This is everything Emily Ratajkowski taught me about her relationship with beauty in just 10 minutes

She reflects on her life in beauty...

Emily Ratajkowski at the Met Gala
(Image credit: Getty Images/Future)

When I found out I would be sitting down with Emily Ratajkowsi for just 10 minutes to celebrate her naming as the face of the new Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Tiger Lily fragrance, I had feelings of both excitement and fear. Excitement because Emily Ratajkowski isn't just one of my beauty heroes, she's also a woman I really respect. Her beauty is intimidating, but her brain even more so—and that is where the fear came from. As an interviewer, you don't want to be told that you only have a 10-minute slot, particularly when it's for an interview with someone as brilliant and multi-faceted as Emily Ratajkowski.

She is someone who has found herself in a position of fame, influence and great stature as a result of her beauty—but modelling was never supposed to make her famous. She has spoken in previous interviews of how she never intended to become famous, but instead used modelling as a way to make money in her early life. But since Robin Thicke launched that Blurred Lines video back in 2013, her beauty became the talk of everyone all over the world, catapulting her into worldwide fame. But so far from just another model/actress, Emily has become a voice for so many women across the globe through her social activism—speaking out on sexism, advocating for women's rights and campaigning for reproductive rights in the US. Her book, My Body, has become one of my most cherished.

Emily Ratajkowski wearing an angel wing dress for the Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Tigerlily campaign

(Image credit: Viktor & Rolf)

With all that said, 10 minutes is just not enough time to pick the brains of someone so brilliant. But, as a beauty editor, I knew my role in this game—I was invited for this conversation to speak about beauty. And while I knew I could sit there, as I usually do, and ask Emily for her top beauty tips, that approach didn't feel right this time. I wanted to get to the bottom of how her beauty choices have shaped her into being the person she is today—strong, level-headed, a force.

And what better way to really get into someone's beauty state of mind than through talking fragrance? As one of the most personal beauty products out there, it taps into our emotions and state of mind. Even when describing what Flowerbomb Tiger Lily smells like to her, Emily gave me an insight into how she uses beauty—as a form of feel-good escapism. "I grew up on a beach in Southern California, and I always feel best when I’m tanned and I have a little salt water in my hair. There’s nothing better than that feeling you get at the end of the day, and I feel like Tiger Lily transports you to that feeling. It has that tropical, solar feeling to it, and it brings me [back] to that place, even in the thick of winter in New York," she revealed.

"But besides fragrance, what other beauty moments have shaped your life?" I asked. And here is what she had to say...

My earliest beauty memory is...

"Getting my eyebrows over-plucked on set. I was modelling and I must have been 12 or 13, and it was a make-up artist assistant who was probably 19 or 20. I had really, really thick eyebrows and they decided that they needed to shape them—she didn’t know what she was doing. I was pretty horrified by that.

"I also have a memory of being at an aunt’s house for Christmas and a second cousin shaving part of my eyebrow. So I definitely learned early on that we don’t mess with the eyebrows, and I’m glad that I learned that lesson."

A beauty moment I wish you could relive is...

"For me, I really love doing make-up, but hair is quite difficult—I don’t have that skillset. I think there have been a couple of hair moments for me on carpets where I’ve been like: ‘Damn, if I could just have this hair...’ 

"I had a Met [Gala] where we did really big, curly, down-my-back hair, and I just remember being like ‘I don’t want to take this out—if this was my hair I’d be a different person.’"

Emily Ratajkowski at the Met Gala

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A beauty moment I wish I hadn't lived was...

"There’s a make-up look that was for a very specific random dinner in like 2015 that haunts me to this day. I remember getting in the car to go to the event and thinking: 'This is wrong, I can tell I don’t look like myself,' but the pictures were insane. I had a really severe dark brow and I think a purpleish lip, but otherwise basically bare-faced. It was pretty horrific. It came to mind straight away, and it was like 10 years ago..."

The first beauty product I ever bought was...

"Probably Maybelline Great Lash—or some sort of drugstore mascara."

A young Emily Ratajkowski

(Image credit: Getty Images)

My go-to beauty shops are...

"There’s a pharmacy in New York in NoHo, that I can’t remember the name of, that has all of the French products. I like that for if I’m trying to find something I got [previously] in Paris. And then, honestly, just Sephora—Sephora is great."

My biggest beauty icon is...

"I don’t feel like there’s one—there’s so many different women I find inspiring. The ones I like the most are ones who found their signature look and lived and died by it. Like Sofia Loren or Twiggy or Brigette Bardot or Bianca Jagger. Rihanna has a look—even if she plays with colour we know what she’s giving. I really jump around."

Emily Ratajkowski wearing black sunglasses and a black leather jacket

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The person who has taught me the most about beauty is...

"My make-up artist Hung Vanngo, who I have worked with for a really long time. He broke the rulebook on certain things and thinks outside of the box. He really pays attention to each face that he does. I learned things about my particular face through him. I’d always do highlighter in the inner corner of my eyes and he was like: 'No, no, no—we put the dark all the way around and bring the shadow through.' And that does work for my face, it’s true. I feel like working with him over the years I’ve really learned a lot about my own face."

Beauty to me is...

"I think it’s changed in the sense that beauty used to feel really intimidating. I thought there were girls and women who do it really well, and I wasn’t sure I was one of them. I think I also always felt compelled or interested in trends, and as I’ve gotten older and figured out what really works for me, I see beauty as a way of helping me feel like myself. And that is, I think, the best relationship you can have with it. 

"I also think the ritual of doing my make-up is just such a nice time for me—it’s like meditating, practically. Then I feel like I’m ready for whatever the day is going to throw at me, and that’s just what you want from beauty."

Shannon Lawlor
Executive Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.