She was a Kazakh model of Russian descent. After establishing herself as a rising figure in the fashion industry by posing for magazines like Vogue and designers such as Vera Wang and Nina Ricci, Korshunova’s mysterious death after falling off her Manhattan apartment’s balcony on June 28, 2008 became the subject of international attention.
Early life and career
Ruslana Korshunova was born in Taldykorgan, Alma-Ata, Kazakh SSR, and was of Russian descent. Her father, Sergey Korshunov, died in 1992 when she was 5 years old. Her mother, Valentina (née Kutenkova) and her brother, Ruslan, live in Kazakhstan. She spoke fluent Russian, English and German.
She was discovered in 2003, when All Asia magazine printed a story on Almaty’s local German language club, which Korshunova was then attending. Her photograph, which was featured in the article, caught the attention of Debbie Jones of Models 1; Jones tracked down and signed up the then 15-year-old Korshunova, who was nicknamed the Russian Rapunzel for her long knee length chestnut hair in her early work. Korshunova was represented by IMG (New York, Paris, London and Milan), Beatrice (Milan), Traffic Models (Barcelona), Marilyn Models and iCasting Moscow, which was her mother agency. British Vogue hailed Korshunova as “a face to be excited about” in 2005. Korshunova modeled for the covers of French Elle and the Polish and Russian versions of Vogue. She also modeled in print-ads for Blugirl by Blumarine, Clarins, Ghost, Girbaud, Kenzo Accessories, Marithé & François, Max Studio, Moschino, Old England, Pantene Always Smooth, Paul Smith, and Vera Wang lingerie. She also appeared in a perfume commercial for Nina by Nina Ricci.
On June 28, 2008 at around 2:30 p.m., Korshunova died after falling from the ninth-floor balcony of her apartment at 130 Water Street in Manhattan’s Financial District. Police stated there were no signs of a struggle in her apartment and concluded that Korshunova’s death was an apparent suicide, although no suicide note was found. One of Korshunova’s friends stated that she had just returned from a modeling gig in Paris, noting that she seemed to be “on top of the world” with no apparent reason why she would commit suicide. Korshunova planned to celebrate her 21st birthday on Wednesday in Pennsylvania. Korshunova’s former boyfriend, Artem Perchenok, stated that he dropped Korshunova off at her apartment several hours before her death after they watched the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore film Ghost together. “I feel that she came to say goodbye,” said Perchenok. “She was a good person,” he added to The New York Post. However, Korshunova appeared brokenhearted and angry in some of her postings on a social networking site. Korshunova’s most telling message came in March 2008: “I’m so lost. Will I ever find myself?”. Friends said Korshunova had a stomachache before her death, a small complaint, but in this high-pressure world, “one little knot is the book on the shelf that makes it go down,” he said. Police said that only some prescription pill bottles were found in her apartment with Russian labels. Experts did not find traces of someone else’s skin underneath her nails. Korshunova’s mother, Valentina Kutenkova does not believe in her daughter’s suicide. “She told me about her work problems about a year ago. She said that she wanted to quit the modeling business. Everything was fine with her recently though. If she had had problems at work, she would have told me,” she said. Korshunova was close with her mother, who still lives in the Kazakh city of Almaty, where the model grew up. According to the official version, Ruslana cut the nylon net covering the façade during construction works.
After that the model allegedly climbed through the hole and jumped down. Korshunova’s mutilated body was found on the dividing strip on Water Street. To get to that part of the road from the balcony, Ruslana would have to have made a running jump. Judging by the placement of the body, the jump would have to be made from the next building. The model’s mother demanded additional investigation, but the police were not willing to show initiative. Muhammad Naqib, an old concierge who worked in Korshunova’s building shed some light on the model’s death. “I was shocked when I saw her on the pavement. She was on the road, small and pitiful, in a puddle of blood, surrounded by a crowd. Her arms and neck were broken,” the man said. Muhammad was immediately suspicious. “Only next day I realized what was wrong. It was her hair! It was much shorter than when I last saw her that night, lively and happy. It seemed like it was cut in a hurry since the ends were uneven.” “All I got is a polite ‘thank you.’ But nobody called me for an interview,” said Moscow autopsist Sergey who worked on her makeup in a Moscow morgue. “The hair could fall out because of a strong impact, but it could not become shorter. When I was preparing the body for a funeral, I noticed that the hair was in a very poor condition. I even offered to find her a wig, but her relatives refused. The ends were uneven, as if someone had cut it with scissors.” According to the testimony of many witnesses, no strangers or suspicious people were noticed on the day of Ruslana’s death in her building on Water Street. The back exit in the yard is visible to the concierge, and nobody could pass by the reception unnoticed. During her last visit, Korshunova’s mother stopped by the apartment. According to Ruslana’s friends, Valentina spent several hours at the door of the apartment. She is still hoping to find the answer from American police. On July 7, 2008, Korshunova was buried at Khovanskoye Cemetery in Moscow. Her mother stated to Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that the Russian capital was one of her daughter’s favorite cities, and that “She would want her beloved Moscow to be her last resting place.”