Emily Ratajkowski, Tory Burch on balancing 30 million followers



Emily Ratajkowski (left) and Tory Burch (right) onstage at the Power Women Summit on Sept. 15.

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Emily Ratajkowski catapulted to fame as a supermodel. But it wasn’t until the release of her book, My Body, last year, that she felt she “came into her own.” With 29.5 million followers on Instagram and thousands of copies of her book sold, Ratajkowski’s learning to manage a relationship with her ever-growing platform as she exercises her voice.

“It’s very tempting– especially for me, as somebody who personally has a lot of hot takes and opinions and feelings around things happening in the world,” Ratajkowski says. “I like to be really concise about the messages I deliver now.”

That week, some 200 people lined up in Manhattan to get their book signed by Ratajkowski, many of them young women. With her broader audience primed for high-fashion photographs and footage of her strutting the runway mute, the moments when Ratajkowski leverages her platform to make a statement are met with both admiration and criticism.

“Making a career off of my body and my sexuality and then calling myself a feminist and talking about issues around empowerment has always been kind of controversial,” she said. “I don’t totally agree with the controversy, but I’m grateful to start conversations.”

Ratajkowski began modeling when she was 14 years old and transitioned to a full-time career before the age of 20. She’s graced the covers of dozens of magazines and walked runways for some of the world’s top designers, recently including Tory Burch, who interviewed Ratajkowski onstage at last week’s Forbes Power Women Summit. The event drew hundreds of people to New York City to discuss what it means to be a multi-hyphenate woman in business.

“Whenever I weigh in, people tell me to stick to fashion,” said Burch, who was featured on Forbes’ America’s Richest Self-Made Women list. “If I ever write a book, it might be called that. The point is not to stick to fashion if you have a platform.”

Burch launched her eponymous fashion label in 2004 and has since built a global apparel and accessories brand. Tory Burch is stocked globally in over 350 Tory Burch boutiques and over 3,000 department and specialty stores worldwide, driving an estimated $1.5 billion in sales last year per Forbes estimates.

“If I stuck in my lane when I first came into my career, I wouldn’t have the life that I do.”

Burch is just as famous for her activism as she is for her couture. Burch in 2009 launched the Tory Burch Foundation, which provides women entrepreneurs with access to capital, education and digital resources. It also has an annual Fellowship program. Tory Burch LLC has given $63 million to the foundation since its inception, and to date, its distributed over $75 million in loans to nearly 5,000 women through a partnership with Bank of America.

“I think a lot about being an activist brand,” said Burch. “When we decide to weigh in on issues, I can’t help it. I have to weigh in. I try to stay away from politics, but its issues of humanity.”