An investigation has been launched into the death of a 14-year-old model, said to have passed away due to ‘utter exhaustion’. The exact circumstances of Vlada Dzyuba's sudden death last week are still murky, and there are conflicting accounts from Russia and China.
A modelling agency that hired the 14-year-old Russian girl is denying media reports that a 'slave contract' contributed to her death. The Siberian Times reported that the girl died after falling into a coma after working a 13-hour day, though the newspaper did not cleary cite its sources.
The paper said Dzyuba's mother told NTV: ‘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.” It ran the story under a headline reading ‘Fears over exploitation of Russian models sent on `slave labor contracts’ without parents to care for them.’
An incomplete hospital record provided by the Chinese agency that hired Dzyuba, ESEE Model, listed multiple causes of death, including sepsis. The document couldn't be independently verified. Zheng Yi, the founder of ESEE Model, strongly denied reports that Dzyuba was on a ‘slave contract’.
‘There is no coercive clause in this contract,’ he said in an interview, adding that the three-month contract didn’t mention working hours. Zheng said Dzyuba worked about the same amount of time as other models, usually between two to eight hours a day, and only twice during her 60 days in China did she work 10 hours in a day. Zheng said she had 16 events, with about 20 days of total work.
‘Modelling work is not manual labor after all, just shows and photo shoots and making poses, and there are breaks’, he said. ‘We provide underage models with more care,’ Zheng said. ‘If they feel stressed, we will communicate with them.’