Elle Evans: The woman who has spent ten years fleeing from ‘Blurred Lines,’ the most controversial song of the century

The model and actress, who appeared nude in the 2013 music video, has tried to disassociate herself from a hit that has received accusations of plagiarism, objectification of women and even sexual harassment against its singer, Robin Thicke

Elle Evans and Robin Thicke in the video for 'Blurred Lines'
Elle Evans and Robin Thicke in the 'Blurred Lines' music video.

It surpassed Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball. Blurred Lines remained at the top of the charts for months, breaking records and becoming the top song of 2013.

The success turned its singer, a semi-unknown Robin Thicke, who until then was still labeled as the son of Alan Thicke, into a momentary star. Blurred Lines became a party anthem, thanks to the refrains sung by Pharrell Williams and the rapper T.I., the catchy bass line, Thicke’s falsetto and the cowbell sound that evoked the seventies feeling of Marvin Gaye. An explicit version of its controversial music video, which showed three topless models being chased by the trio, further inflated the popularity of Thicke’s first and only hit. But the embrace by public opinion did not last long. The song, which featured lines like “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two,” would detonate a pre-MeToo debate about sexism in the music industry. Just a few months after the pop success of Blurred Lines, accusations of the song’s plagiarism, misogyny and perpetuation of rape culture all but ended Thicke’s career — and marked forever the future of one of the women in the video.

Elle Evans, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke in the video for 'Blurred Lines'
The controversial ‘Blurred Lines’ video was one of Elle Evans’ first jobs. Above, she appears in a still from the video with Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.

“I certainly didn’t want to be remembered only as the girl from Blurred Lines. It did become something I didn’t want to talk about.” A decade after its release, the model Elle Evans spoke to Bustle about her relationship with the song that made her famous in 2013. Evans, who appeared alongside Jessi M’Bengue and Emily Ratajkowski, was 23 when she agreed to appear in the video wearing a thong, holding a sheep and riding a stuffed animal. She did so to pay her student loans, unaware not only of the repercussions but also of the content of the song itself: she didn’t hear it until arriving on set. “‘I definitely used my looks to make money, because that was kind of the only option I had at the time. And those jobs, they did pay the bills. I would say to my manager, ‘I don’t really wanna get stuck in these naked roles.’ And her response would be, ‘What if Julia Roberts never did Pretty Woman because she [didn’t want to play] a prostitute?,’” Evans remembers.

The release of the explicit version of the video, and its subsequent censorship on YouTube, gave the song an extra push to the top of the charts. Directed by the filmmaker Diane Martel, it supposedly sought to satirize self-imposed taboos and the hypersexualization of photographers like Terry Richardson. Thicke thought that three men who were “happily married with children” were “the perfect guys to make fun of [degradation of women].” But his attempt at subversion didn’t come across. Lines like “I know you want it,” “Tried to domesticate you” and “Do it like it hurt” sparked a debate about men’s perceptions of sexual consent and the danger of believing that the “blurred lines” in the song’s title could make a “no” mean a “yes.” It was baptized online as “the rape song,” and Vice called it “a masterpiece of idiocy and … stupidity and arrogance.” If the artists meant to offend, they succeeded. Thicke’s MTV Video Awards performance, in which he appeared dancing suggestively with Miley Cyrus, 15 years his junior, spelled the end of the singer’s career. He didn’t release new material for eight years, and he now makes a living as a judge on the televised singing competition The Masked Singer.

Elle Evans, Emily Ratajkowski and Robin Thicke in the video for 'Blurred Lines'.
'Vice' called the video "a masterpiece of idiocy and … stupidity and arrogance."

Things didn’t get better for Thicke. He and Pharrell Williams were found guilty of plagiarizing Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up, and they paid the soul legend’s family almost $7 million. During the trial, Thicke defended himself alleging that he was drunk and high while composing the song. In 2015, his then-wife, actress Paula Patton, filed for divorce, alleging the singer’s physical and emotional abuse, infidelity and addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Another episode in the song’s story of infamy occurred in 2021, when Emily Ratajkowski wrote in her book My Body that the singer drunkenly harassed her during the filming of the video, fondling her bare breasts without her consent. Evans, who was not a direct witness of the events, remembers the incident’s impact on the set. “Emily did leave very abruptly. There was kind of a bit of a scramble among the production team, like, ‘What are we gonna do? How do we shoot the rest of the video without her?’ I was told that she had a flight to catch.” She believes that the songs should be remembered for “the lessons that we learned from it.” While Thicke continues insisting that the song’s only purpose was for people to “get up and dance,” Pharrell Williams has said he is “ashamed” of Blurred Lines.

Matt Bellamy and Elle Evans
The model’s partner is Muse singer Matt Bellamy.Kevin Mazur (Getty Images for CELINE)

Elle Evans spent years trying to shake off the traumatic experience of the song and make a path for herself as an actress in Hollywood. She didn’t make it. At 33 years old, after a handful of roles on TV shows and B-movies, she says she has retired for good. “When I first moved out of my small town, I thought that being rich and famous equaled success and happiness. And I quickly realized by moving to Los Angeles and getting into the industry, that it’s not for me personally. My life has completely changed. I’m a wife now. I’m a mom now, and that’s my main focus,” she told Bustle. In 2019, Evans married Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of the British band Muse, after a four-year relationship. A year later, they welcomed their first and only child together, Lovella.

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