14yo Russian model dies in China, sparks anger over possible 'slave contract'

14yo Russian model dies in China, sparks anger over possible 'slave contract'
Multiple organ failure linked with blood poisoning is the preliminary cause of death of a 14-year-old Russian model in China, Russia’s Consul in Shanghai has said. The girl’s tragic passing last week triggered media speculation of her being overworked under a ‘slave contract.’

According to preliminary findings, Vlada Dzyuba died of “multiple organ failure” linked with blood poisoning, Andrey Kulikov, Russia’s Consul in Shanghai, told RIA Novosti. Death could have resulted from the body reacting to prolonged stress, coupled with sepsis and a nervous system infection, he added.
An autopsy would be required to definitively establish the final cause of the young model’s death, Kulikov added. “The child’s mother is in Russia, [and] without her consent an autopsy can’t be carried out,” he said.

Russian authorities are working to facilitate the mother’s travel to China.

ESSE Model Management, the agency which brought the girl to China, said in a statement that Dzyuba fell ill sick during a photoshoot in Yiwu, near Shanghai, on October 24. She was then brought to her hotel where she "began to vomit and felt dizzy during the night.” The teen model was taken to hospital in Shanghai the next day due to the "continuous bad condition of her body." Her condition deteriorated and she died in an intensive care unit early Friday.

Dzyuba, a native of the Siberian city of Perm, arrived in China for the Shanghai Fashion Week on a three-month contract which ESSE signed with the girl’s Russian modeling agency.

It was a “slave contract,” and the 14-year-old was forced to work 13 hours a day, eventually dying of exhaustion, The Siberian Times paper reported last week.

"Her preliminary cause of death was meningitis compounded by severe exhaustion… Officially, she was allowed to work three hours a week in China, a law which mirrors that in Russia," the paper said.

Vlada’s mother, Oksana Dzyuba, told Russian broadcaster NTV that her daughter called her on the phone and said: “I’m so tired. I worked 13 hours. I want to sleep.” She was already falling ill at the time of the call and then “the fever started,” the mother added.

A friend of the deceased model told RT Russian that Dzyuba was an “absolutely healthy child… She always ate normal food. She wasn’t anorexic,” adding that “she loved her work and never complained.”

ESSE Model Management has dismissed claims that the Russian teen was employed under a “slave contract.”

"Dzyuba had 16 different jobs during her two-month stay in China. She had regular breaks while working. Most of her work was completed within eight hours. Her workload was moderate compared with other models," Zheng Yi, ESSE Model Management CEO, told the Global Times. The contract didn’t mention specific working hours. "Modeling work is not manual labor after all, just shows and photo shoots and making poses, and there are breaks. We provide underage models with more care. If they feel stressed, we will communicate with them," Zheng explained.

ESSE’s public relations director, Michelle Chien, said modeling is viewed as cultural work in the country and an "exceptional industry… [The] laws in China have no direct regulations, [so] it's OK to recruit minors," reported AP.

Shanghai Fashion Week, in which Dzyuba participated, concluded on October 18, but the event’s media representative said "Shanghai Fashion Week is also investigating when, why and where Dzyuba died,” speculating “that she could have collapsed after the show."