The Sad Conditions That Led To This 14-Year-Old Model’s Death

We know the fashion world isn’t the glamorous high-flying life like the movies. In real life, it’s a lot of hard work and grueling hours.

And there’s no harder proof for that than this tragic case that occurred last week, when 14-year-old Russian model Vlada Dzyuba died during a three-month modelling assignment in China. Just before she was about to walk a show during Shanghai Fashion Week, Vlada collapsed and went into a coma, reports The Siberian Times. She died just two days later.

Vlada Dzyuba

Her death is believed to have been caused by either exhaustion and meningitis, a swelling of the brain, or septicopyemia, a form of bacterial blood poisoning. She reported feeling exhausted and running a high temperature before the show, but was reluctant to go to the hospital due to her lack of medical insurance.

The Siberian Times reports that the Vlada was only supposed to work three hours a week, but often worked much longer. To make things even sadder, news surfaced revealing that she only took home around USD$8 (RM33.90) a day for her work.

Vlada Dzyuba

“She was calling me, saying ‘Mama, I am so tired. I so much want to sleep.’ It must have been the very beginning of the illness,” Vlada’s mother Oksana told NTV, according to the International Business Times. “And then her temperature shot up. I didn’t sleep myself and was calling her constantly, begging her to go to the hospital.”

“No-one expected it to lead to such consequences,” Elvira Zaitseva, head of Vlada’s modeling agency in Russia, told The Daily Mail. “We are now reaping what we have sown.”

However, ESEE Model Management, the modelling agency in China that employed Vlada says the story isn’t accurate.

ESEE had signed a three-month contract with Dzyuba’s home company, Smirnoff Models based in St. Petersburg, Russia, but “the number of working hours is not stated in the contract,” ESEE Model Management chief executive Zheng Yi is reported saying.

“We feel sorry that we lost an angel,” the agency said on Weibo, claiming that Vlada fell ill six days later on another assignment after Shanghai Fashion Week ended on 18 October, and not on October 20 as previous reports claimed. Her social media activity appears to corroborate this timeline as well.

ESEE’s chief executive, Zheng Yi, said Vlada had worked eight hours a day during the two months before her death.

Vlada’s sad death is still under investigation, but it sheds a chilling light on a number of issues: from the ethics of employing an under-age model, the conditions faced by budding models, and the difficulties of regulating work hours and over time (I’m sure that there are many of us who have clocked hours of unpaid overtime despite your “official work hours” being stated clearly in your employee handbook), especially in the fashion industry.