The Chinese agency representing a 14-year-old Russian model who died after taking part in Shanghai Fashion Week has denied allegations that she was overworked and exhausted.
The death of Vlada Dzyuba in a Chinese hospital on Friday has shone a light on the murky world of western models in China, many of whom are from the former Soviet Union and dream of carving out a career in the notoriously cut-throat industry.
The teenager, who despite her young age was allowed to model under Chinese law, began feeling dizzy and started being sick last Tuesday.
She was taken to a Shanghai hospital the next day but died on Friday after her condition quickly deteriorated.
English-language newspaper The Siberian Times alleged that Dzyuba died of meningitis compounded by severe exhaustion following “a gruelling fashion show in Shanghai”.
“We feel sorry that we lost an angel,” ESEE Model Management in Shanghai said in a statement on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, pointing out that Shanghai Fashion Week ended on October 18 and she fell ill six days later while on another assignment.
ESEE’s chief executive Zheng Yi separately told the state Global Times that the model had worked a legal eight hours a day during her two months in China before her death.
“Dzyuba had 16 different jobs during her two-month stay in China, she had regular breaks while working,” Zheng told the newspaper on Sunday.
“Most of her work was completed within eight hours. Her workload was moderate compared with other models.”
After the Shanghai event Dzyuba travelled to Yiwu, a city south of Shanghai, but a model shoot was cancelled because she began feeling unwell and she returned to Shanghai.
The Global Times quoted a representative for Shanghai Fashion Week as saying it was investigating and cited a medical report saying that she had septicopyemia, a type of blood poisoning.
Dzyuba died less than two weeks before her 15th birthday.
– Deteriorating health –
Dzyuba’s profile was still on ESEE’s website on Monday, three days after her death, showing her in a number of poses and in different styles of clothing.
It lists her hair and eyes as brown and puts her at 180 centimetres tall.
In its statement, ESEE said it had signed a contract with Dzyuba and her modelling agency back home in Russia for a three-month contract.
After returning to Shanghai from Yiwu last Wednesday morning, she went home to recover.
But with her health worsening, she was taken to hospital and put in touch by telephone with Russian consular staff, while her family were also informed that she was unwell.
The next day, according to ESEE, consular officials and police arrived at Ruijin Hospital and Dzyuba was placed in intensive care, where she died the next morning.
As well as Shanghai, ESEE has offices in the nearby city of Hangzhou, Beijing, the eastern city of Xiamen and Hong Kong.
The agency was to hold a press conference later on Monday in Shanghai.
There was no immediate reply from Shanghai Fashion Week or Russian officials in China.