In July of 2008, I was just finishing up a two-month contract in Shanghai. Coming from a smaller city in Canada, and leading a somewhat sheltered life, the prospect of going to Shanghai on a modeling contract seemed exciting and novel. I can still recall my time there in vivid detail: our agency driver, Jackie, could not speak a word of English, but would smile enthusiastically at me and the other models each morning as we all climbed into the casting van. The mid-day breaks when I would buy my everyday staple: a carton of asparagus milk and tuna-filled rice triangles. I had never ridden a scooter before, but soon enough I was taking one everywhere — to friends’ apartments or the supermarket. I found it exhilarating zipping down the hectic Shanghai streets. But most of all, I remember the people that I met. Diana O’Brien was one of them.

Diana and I met through a male model and fellow Canadian at my agency. Although Diana and I were not close friends, being Canadian, we had this instant connection. Diana was 22, and having grown up in a small community — Saltspring Island, British Columbia — she said she’d always wanted to travel and see the world. Modeling gave her that very opportunity. In the evenings, we’d sometimes go to a cocktail bar in Xintiandi, a famous pedestrian district in the former French concession. Diana and I would always end up talking. She was humble, not haughty like some girls, and very outgoing. It’s comforting to meet someone from your home country when you’re abroad. In the foreign environment of Shanghai, I found in Diana someone familiar.

The agency was sending her to castings and jobs similar to what would be required of an escort — being asked to entertain men in nightclubs, and dancing for private clients. Having worked in Milan, Diana had experience as a model and knew that something was very wrong.

After a little less than a month of hanging out together, my contract was ending, and I had to go to work in Osaka, Japan. On my last night in Shanghai, Diana and all my other friends came to wish me goodbye. I remember the evening well because I’ve thought of it so often in the intervening years. We were at an intimate little lounge where my friend Greg worked as a DJ. Everyone was dancing. There was a fireplace burning, even though it was summer, but occasionally we’d catch a cool breeze wafting in from the outdoor patio.

I remember Diana telling me she was not happy in Shanghai, and how excited she was to go home. Her agency, an outfit called JH, was sending her to castings and jobs similar to what would be required of an escort — being asked to entertain men in nightclubs, and dancing for private clients. Having worked in Milan, Diana had experience as a model and knew that something was very wrong.

Diana seemed anxious, but she did not want to switch agencies — by that point she had had enough. She was in Shanghai on a three-month contract, but because JH kept pushing her to do jobs that were not legitimate modeling work, Diana just wanted to go home. She told me that she’d purchased a ticket home, to depart in two weeks, as soon as her last scheduled job would be completed. I told her how happy I was that she’d soon be leaving Shanghai and going home to her loved ones. I remember her eyes watered as we spoke.

“See you in Canada,” she smiled. She gave me a big hug. “See you in Canada,” I replied.

A couple days after I got to Osaka, I skyped with a few friends back in Shanghai. The news they shared made my stomach turn: Diana was dead. I was dumbfounded. Then I began to cry.

Diana came home to a man standing in her apartment stealing her things. Armed with a knife, he attacked her.

Diana had been on her way back to her apartment from a job that had ended close to midnight. As she climbed the stairs, she noticed the door to the model apartment was open. Walking through the doorway, she saw a man standing in her apartment stealing her things. Armed with a knife, he attacked her, and Diana tried to fight him off. But the man stabbed her, and as Diana ran out the door to seek help, she collapsed in the stairwell. There, the man stabbed her repeatedly.

Diana’s flatmate at the time, another Canadian model by the name of Charlotte, found her body lying on the stairs. Charlotte immediately went for help, but by that point nothing could be done. Diana was gone. Diana’s death attracted global media coverage at the time, then faded from the headlines.

Modeling jobs in any market can run into the late evening, particularly if the job requires travel. I know many models who have finished jobs late at night, myself included, and never had any trouble, though finishing at midnight is not a regular occurrence.

But Diana was in a different position. The kinds of jobs JH was booking her for often involved nightlife, and kept her out, alone, until the wee hours. Moreover, JH’s model apartment — though located in the relatively safe area of the Changning District — had a security gate that was often unattended. (My agency apartment was also in Changning, but it had a 24-hour security patrol at the front gate and a staffed lobby.) Had there been sufficient security, Diana’s murderer would have had less of a chance to get into her building in the first place.

