I know what it's like to face a birthday and ponder the meaning of life. This Thursday is my birthday, and thinking about turning a year older has been keeping me up at night.
Someone once said to me, "You'd better know where you are going when you reach your mid- to late-30s -- otherwise it's a catastrophe."
If that's true, then I'm a catastrophe.
Recently, I've even been playing Diana Ross' "Theme From Mahogany (Do you know where you're going to?)" on my iPod, just to make myself feel doubly bad. (In truth, I hate the song, as well as the lyrics.)
I go over and over in my head the various crossroads and signposts I've seen over the years and second-guess the decisions I made, flagellating myself for taking routes that were, in hindsight, wrong.
Not that you'd be able to tell any of this from looking at me. I have a great job, wonderful family, all the luck in the world. But life is never really as other people perceive it.
So, knowing something of the modeling world, I can comprehend how poor Ruslana Korshunova, the beautiful, fast-rising young cover girl from Kazakhstan, could have thrown herself out of the window of her Manhattan apartment on Sunday, just as her 21st birthday was approaching. Reports said she "busy, busy," doing a lot of traveling. Well, as someone who is "busy, busy," I can tell you that "busyness" is often a form of distraction, keeping you from mulling the important things.
It may be easier to fly to Milan, London, or Tokyo and strut along a catwalk than it is to sit on your own, with your family many miles away, and ponder whether what you are doing to earn a living is making you happy, or whether it's actually what you wanted to do with your life. Sometimes seeing so much of this strange world only makes you want to stop what you're doing, escape your groove, and do something radical: save the rainforests, work in an orphanage, do something to lessen the world's unhappiness.
Yet if you are only 20, you need the paycheck to send home to your family. Then there are the professionals who exert so much influence over you; many times they are more invested in securing the next glossy cover than in ensuring your welfare.
Korshunova has been compared to Kate Moss, but Moss, 34, has been around long enough to have friends outside the modeling world. When she went into rehab for cocaine addiction and thought her career was over, they were there for her. One told her, "Remember the importance of humor. If you can laugh, then you've got a sense of perspective."
By contrast, young, overworked Korshunova seems to have faced her tribulations alone. When I read about her death, I wished I had met her. We could have talked about birthdays and the meaning of life. Maybe we could have done something radical together.
--This piece was first published by Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/style/2008/06/the-loneliness-of-the-longdistance-supermodel.html --