. She remembered thinking, “I can handle him alone,” but also admitted that the third person’s absence would change the dynamic.
Ratajkowski said Leder started asking about her love life, and due to feeling “wide awake, albeit very, very drunk” at the time, she opened up to him about the history of her dating life, the men she “really loved,” and the ones that she described “were whatever.”
She then wrote graphically about the alleged assault, saying,” 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,” she wrote.
“I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I didn’t say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs.”
The Cut reached out to Leder for comment, but was told that Ratajkowski’s allegations were “too tawdry and childish to respond to.”
Leder’s publishing house later added to his response to PEOPLE, “We were all deeply disturbed to read Ms. Ratajkowski’s latest false statements to NY Magazine. While we understand that Ms. Ratajkowski no longer feels that the images represent her in the way she would like and are probably detrimental to her career as an actress and celebrity, nonetheless, her recent accusations are based in fiction and not in fact, and the facts should matter.”
“Mr. Leder completely denies her outrageous libelous allegations of being’ assaulted,'” the statement read. “It is grotesque and sad that she is so vindictive about the publication of the photos.”
Ratajkowski said the incident left her feeling “sore and fragile.” She recalled experiencing an “intense headache” and her mouth being so dry she could “barley close it.”
“I stood up carefully, pressing my bare feet against the floorboards. 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 shivered uncontrollably. I was both confused as to why Jonathan had left without a word and terrified that he would come back. I listened for a sign of him as I watched the blue light of dawn peek in through the window.”
Imperial Publishing published the book titled “Emily Ratajkowski” four years following the incident, showing images that the model said were the “most revealing and vulgar” from the entire shoot. She also claimed she found out about the project after media outlets began reaching out to her about it; in 2016, she called the book a “violation.”
“I received a call from a well-known magazine asking if they could help promote my new book of photographs,” she wrote.
“Confused, I searched my name online. There it was: Emily Ratajkowski, the book, priced at $80. 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. I was livid and frantic.”
Ratajkowski had already become a big name in the industry, appearing on fashion magazine covers, and her role in the Blockbuster hit Gone Girl (2014). She now believes Leder had an agenda to “whore her out,” seeing that she had built her career by holding onto her unreleased photos for several years.
“It was intoxicating to see what he’d done with this part of me he’d stolen,” she said.
A cease and desist letter was sent to Leder and a gallery that had planned to exhibit his images of her to promote the release of the book.
“The gallery responded by going to the New York Times and telling the paper that it had a signed model release from me,” giving Leder the rights to publish the nude photos in ways beyond the magazine they were originally intended for, she wrote.
However, the actress said she never signed a thing and believes that her signature “must have been forged.”
The New York Times reported at the time that Leder provided a model release, apparently signed by Ratajkowski’s then-agent, permitting the use of the photos in “a future book of Polaroids.
Ratajkowski said taking legal action would not only be too costly but “fruitless,” considering the pictures have already been widely available online. And to add insult to injury, Leder released more books filled with images of her.
“I had a desire to disappear, to fade away,” she remembered. “My insides ached. I developed a new habit of sleeping during the day.”
Throughout the essay, the model spoke on what it means for a model to “own their own image” and also addressed her inclusion in Richard Prince’s “Instagram Paintings” series and the time she was sued for $150,000 for posting a paparazzi photo of herself on her Instagram account.
“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. She will continue to carve out control where she can find it,” she concluded.