Immediately following Diana’s murder, her Shanghai agency closed its doors. Its phone was disconnected, its site went offline. It vanished without a trace.

Upon hearing the news of Diana’s death, out of curiosity, I looked up the website of Diana’s Shanghai agency, JH. Frankly, it looked as sketchy as Diana had hinted. The site was covered with photos of models I knew for a fact were represented by other, better agencies, there was text that I recognized as copied from another agency’s web site — even the layout was a direct copy of a much more reputable Shanghai agency, Esee Model Management. Immediately following Diana’s murder, JH closed its doors. Its phone was disconnected, its site went offline. The JH agency vanished without a trace.

It would have taken Diana’s mother agency a few minutes, perhaps an hour at most, to do that research. All they had to do was go online. They were her mother agents; they were supposed to know the market they were sending her to — for three months! — and to make sure that Diana would be in trustworthy hands. At least they could have googled JH and compared its site to the main Shanghai agency websites. It took me ten minutes.

The motive for keeping Diana in Shanghai, despite her unhappiness, seems obvious: money.

As any model who has gone to China for work would know firsthand, most of the jobs in China are catalogue and are usually not by any means glamorous. Had Diana stayed and worked well, she could have potentially earned substantial sums for her agencies. To give you an idea of how things work, the Chinese booking agency usually takes a 40% commission from the model’s net earnings while the mother agency takes 10%. The other 50% goes towards the model’s expenses. After these expenses, a model who works regularly and has a good season can make anywhere between $7,000-$10,000 U.S. a month. On those earnings, the model’s Chinese agency would be grossing over $10,000 in commission per month for handling the bookings and billings, while her mother agency would be netting at least $2,000 over the same period for doing little more than arranging the contract. China is unusual among modeling markets in that the potential payout is a very substantial amount of money for models. To make that kind of money in Paris or New York you’d have to be booking blue-chip campaigns or doing runway exclusives.

It is because of the money to be made that modeling agencies are coming up as quickly as the skyscrapers on Shanghai’s skyline. In light of this, mother agencies and models must exhibit caution. Mother agencies need, first and most obviously, to do their research. Human life is not replaceable; Diana’s life is not replaceable. You are sending your model to a foreign country to live and work. As such, it is your responsibility as their mother agent to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Most crucially, if a mother agent sends a model to other markets for a contract, it is that agent’s duty to make certain that the host agency is legitimate, credible, and reliable. There should be plenty of reputable agencies in a given market and mother agencies need to find the one that is best suited for a given model. What else are models paying for but that expertise and local knowledge? And if a mother agent is not 100% sure of an agency’s legitimacy, it should not send its models to work with that agency. Period.

Models need to know that it is your absolute right to read all contracts — and to negotiate their terms — as well as to ask questions.

Models need to know that it is vital — not to mention your absolute right — to read all contracts carefully (and to negotiate the terms), to ask questions, and to research the agency’s reputation online. Research other agencies as well, and speak up if you don’t like the look of the one where your mother agent wants to place you. Ask around. And if there is no trace of the agency anywhere online or any reviews, it is better to steer clear. Even if you have the slightest inclination that an agency could be portraying itself inaccurately, it is best to err on the side of caution. There are plenty of other markets and other agencies out there. But unfortunately, not all mother agencies live up to their responsibilities.

I am very thankful for having a wonderful mother agent who has had nothing but my best interest at heart since day one. I encourage all models to foster a positive relationship with a reputable mother agent. Having a mother agent who knows the industry is important; a mother agent who has a genuine interest in not just your career success but your overall wellbeing is vital.

What happened to Diana could have happened in any market worldwide. She could have been killed in Tokyo, Cape Town, London, Milan, or New York. But she knew something was wrong and she wanted to go home.

Likewise, Diana could have been anyone. She could have been your friend, your daughter, your girlfriend. She could have even been you.

Although nothing can bring her back, I hope that Diana’s story serves as an example of the possible dangers a model can face when greed hardens into negligence. The most basic expectation that a model has when he or she travels overseas for work is that his or her personal safety will be protected. Mother agents need to exhibit caution, care, and compassion when sending their models overseas. Every agent should ask, would I be okay with sending my child to work and live under these people’s supervision? If the answer is no, then it is not okay for you to send someone else’s child either.

