On 28th June 2008, Kazakhstan model Ruslana Korshunova leapt from her ninth floor apartment in Manhattan's Financial District. She was four days shy of her 21st birthday. So why did the Russian beauty feel the need to end her life so abruptly?
Ruslana was discovered in 2003 by Debbie Jones of Models 1 modelling agency when she was just fifteen years old. Within her first year of modelling she was signed up to the same agency as Kate Moss and Heidi Klum. IMG models is a prestigious agency who represented her in the four fashion capitals of the world - Paris, Milan, London and New York.
By the tender age of seventeen she had already walked the runway for Marc by Marc Jacobs and Habitual in New York. After being booked for twenty shows in London Fashion Week, Ruslana was branded 'the next big thing' and 'a face to watch' by Vogue. By this point Ruslana had purchased an apartment on Water Street, Manhattan. She would earn up to $5200 for one catwalk show. She would regularly send money home to her mother and brother in Kazakhstan.
However, despite her career going from strength to strength, it was clear that Ruslana was struggling. As soon as she had turned sixteen, Ruslana's career had caused her to move to New York - alone. America was an enormous contrast to her small town in Kazakhstan and with only fellow models for friends, Ruslana was lonely and exhausted. Ruslana's best friend Titeneva, who lives in Russia said, "She was like an angel but she was just always working, working, working."
Ruslana continued modelling and after London Fashion Week in 2007, she fronted advertisements for Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Vera Wang, Clarins, Ghost, Moschino and Pantene as well as appearing on the covers of Elle, 'D' magazine and Vogue, twice. However, the most famous advertisement that Ruslana featured in was for Nina Ricci and her perfume 'Nina.'
By the time she was nineteen, Ruslana was estimated to have made over $1 million and she was branded 'fashion muse of the moment' by The Times. There were no signs of Ruslana's career fading into the background and she was going from strength to strength with what would appear to be amazing times ahead.
Although many would think that travelling was part of a model's job, it is said that Ruslana was away from her New York apartment more than she was there. It therefore seemed obvious that she was overworked. Her doorman Mahmoud Nakeeb says, "She would often return from a job in the early hours of the morning." Since moving to New York at the tender age of sixteen, Ruslana had only been able to visit her family in her home of Kazakhstan once.
Despite the fact that Ruslana had already broken into the fashion industry in multiple countries, she was set to succeed even further in 2008. Ruslana landed a huge modelling job during the summer of 2008 in Paris where she would be given the chance to front huge campaigns in 2009 and 2010.
On Friday 27th June 2008, Ruslana returned to Manhattan from Paris. She spent the evening at her boyfriend, Artem Perchenok's apartment. She returned to her own apartment on Water Street on the morning of Saturday 28th June. At approximately 2.30pm, Ruslana cut the construction netting that was surrounding her balcony because of nearby construction works and then leapt from the balcony, plunging nine stories to her death. Ruslana was shoeless and wearing a purple tank top and blue jeans.
Friends of the model say that there were no direct signs that Ruslana would have taken her own life as no suicide note was left. However, New York police say that there was no evidence of a struggle inside her apartment and a knife was found on the balcony where she had cut the netting surrounding it. There are also many witnesses who claim to have seen her jump.
Ruslana's death was the latest to rock the fashion world, an industry often criticised for the pressures and demands it can place on models. Ruslana had previously posted distressing comments on her blog saying, "I'm so lost, will I ever find myself?" and "It hurts, as if someone took a part of me, tore it out, mercilessly stomped all over it and threw it out." Although friends refuse to believe that Ruslana would commit suicide, her life therapist described her as, 'heartbroken, lonely and homesick.'
It is obligatory for models to consult with a life coach. Although in this case, despite that it was realised that Ruslana was struggling, no help was offered to her.
Micahel Gross, author of Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women says that, "Life as a young model in a city like New York can be a carousel ride or it can be a decent into hell. Many models die of suicide or malnutrition." Ruslana had lost 2 stone since becoming a model but tests show that she was a healthy weight and that could not have contributed to her death.
Since her death, it has come to light that Ruslana from the age of fifteen (coincidently the same age at which she was discovered as a model) had attempted to commit suicide at least five times. This is therefore likely to show that Ruslana was fighting a constant battle and the fashion industry caused her to feel the need to end that battle forever.
Ruslana should have never been given the chance to become a model without the necessary psychiatric help and guidance she was never offered. Would she still be alive if she hadn't been discovered back in 2003?