Emily Ratajkowski is buying herself back and she’s using NFTs to do it. Her first, a meta photo of the model posing in front of a shot she did for Sports Illustrated in 2014, just sold via Christie’s for $175,000 USD.
What even are NFTs? Those three letters stand for “Non-Fungible Token.” To put it simply, creating an NFT allows ownership of unique digital items. NFTs — according to Data Driven Investor, “are basically something unique and irreplaceable.”
“Fungible” means something that can be exchanged for an identical item. Oil and currency are fungible. If it isn’t fungible it has an utterly unique nature — think one-of-a-kind piece of art or the first edition of a book autographed by the author.
Even if the concept is still hard to wrap your head around, Emily Ratajkowski understands it well enough to utilize it to her benefit, and she explained in the caption above:
Introducing Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution, an NFT available at auction @christiesinc on May 14.
The digital terrain should be a place where women can share their likeness as they choose, controlling the usage of their image and receiving whatever potential capital attached. Instead, the internet has more frequently served as a space where others exploit and distribute images of women’s bodies without their consent and for another’s profit. Art has historically functioned similarly: works of unnamed muses sell for millions of dollars and build careers of traditionally male artists, while the subjects of these works receive nothing. I have become all too familiar with this narrative, as chronicled in my 2020 essay for New York Magazine, Buying Myself Back.
NFTs carry the potential to allow women ongoing control over their image and the ability to receive rightful compensation for its usage and distribution….
As she noted in a 2020 essay, the model was originally paid just $150 for the shot. An artist named Richard Prince transferred the entire Instagram post to canvas, then Ratajkowski bought it from him for $80,000.
The New York Post reports that “just six minutes of intense bidding at Christie’s auction house, a mystery buyer in New York City beat out online bidders in France and Monaco to pick up the token of the model’s ‘Buying Myself Back: A Model for Redistribution.'”
Some sources reported a $140,000 USD profit for Ratajkowski but Christie’s website lists the selling price as $175,000 — overall, a pretty nice profit for Emrata.
The winner gets a unique digital signature for the image (the long string of numbers seen here under “Details”) and…that’s it.
While the popularity of NFTs has declined a bit, they seem here to stay. And we wouldn’t be surprised if Emily Ratajkowski creates a few more. She’s certainly got enough amazing photos floating around to justify the effort.