41 Responses to What The Industry Should Learn From Model Diana O’Brien’s Murder

  1. […] after pocketing a near 40% commission from a model’s net earnings, Chinese modeling agencies often take another half for the […]

  2. […] after pocketing a near 40% commission from a model’s net earnings, Chinese modeling agencies often take another half for […]

  3. Abigail Taylor says:

    Hi,
    I am a final year Fashion Communication and Promotion student and I am writing my dissertation on the exploitation of models under the age of 18. Through my research I have come across many stories from models who have experienced things that could have been prevented having there been sufficient laws and regulations in place to protect them, which relates to the tragic death of Diana.

    I would greatly appreciate it if you all could spend a minute of your time completing my survey as including your opinion would be highly beneficial.

    Also, if anyone reading this has connections to the industry and would be willing to participate in a short interview with me please do not hesitate to contact me through the following email address: taylorabigail55@gmail.com.

    Thank you for your time.

  4. Cordelia McDougall says:

    In agreeance with Kat L….does this site have a moderator? I understand the points Mr. Griffin is trying to make (and agree with a few) but the manner in which he’s expressed them is offensive.

  5. Kat L. says:

    Can someone delete David Griffin’s comments? He’s gone off on a misogynist and racist diatribe. Incredibly inappropriate and disrespectful considering the article’s subject matter.

  6. There is a new law in effect in China, that actually specifies that any non-chinese foreigner with a contractual disagreement or grievance or complaint will ALWAYS be forced to comply with the chinese company, and that the police must also side with the chinese company, for the benefit and/or profit of the chinese company, no matter the disagreement or grievance, or how dire, exploitative, harmful, inhumane, unjust, out right wrong it is, for any foreigner with any work / job / employment / money-related complaint in China, if you d not possess a business or working visa.

    alot of these companies and agencies will try to convince you that you dont need a business visa, or that you can convert to one after you enter China, or that the problem is overstated.

    IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A BUSINESS/WORKING VISA, DO NOT SIGN ANY CONTRACT WITH ANY COMPANY IN CHINA.

    this is really a sad thing to see, but it seems to be par for the course here.

    what this means is that they can work you, starve you, abuse you, to the brink of death or beyond for the entire duration you work for them and then they are WELL WITHIN THEIR LEGAL RIGHTS to keep all your money and kick you to the curb to find your own way home.

    the CHINESE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT pursue or persecute of punish any chinese company for hiring foreigners, abusing them, working them to death, lying to them, cheating them, stealing all their money, and leaving them homeless with no way out of China. THEY WILL side with the chinese company in any and all work-related complaints in china if you do not have a business/working visa.

    this goes for anyone doing any sort of business or work within china

    so i suggest the following 3 things:

    1. be sure they buy you/ you buy a round-trip ticket to China, so u can leave even if they dont pay you or you end up homeless

    2. put emergency money in a Visa Credit card or Visa Debit Card and dont spend it until you get back home, in case you need to stay in a hotel and survive when the chinese company sends you out the door on ur arse

    3. treat the contract as meaningless and view the company and maliciously exploitative, so that everything you do protects yourself, such as:

    - receiving cash in advance, or cash on site after completing a job
    - require them to pay, in advance, your entire stays rent in an apartment or hotel you arrange yourself with other people you link up with in the city you will stay in.. a lot of websites online post roommate wanted ads, and alot of universities post them around campus as well

    otherwise, you should just refuse to work without a working/business visa

  7. and also, would there not be signs of forced entry into the girls home? if a burglar had managed to get in, obviously there would have been signs such as a damaged lock, or an unlocked door. she wouldnt have startled him into stabbing her. there are alot of stories of people getting their homes broken into, no stories of them killing anyone. that would be useless and senseless and the chinese are more clever than that. even in a house with a grown man, a burglar has only to threaten with a knife and he can have anything he wants handed to him.. he has a knife and he would not be startled by a skinny young little girl and scared enough top actually stab her. stabbing her was the only thing he could have done that would have actually put his life on the line. the foreign girl could not ever have identified one of a billion chinese faces. use your heads. this was an assassination

    virtually every single model in China is actually a prostitute, in that they can be bought for sex. certainly much more than the going rate for a street girl, a fact they can gloat about.. in fact, all anyone really has to do is get the model in a situation at night and if an outright money offer doesnt do the job initially to get sex, the man can force himself onto her, and throwing a large amount of money ontop of her head will justify the deed, even in the eyes of most the police in China.

