In her forthcoming book My Body, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski accuses singer Robin Thicke of sexually assaulting her while filming the “Blurred Lines” music video in 2013. Ratajkowski and two other models appeared semi-nude in the video, which features Thicke as well as rapper T.I. and singer Pharrell Williams (all of whom appeared fully clothed). During a one-on-one scene in which Ratajkowski was topless, Thicke allegedly groped the model’s chest, something both Ratajkowski and the music-video director, Diane Martel, assert was not supposed to be part of the video.
“Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt the coolness and foreignness of a stranger’s hands cupping my bare breasts from behind,” Ratajkowski wrote, per London’s Sunday Times. “I instinctively moved away, looking back at Robin Thicke.” Ratajkowski alleges the singer also appeared to be “a little drunk.”
“He smiled a goofy grin and stumbled backward, his eyes concealed behind his sunglasses,” she said. “My head turned to the darkness beyond the set. [Martel’s] voice cracked as she yelled out to me, ‘Are you okay?’” Ratajkowski says she tried to “minimize” what happened. “I pushed my chin forward and shrugged, avoiding eye contact, feeling the heat of humiliation pump through my body,” she wrote. “I didn’t react — not really, not like I should have.”
Recalling the incident, Martel, who shot the video with an all-female team aside from the three male vocalists, said she ended the shoot after Thicke groped Ratajkowski. “I screamed in my very aggressive Brooklyn voice, ‘What the fuck are you doing, that’s it!! The shoot is over!!’” Martel said, per the Times, adding that Thicke apologized “sheepishly … as if he knew it was wrong without understanding how it might have felt for Emily.” Martel also asserted that Thicke had been drinking. “I don’t think he would have done this had he been sober,” she said.
Since its 2013 debut, “Blurred Lines” and its video have been criticized for sexism, given the video’s use of female nudity and trivializing consent and rape culture, with repeated lyrics like “I know you want it.” Both Martel and Ratajkowski have previously defended the video, with Ratajkowski saying it was meant to subvert the male gaze. Pharrell has also insisted that the lyrics have been misconstrued, saying lines like, “You don’t need no papers,” are meant to imply that a woman is “not a possession.” However, Pharrell has since walked back those statements as of 2019, saying he’s “embarrassed” by the song.
Asked by People why she decided to come forward now, Ratajkowski gestured to the power imbalance between her and Thicke at the time. “I was an unknown model and if I had spoken out or complained, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “I would not be famous.”
“I wrote a book about the evolution of my politics and that includes a lot of different experiences from my career and my life and the way that I felt and thought about those experiences have evolved,” she added. “I hope people are able to read the essay and understand the nuance behind these kinds of situations.”
Ratajkowski has previously spoken out about her experiences with sexual assault throughout her career. In a 2020 essay for the Cut, she wrote about the ongoing battle for the rights to her own likeness, referencing images from a 2012 photo shoot with photographer Jonathan Leder. During the shoot, Ratajkowski said Leder suggested she pose naked. He then allegedly continued giving her wine throughout the shoot to the point that she felt “very, very drunk,” and eventually sexually assaulted her. Leder has denied the allegations.
Thicke has yet to respond to Ratajkowski’s accusations. “With that one gesture, Robin Thicke had reminded everyone on set that we women weren’t actually in charge,” Ratajkowski said in My Body. “I didn’t have any real power as the naked girl dancing around in his music video. I was nothing more than the hired mannequin.”
This article has been updated.