Ruslana Sergeyevna Korshunova (Russian: Руслана Серге́евна Коршунова; July 2, 1987 – June 28, 2008) was a Kazakhstani model of Russian descent. She established herself as a rising figure in the fashion industry by posing for magazines including Vogue and designers such as Vera Wang and Nina Ricci. Korshunova's death, which was ruled a suicide, became a longtime controversial subject of international attention.
Ruslana Korshunova was born in Almaty, Kazakh SSR. 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. With different degrees of fluency she spoke 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 Model Agency 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 Elleand 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.
On 28 June 2008 at around 2:30 p.m., Korshunova died after falling from the ninth-floor balcony of her apartment at 130 Water Street in the Financial District of Manhattan, USA. 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. Speculations exist that her death was murder, and committed by individuals operating a ring where models are coerced into prostitution for wealthy individuals. One of Korshunova's friends stated that she had just returned from a modeling job 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 stomach ache before her death. Police said that some prescription pill bottles with Russian labels were found in her apartment . 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 problems at work, she would have told me", she said.
Muhammad Naqib, a concierge who worked in Korshunova's building stated, "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." Moscow mortician Sergey, who worked on her makeup in a Moscow morgue, stated "All I got is a polite 'thank you'. But nobody called me for an interview ... [t]he 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 Korshunova'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 at the apartment. According to Korshunova's friends, Valentina spent several hours at the door of the apartment. She is still hoping to find the answer from the local 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."
British TV producer and filmmaker Peter Pomerantsev has theorised that Korshunova's suicide was related to her involvement with Rose of the World, a controversial Moscow-based organisation which describes itself as "training for personality development". While researching for a documentary into Korshunova's death, Pomerantsev learned that the model spent three months attending training session at Rose of the World. These sessions—which encourage participants to share their worst experiences and recall repressed memories—are modelled after Lifespring, whose controversial methods were the subject of multiple lawsuits for mental damages in the US during the 1980s. Korshunova attended training sessions with a friend, Ukrainian model Anastasia Drozdova, who committed suicide under similar circumstances in 2009. Friends of the two women reported changes in behaviour after several months at the Rose. Korshunova became aggressive, while Drozdova experienced violent mood swings and grew reclusive; both lost weight. After three months of training, Korshunova returned to New York to look for work, where she wrote of feeling lost and doubting herself. Rick Ross, head of the Cult Education Forum, argues that organisations such as Rose of the World "work like drugs: giving you peak experiences, their adherents always coming back for more. The serious problems start when people leave. The trainings have become their lives—they come back to emptiness. The sensitive ones break." Only months after leaving the Rose, Korshunova was found dead.