Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Model no longer anonymous

On Saturday afternoon, a 20-year-old Russian model named Ruslana Korshunova jumped from the balcony of her ninth floor apartment in New York City. Immediately the media jumped on the story, knowing how well the story of a beautiful girl who kills herself would do on an otherwise slow news day. The media called her many things; "the 5'5 head-turner," "green-eyed blonde beauty" and some even mistakenly called her a supermodel even though no one has ever heard of her. Well now everyone knows who she is.

It seemed that Korshunova was working her way up the ranks, like so many other Eastern European models, to become the next Natalia Vodianova or Sasha Pivovarova. Maybe she wouldn't be like those others flaxen blonde beauties who are hot one season and ceremoniously forgotten the next. But her story followed the same plot as all of those forgotten girls. She left home at a young age to send money back to her parents who lived in Kazakhstan.
Korshunova worked for Marc Jacobs, Blumarine, Vera Wang, Paul Smith, DKNY and Moschino; she also starred in a Nina Ricci perfume ad. She shot with Patrick Demarchelier and Paolo Roversi. She had covers for European editions of Vogue and Elle, she had pictures inside American, Japanese, and Italian Vogue. The girl was getting jobs but no one outside of fashion's inner-inner circle knew who she was. To the rest of us, she was just another doll in the fashion parade. It seems that her death has turned her into a "supermodel" although that term is used by the press very loosely.

And even though the world may think she was this glamorous superstar, I'm sure her friends will think of her as the woman they loved. I'm sure they are wondering what possessed her to kill herself just four days before her 21st birthday.
Modeling is a tough and dirty job. Most models are very young and alone when they work. They have to work excruciatingly long hours in sometimes harsh conditions and for not much pay. You have to realize that there are only a handful of models who have "made it" and can command millions for their work. Most toil under anonymity without ever getting a beauty or fashion campaign, or opening a show or being a favorite of Anna Wintour.
Korshunova told UK Elle, of her worst professional experience, "We were in the Alps shooting, high up in the snow, and I was wearing a tiny dress. We were so very cold and it was snowing so hard — we couldn't see a thing. I thought I would not live to see another day."
Perhaps she realized that her dream job was going nowhere. Maybe she was lonely. Clearly, being a model can take a toll, and it finally caught up to her.

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