Russian Authorities Are Investigating the Mysterious Death Of a 14-Year-Old Model

Models at China Fashion Week. None of these models is discussed in this article.
Models at China Fashion Week. None of these models is discussed in this article.

Russian authorities are currently investigating the death of Vlada Dzyuba, a 14-year-old model who died in China during a three-month assignment.

According to the New York Times, on the evening of October 24, the day after Dzyuba was on assignment in the Chinese city Yiwu, the model reportedly felt ill. Her modeling scout Dmitry Smirnov said that she had “a high temperature and was vomiting.” After she returned to Shanghai and was taken to a hospital, Dzyuba died that Friday, October 27.

A representative of the Russian consulate in Shanghai told the state-owned publication RIA Novosti that Dzyuba’s cause of death was “multiple organ failure caused by sepsis and an infection in her nervous system,” even though an autopsy has not been performed. Smirnov maintained that her death had nothing to do with her modeling work and that it was “a terrible tragedy.”


The Times reports that the model did not have health insurance, though her Esee Models contract stipulated that she needed to enroll before travel, and that this may have “kept Ms. Dzyuba from speaking up about the pains she was experiencing.”A representative for the model’s agency Great Model did not respond to the newspaper’s questions about setting up insurance for Dzyuba and it’s unclear who exactly was supposed to set it up.

The physical and mental well-being of models has been the subject of recent legislation and advocacy in various countries the past few months. In addition to the recent outpouring of stories about sexual harassment in the industry, Balenciaga was accused of “serial abuse” of models earlier this year. And in September, two major French fashion companies drafted a charter to ban “super skinny models” and a new French law now requires models to obtain a certificate of health from a doctor in order to work. But Dzyuba’s story proves there are other health issues facing models beyond extreme thinness.

Pop Culture Reporter, Jezebel

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Poor girl, she was just a baby.

She might have been doing modeling to send money back home too. I can’t imagine how vulnerable she was: barely speaking the language, probably eating little, living in a Model House.

A three month assignment seems suspicious to me, but when they finally pry models away from their parents and ship them abroad, they tend to keep them there a while (though to my mind maybe just a month?). It’s like a cult: get them young, separate them from their support systems, rebuild them to support the industry. Not saying all careers are like that, but often it’s done with the promise of “This will make you BIG!”

RIP angel.