    Actresses as well, they are all essentially high dollar escorts… and i challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

    and the man will need there to be alcohol involved, so he will drink before hand, because in China, being drunk is an excuse for just about any type of behavior, and will make the punishment very lenient or simply just dropped altogether.

    so venues where alcohol is served should also be off of your venue list in your contract.

    they dont get that a girl cant be raped and then compensated. they think all girls can do that, and they particularly feel a white girl is a very special treat, possibly a dream or fantasy come true for them..

    they exploit models often from Eastern European countries or countries of less opportunity, less freedom, less liberty, less rights, where the women are more easily exploitable.. its when you have girl from a developed country where women are fiercely independent that these problems occur

    a girl from canada or america of course cant just have money thrown at her then raped, even though girls of less opportunity who physically look like them, but who arent from developed countries, will be more likely to be silently victimized and bear the burden of shame

    When North American girls get into these situations, which are really down in the belly of the beast, they will not ‘play ball’ and will likely make threats to tell others what is going on, or to expose the entire scandalous operation to the authorities or to the world, or to the people they connect with back home, which is when things will get ugly.. a girl will ‘jump off’ a building, having been thrown off, and another will be stabbed to death in her own apartment.

    DONT GO TO THESE VENUES UNLESS YOU ARE PERFECTLY HAPPY BECOMING A FULL-FLEDGED PROSTITUTE!!!!

    again, anything after 7 pm, 10pm is the hour all bad things begin, and anywhere alcohol has been served, which is most places..

    i’d also stipulate a no-smoking environment, most of the troubled individuals all smoke.

    take this seriously! you cannot back out, once you’re in, your in, and once you’ve let them lead you down, you will stay down, and once you choose to try it, there is no backing out, you will do it until you are done doing it

    and remember, there arent many labor laws here, so write everything up in your contract, or else you will literally be worked far more than is humane or allowable in developed countries

  8. so u see, its literally impossible to catch the black snake organizations in their dark actions, how would u ever be able to expose it? anything u might say can be simply denied and another story told, and nobody more believable than the other, and the police hands being tied for lack of literal visual proof on their desk..

    and they do operate in most areas of society, having legitimate businesses etc, but its their guanxi which keeps them tied in the organization, and to others in the organization, and which keeps these organizations so powerful and profitable and hard to take down

    even if they arent gaining anything financially from it, they will bring the models into the arena of the black snake operations for some blind ties to guanxi and an inherent belief that its an integral part of their business dealings and social lives, which are completely connected.

    thats why they change from day to night.. you can deal with them in the day, on your own careful terms.. but never in the night, which is when the skin comes off, and is completely controlled by the guanxi triad and black snake ‘association’

    deal with them as such

  9. the “thief” also could have just been looking for her contract, once they’ve stolen the contract, you may well be on your way to being exploited as a pleasure escort indefinitely, and eventually trafficked around to who knows where..

    they view models as sex toys.

    in Chinese run ‘model shows’ every model has a number and the right people purchase the girl that they want from the shows operator.. not open to anyone, granted, but to the triad, of which practically everyone and anyone in china can / is apart of.. it doesnt explicitly say sex, but its someone the man believes he can purchase to take to his room lock the door, throw away the key and get her drunk or drug her, or just proceed to molest, grope, mishandle, sexually assault, force himself on her, or rape her

    thereby the entire thing looks to be the work of an individual man gone rogue who cant control himself, rather than the entire function and purpose of the model show, allowing the shows to continue, and forcing the models to come back time and time again, without any real proof of any wrong doing by the company, host, or agent.

    alot of such rooms will even require a key to lock or unlock from the inside and the outside.

    and police will be of no help in rape situations without having video evidence of the assault in its entirety.

    and a girl who refuses to return will be in violation of her contract agreement, and threatened with being sent home without any money, as the agency is not even turning a blind eye, but literally willfully engaging n acts it then denies and pretends isnt happening

    hence, a model may want to kill herself before going home.. or the agency and organization of the sinister triad scum will throw her from the building, then tell police with innocent eyes a straight faced lie, triad style, that she was depressed or killed herself, and somebody saw her jump, and they will produce a ‘bystander’ who saw the whole thing.

