Ivana Smit: Model’s death in Malaysia casts a long shadow

Earlier this month, a young woman was found dead at the bottom of a high rise building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ivana Smit, 18, was a Dutch national who had worked as a model for many years. The circumstances of her tragic death remain a mystery.

It’s a story of beauty and death, rife with speculations around sex, drugs and alcohol – and it raises troubling questions about the risks and dangers those in the industry can face.

Ms Smit fell to her death naked from a balcony 20 floors high, reportedly after going home to the apartment with a couple after a party. Her parents were told by police there was no crime suspected, though investigations are continuing. The Dutch foreign ministry told the BBC that Interpol had been contacted over the case.

The family started a second crowdfunding effort this week to collect money for an independent investigation.

Across the modelling industry, the tragedy has touched a deep nerve.

“These things happen so many times – it feels like this this could have happened to any of us,” fellow model Emitsa Shz told the BBC.

Ivana Smit had spent most of her life in Malaysia, growing up with her grandparents in Penang.

That’s where she started modelling, at the age of 13. After a few years with her parents in the Netherlands, she had just returned to Malaysia and only last month moved to Kuala Lumpur, working as a freelancer, not through an agency.

“She had better opportunities back here,” Natalie Woodworth, a childhood friend of Ivana’s from Penang, told the BBC.

“I still remember her saying to me: ‘I’m back to where I should be.’ She was extremely happy to be back in Malaysia.”

The details of her death are unclear. Having reportedly gone with an older couple to their apartment, she fell to her death in the early hours of the morning.

Her body was discovered that afternoon on a sixth floor balcony, according to media reports, with alcohol and drugs detected in her blood.

Ivana’s family, who flew out to Malaysia, told Dutch media they’d seen marks on her neck.

The foreign couple in the apartment have been charged separately with drugs offences and are out on bail, local media report.

They are reported to have told the police they were asleep when Ivana fell, and later took their child to school – unaware of her death.

The tragedy has led to many passionate calls for change within the industry and people posting under the hashtag #truthforivana are trying to rally support and attention to her case.

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This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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