Emily O'Hara Ratajkowski was born on June 7, 1991, in Westminster, London, the only child of American parents, Kathleen Anne Balgley and John David "J. D. " Ratajkowski. Balgley, who earned her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, became a lecturer of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She then taught American literature in Poland from September 1987 to July 1988, and again from September 1988 to July 1989, under the Fulbright Program. Balgley met Ratajkowski, a painter and art teacher, while they were both teaching at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, California. At the time of their daughter's birth, they were aged 39 and 45, respectively, and unmarried. Ratajkowski describes her mother as a "feminist and intellectual". The family lived in West Kensington and Bloomsbury before settling in San Diego, California, when Ratajkowski was five. She was raised primarily in nearby Encinitas. Balgley formerly taught at California Polytechnic State University, and as of 2011[update], teaches at San Diego Jewish Academy.