    all so they can continue.. thats how the ‘black snake organizations’ operate. and will do whatever to whomever to keep the profitable and perverse scam going at all costs, because they know, once that gig is up, and caught by police, its likely the death penalty or life in prison or mysterious disappearance for them

  10. With a good, well-thought out contract, official, stamped, and written in chinese, you will not be under anyone’s control.. if they threaten you for violating something, or threaten not to pay you or send you home, you can take that contract to the police, regardless of what they may have threatened you with, and you will prevail, guaranteed, and they will be forced into submission.

    a good contract should also include a punishment clause for the Chinese agency who violates the contract, such as paying you the entire amount you would have made on your trip, or any set Dollar amount, specified carefully in RMB or USD

    it should also include a dollar amount you will pay as a penalty if you break the contract or quit early, but should protect the money you have earned up until that time.. any amount is fine, dont make it enormous on either parties part, just write that you will get paid for work done, and either one of you will pay some penalty for breaking the contract conditions.

    dont feel trapped by your company, there are alot of other jobs you can get doing freelance stuff on your own, and there are even agencies run by models who got fed up with being mistreated by local ones

    i would probably ask for payment in monthly, bi-monthly, or even weekly increments, but i wouldnt wait more than a month for pay

    another contract stipulation is setting up a bank account before work begins

    and then, of course, lock your contract up somewhere secure, they arent above breaking into your apartment and replacing all or part of it with a look alike or just making it disappear

  11. i’d also add to the contract:

    * escort to your door provided after 6pm, with a room check before you enter

    * apartment you live in must be gated, have a secure entrance, and have 24-hour security guards, and be well-lit

    * no work before 6 am either – danger times are from 10pm to 6am, thats the no go zone.. but if you finish at 10, you will get home in the danger zone.. and will be quite unsafe, and safety goes down exponentially from there with every hour later you stay out.

    * change of locks on the door, where you will be given the only keys

    * a room with bars on the windows and balcony, people put these on in china even on the 30th floor, because thieves are like ninjas around here..

    * a room with an outer steel door

    * a Mobile phone with Emergency Police on speed dial

    * Registration with the Local Police Office, required by the Government officially, but few people seem to do it, but it really makes u more secure

    * registration with your countries consulate in China

    * the above to be done before any work begins

  12. Models should not be afraid to dictate their own contract. Rules with contracts in China are as follows:

    1. if its not in writing, it will be exploited to the maximum

    2. if its assumed or implied, it actually explicitly says they can do whatever they want, to your peril

    3. forget about the smallest detail, pay the biggest price imaginable.

    4. if its not in chinese worded very specifically, then it doesnt matter or count for anything.

    5. if it doesnt contain their Red Chop Offical Seal of the company, written in Chinese, it doesnt matter or count for anything

    6. if your copy of the contract is not in Chinese, the Chinese one will mysteriously disappear

    7. if your copy doesnt have the actual red ink stamp on it, it counts for nothing.. dont get a photocopy or scan of a stamp

    8. with a chinese contract, stamped officially by their company, you have them by the short & curlies and can take that to the police at any time and the police will force them to comply, under threat of severe penalty & punishment

    9. you also need to get them to send you a scanned color copy of their Business Registration Permit

    that about sums it up

    i encourage anyone in the industry to create their own contract

    some of the point i would include are:

    *your contract will be delivered to you on arrival, with both Chinese and English copies, exactly as it was in the email you had them send, with red ink official business stamp and signature on both copies

    *They will produce their Official Business Registration Permit to your Parent Agency, which you will verify with a first hand look when you arrive

    * the above two items to happen before any modeling will take place

    * set meal times, duration, provisions, and that you arent to be bothered in that time, and that you can skip lunch for a hefty additional charge

    * latest possible work time set at 6 pm

    * at least one day in every 7 days off, completely to yourself, not to be bothered or burdened with any other responsibilities, you retaining the option to work for an additional hefty hourly rate.

    * transportation to and from every single job back to your apartment, and reimbursement for all taxi expenses you incur while going from place to place, including to and from your apartment

    * a set number of minutes given to you to change clothes, like 5-10 minutes minimum, and in a completely private area, changing room, or curtained off area

    * at no time should you be touched or forced to change clothes, or come in contact with any hand that may scratch you or damage your skin.

