Bollywood actress and Indian model Viveka Babajee, 37, was found dead today, Thaindian News reports. She allegedly hanged herself from a ceiling fan in her suburban Mumbai apartment. According to The Calcutta Telegraph, the former Miss Mauritius titleholder and one-time face of Coca-Cola and Kama Sutra ads in India, suffered from severe depression.
Babajee's death adds to an ever-growing list of recent model suicides, loaning credence to what Jezebel contributor and ex-model Jenna Sauers posited last month: "Suicidal models are fashion's worst trend."
Indeed, in the past two years, a hauntingly high number of models have taken their own lives. There was 20-year-old Korean superstar Daul Kim, of course, who stalked down runways for Alexander McQueen and Chanel before hanging herself in her Paris apartment last November. French model Noémie Lenoir tried to kill herself in May; and last Friday, one day before the men's fashion shows kicked off, 22-year-old French model Tom Nicon plunged from his apartment in Milan, in what authorities suspect was a suicide. And that's to say nothing of the deaths of Russian Vogue cover model Ruslana Korshunova, Colombian model-turned-TV presenter Lina Marulanda, Canadaian bombshell Hayley Kohle, not to mention Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow.
But are any of these suicides really connected, or just a tragic coincidence? Do they speak to the tremendous pressures of a looks-obsessed industry, or inadvertently glamorize the act as noble in some sick way?
Dr. Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington D.C., says that in the month following Marilyn Monroe's fatal overdose, the numbers of young women dying in the same manner spiked. They were most likely victims of a “non-specific loss of hope,” he says, plagued by the idea that if someone so successful couldn’t make it, how could they?
But Dr. Berman is hesitant to judge the rash of fashion suicides in a similar light, saying that “if you then suggest that there is a cluster going on of imitative suicide, you then influence the problem." To prove that these are indeed copycat suicides, he adds, models would have to have shown undue interest in, or looked up to those peers who took their own lives — "otherwise the evidence is coincidental.”
Sauers thinks it's important to recognize the "extremely high-pressure environment" that models exist in. “When you’re successful, you’re sort of surrounded by people who have a financial interest in your career, who want you to be working hard all the time,” she says, further noting that agents “may not necessarily look very kindly on the notion of taking time off, even to deal with an obvious mental health problem.”
Preston Chaunsumlit, a freelance casting agent and close friend of the late Daul Kim says the model once told him she took 17 flights in three weeks. Four days before she died, she wrote on her blog, “Oh but how lonely it is. then and now.” Chaunsumlit, who met Daul in New York in 2007 at an Ohne Titel casting, and says he spoke with her almost daily, also wonders if his industry was somehow complicit. “I’m kind of responsible for these young people and one of them I am really close with is not here any more,” he says, “I asked other casting people, ‘Are we doing something weird? People are dying all around us.’”
Charlotte Ronson sees campaigns like the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 2007 “Beauty is Health”, which asked designers to avoid using rail-thin models, as a step toward alleviating job-related stress. “There are pressures of any industry, but when it’s that transparent and it’s all about your exterior,” says Ronson, it “is effecting how you feel about yourself.”
Certain industries do have higher rates of suicide, says Dr. Berman, though he was not aware of any studies of its prevalence in fashion. “But even in industries where suicide rates are higher than others, it’s always going to be the most vulnerable,” he says. “You never want to leave the impression that this is something that healthy people do."
But Gaspard, Tom Nicon’s agent at Next, says the model seemed healthy enough. “Sometimes, you know, you have some kind of fragile kid,” he says, “but [Nicon] was the last person you would expect [to commit suicide].” Though Chaunsumlit says Kim griped to him about her day-to-day annoyances, it all sounded pretty normal — “growing-pains.” Neither Gaspard nor Chaunsumlit knew how either model truly suffered, until it was too late.
Now that Kim's gone, says Chaunsumlit, "it [just] feels like she is on a really busy, busy schedule. The difference is that I’m not going to see her in the magazines anymore."
Most Viewed Stories
The President of the United States Had a Big Day of Playing With Trucks
GOP Senator Apologizes After Mocking Breast-Cancer Screening Coverage
Former Thinx Employee Accuses Miki Agrawal of Sexual Harassment
Report: Donald and Melania Trump Don’t Sleep in the Same Bed
52 Percent of Men Say They Haven’t Personally Benefited From Women Having Access to Birth Control
The Girls Pregnancy Plotline Says More About Us Than It Does About Hannah Horvath
Cate Blanchett on the Judgment of Women, Face Mists, and How She’s Moisturized for Over a Decade
Amy Schumer’s Boyfriend Ben Hanisch Has a Trick for Shooing Away Unwanted Photographers
Kate Middleton Opens Up About Her Struggles With Motherhood
Am I Cheap If I Hate Splitting the Check Equally?
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.