Friday, May 06, 2011

Who was Ruslana Korshunova?

Why did a supermodel at the top of her game—hauntingly beautiful and only 20—kill herself in 2008? A filmmaker describes his three-year quest for clues, and answers.

Erik Madigan Heck
The last photograph of Ruslana Korshunova, taken on June 27, 2008 in New York City.
“I heard a thump. I thought a car had hit a person. I turned around: a girl was lying in the road.”The words of a witness

June 28, 2008, 2:30 p.m. Water Street, the corner of Wall Street, in Manhattan. A headache-making-hot, New York high summer. A Saturday, the bankers are away, the street is empty—apart from the dead girl in the middle of the road. Police report the deceased is a Russian supermodel. Ruslana Korshunova. “Her death is a suspected suicide by jumping from the building site next to her ninth-floor apartment. No signs of a struggle detected. No alcohol or drugs in her blood or urine. She left no note. She was 20. She landed 8.5 meters from the building.”
8.5 meters? That’s not a fall. That’s a leap. That’s almost flight. The supermodel didn’t stand on the ledge and take a step off. The supermodel took a run and soared.
There are models and there are models. There are the lanky androgynous clones, the perfect coat hangers for catwalk collections. And then there are the Ruslanas. The ones who stand out. Their proportions are not perfect, their catwalk work limited, but they become the faces that define a product. Ruslana was famous for being the face of a “magical, enchanting perfume” by Nina Ricci. You might remember the ad. It’s in the style of a fairy tale. Ruslana, in a pink ball gown with bouncing curls and wonder-filled eyes, enters a palace room. She gasps with teen excitement: in front of her a magical tree, at the top a glistening pink apple. She climbs the tree, reaches for the apple…

Ruslana seemed to have everything. Why this dismal end? The answer to that question would lead me on a three-year journey, as I researched material for a documentary, through New York, London, Milan, Kiev, and Moscow, into the life of that shiny, lonely tribe: the world’s top models.

Read the rest.

SHOOT: The problem is that being in front of the camera begins to distort reality so much that it's hard to find your way to it ever again.

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