    * set number of hours off and hours to sleep per night, or hours in your room alone at night

    * you will not share a room with any local chinese person in any place you travel, and require your own room and your bed, with suitable specific amenities

    * at no time will anyone touch you or pull or push or grab you

    * you will not be hurried to walk at a faster than normal pace at any time, and will be given room and time to arrive at your own pace

    * any other things you think of or other models have told you of

    all these things would go without saying in any other country, but China most definitely isnt any other country and you need to detail every little thing that is just normal behavior for other people

    and i encourage models to band together to make model agencies enforce these style of contracts onto their Chinese partner agency for any work sent to China.

    I suggest a Model Union or Organization, and a Boycott of any agencies which dont comply or do their best

    Good Luck..

    if you need help translating or writing any contracts, or verifying the English and Chinese contracts dont contradict each other, u can friend me at http://www.modelmayhem.com/2776101 then send me a message with ur email and i’ll respond via email

  13. Chinese police dont bother examining a crime scene.. was the girls apartment turned over and a mess? was anything of value actually missing? did it look at all like it had been robbed?

    and had she been raped in her apartment? likely it was someone who knew her and her schedule and residence. it wasnt by sheer luck the supposed burglar hit that particular apartment in a building with hundreds of others, only one of which was likely to even be rented by a foreigner. the odds make that virtually impossible.

    there was no doubt no forensic check for any signs of rape or recent sexual intercourse, or signs of a abuse, torture, bruising or of putting up a struggle against a sexual assault.

    that said, chinese triads have less concern for woman than the common person might have for a rodent. and show the same animosity towards anyone they can control or who is weaker than they are.. they wont hesitate to slap, beat, rape, stab or kill, as if with no thought or remorse or regret or even any concern at all that its even a human life…

    And if you get forced into prostitution, sold to the highest bidder, or raped, the police will also not help you even if you call them, since they will alway only say it was your word against theirs without any proof, and they will no doubt have 50 people vouching for the integrity of the chinese guy at the police station and vouching for what happened, 90% of whom were not even there but will claim to have seen the whole thing, while making the girl out to be a lying foreign prostitute who hates chinese people

    if there are any models out there wanting to come to China, be warned ! dont deal with any agency that isnt obviously international and whos credentials cant be verified in a country outside of China. Demand to skype with your contact in China and as many people as you will be having contact with, if they seem shifty, lack empathy or cant make eye contact or dont brush their teeth, end communications with a warning of they continue harassing you.

    dont deal with anyone who is not well-educated, articulate, kind, and patient. If they seem unable to sit still for 5 minutes and talk with you calmly and warmly, without trying to cut the conversation short or glide over important details, end with them right there

    when talking to agents, do as the US Consulate does and go into great detail, asking questions about details you dont even care about. and asking details about the details, going deeper and deeper into the story until you find signs of a lie, or something gives you doubt

    most importantly is listen to your gut and instincts.. if it feels wrong, it is, if it feels like triad it is, if it feels like someone trying to help themselves at any expense, it is, if it feels like they dont care or have no empathy, walk away.

    many people will try to feign an edgy attitude, ego, and air of importance by treating you coldly or as if you are just one little nobody in their giant pocket of big somebodies.. thats a dead give away of something more sinister at play behind the scenes.

    take nothing at face value, and always assume the worst, but hope for the best, while making decisions which protect yourself.

    China is like a land, where every night has they effect of on the people that a fullmoon has on werewolves. when the sun goes down, everybody changes, as if controlled by the night, even people who are friendly and seem good in the day time become evil sinister demons at night.. night time changes everybody in china.. dont ask me why… the best thing to do is stay indoors with the doors locked. go out in the day time.. when at about 10 or 11 am they groggily come into consciousness and their Mr. Hydes return who actually seem to have no idea who their Dr. Jekyls were

    if anyone is coming to China, or South China, you can find my profile on http://www.modelmayhem.com/2776101 and i’ll be glad to help you in anyway i can to stay safe and have a good time

  14. David Griffin says:

    More likely, having lived in China for well over a decade, those jobs were not ‘like escort services’ but actual escort services, the chinese way. the girls are simply put in a position where the men can take full advantage of her. she was no doubt raped. she was likely going to expose the entire scandal and so was murdered by her agency or their elite clientele who’s lives were going to be in jeopardy. they hired a guy to pose as a thief, knowing her schedule, and he sat in their rummaging through things until she got home, at which point she was assassinated. They claim the man ran away after stabbing her, only to actually be waiting on the stairs again to stab her many more times after she started running down the stairs… but she would have actually locked the door and called the Emergency Police or Ambulance Number, information she surely would have had, but she didnt even use her phone to call for help, deciding instead to run down a dark dangerous hallway known to have a knife wielding maniac murderer in it, alone, right behind the guy? how stupid is it to believe that? what actually happened was she was stabbed by the assassin, then ran out of her room away from her attacker, and he caught up with her at the stairs and finished the job. typical chinese mafia style which frequents and controls those late night shady venues throughout shanghai.. those were all triads. if someone offers you a modelling job after 7PM tell them to go get bent, and reschedule in the morning, or dont do it, and never go alone, as a girl, to an all male venue in china, period.

  15. Ash says:

    I am placed with Diana’s mother agency in Victoria, Canada, and I woud just like to say that they are one of the most hardworking, reputable agencies. What happened here was not a result of poor planning or not checking out the agency in advance, it was a result of a break and enter gone wrong. I was also working in Shanghai, and am now in another city in China, and although sometimes the agencies here try to push models to do ore sketchy work in nightcubs, it is ALWAYS an option to say no. Also, my mother agency, and Diana’s mother agency, did and does everything in their power to check up with their modeles reguarly and make sure they are safe and comfortable.

    However, I do agree that working conditions for models in China are absolutely horrid. Long hours, sooo many outfits, and almost no care is given to the models’ wellbeing at shoots or shows.
    It’s hard work, and I am so grateful that the model alliance exists now, to have these issues brought into the light.

  16. Patricia says:

    Great article. Keep writing. Very important for me to learn this. Thank you.

  17. [...] The dangers of being a vulnerable young woman is highlighted in the Model Alliance’s article on the death of a model, seen from the perspective of her former [...]

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you all so very much for publishing this story which is so very important for every young model and even older models, as it is always very difficult to say no to a job when you are on your own in a megacity far from home, needing money.

    Life and labor rules in Asia are not always the same as in other countries around the world.
    The countries that signed the Bill of Human Rights a long time ago and have had regulations for labor a long time, (and remember those regulations have been fought very hard for), are not to be compared with other countries in which many people are just struggling along. And this we should understand ourselves, to begin with. We are all lacking a lot of common sense and a lot of insight in life if we just do not think.
    And this is what happens all the time.
    In South- East Asia parties are held on islands where tens of thousands of young people gather not even thinking about questions like: what will we eat if the people hardly have enough to feed themselves?
    Why do we know about the mess at Woodstock and still expect other countries to be like Disney land?

    In China where literally billions of people have to provide for themselves, how can we expect to live the way we have lived at home?
    Do we really think beauty is such a scarce commodity it can change the world overnight?
    Think again! Think about how our grandparents and even our parents lived and remember then how much time it took the generations before us to build our world as we know it now.
    If you think the Little House on the Prairie is written for fun think again.
    Then think about the conditions in Asia. Use the internet as a source of knowledge, read books and ask those who have been there before you to be really honest and open about their experiences.

    About 30 years ago when China opened up, the first Western students started travelling to China. They came back exhausted and bewildered. Same thing 20 years ago. Even two years ago a friend of mine travelled to Shanghai, visiting her brother who lived and worked there for some years, trying to buy and sell goods for Western companies. He came back broke. It was not so easy after all.. She only stayed in Shanghai for a month, and came back bewildered. She had dreamt of finding the very refined Chinese culture that is seen in Western museums.
    She found myriads of busy people, that she could not speak with as she did not speak Chinese, and not a trace of the Chinese culture, as of course this is not exhibited on the streets. In the streets she knew no one and of all the myriads of people no one knew her. Mega-cities are made of stone and concrete and are bustling with life, but can be very very alienating, bewildering and confusing.

    Beauty is sought by many and this may lead to false idea’s about life in general. Of course there is great beauty in life everywhere, but please remember it can only thrive in well -structured, well- disciplined organisations. Be it countries, governments or even villages and model-agencies.
    Understand this is crucial.
    Do base your choices on sound facts ( once you start looking for the facts you can find them, easily).

    All the best,

    June

  19. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  20. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  21. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  22. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  23. Phoebe Tran says:

    This is all sad don’t they learn

  24. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  25. DC museum says:

    All to young, so change it up. It’s looking like an ugly industry. Not good pr.

  26. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  27. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  28. [...] The dangers of being a vulnerable young woman is highlighted in the Model Alliance’s article on the death of a model, seen from the perspective of her former [...]

  29. Crystal says:

    This all sounds so sketchy. I can’t believe agents send girls who are around 13 to build a portfolio in Asia. If this happened to someone who seemed very mature, judging by this article, then I can’t even imagine how it’s like for younger girls.

  30. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  31. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  32. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  33. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  34. [...] The terrible, preventable death of model Diana O’Brien. -Model Alliance [...]

  35. Hiflof says:

    Well, too bad with Diana, but it was not the modeling or her agency that killed her.

  36. Learning that.. says:

    MODELS and their families.. are willing to do any ting for money by going and working ILLEGALLY in China!! This case is very simple, and what we should learn is to respect the LAW ! SIMPLE AS THAT! and I am surprised models come from a develop country like Canada to work ILLEGALLY IN CHINA.I thought was all the way around.I am curious ,dose anyone who work in China as model pay any form of tax??

  37. Ralu says:

    Tragic story..but her death has nothing to do with her modeling agency and the contract that she signed!!
    I know some of the modeling agencies in Shanghai and I work with Esee Model ,and A+ .NOBODY ever push the models to do hostess and other kinds of works there are not related with modeling. Models choose to do this kind of jobs because the market is saturated and it is very competitive.Most of the girls are not working enough and pocket money are not enough to survive.
    Night life is amazing in Shanghai models come here sometimes just for party and night life scene.Yes ,is true that models get money to work in clubs ,but is their choice.And is very tempting ,and money are pretty good as well..up to 500 RMB/night ..just to dirnk and stik around some rich chinese table.
    Shanghai is safe place,i should say VERY SAFE ,Diana died ,not because of her agency and the works that she was offered .Everywhere in this world there are people that are willing to kill ,and China is not an exception… She didn’t expect the situation and she fight back because Chinese are not violent people,they are easy to fight them back ..but I guess she was not prepared to fight back a knife..
    I don’t really understand the connection and the message of this article, between her death and the modeling in China ,Shanghai.In this case the guy who kill Diana had nothing to do with the mafia,modeling or hostess contracts.
    It is a BIG misunderstanding here!! There is no danger working in China,or a limit age..it’s SAFE AND THE WORK IS JUST VERY HARD,loths of clothes and may hours etc..but this is how they work in China and nobody force models to work,or live in China. Actually modeling is not recognized by the government and reason why there is no legal contracts and working visa possible to obtain.As well like in Singapore,Thailand..models come and work illegally,and this is a subject we need to focus at more.
    Read more in this article : http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/blogs-shanghai/shanghais-nightlife/meet-the-foreign-girls-who-are-paid-to-party/
    Once again,working as a model in Shanghai is SAFE,NO MODEL AGENCY FORCE MODELS TO WORK OR DO JOBS,WORKS THAT THEY DON’T WANT !

  38. [...] “Diana’s story serves as an example of the possible dangers a model can face when greed hardens into negligence. ” – Model Alliance [...]

  39. the truth says:

    i’ve been working in shg as well. i was even placed with the “most prestigeous” agency in china over there, named esee. of course i knew that it won’t be the happiest time of my life travelling there, because i’ve heard many stories, like even a girl killed herself right before my arrival and jumped from a balcony which has been on the news as well and horrible working conditions etc. but i wanted to make my own image of that entire story and all i can say is that i am disgusted by this market, the work and very disappointed of the agency, sold as a “topmodel” and earning one of the lowest rates in the agency for 8-11 h jobs. heading to the airport, out of the plane straight to the studio, working again, back to the hotel, sleep 3-5 h working 6 again etc. being always professional i never mentioned anything in front of the clients but as soon as i asked the agency for a break of at least the castings they were completely freaking out, if i wouldn’t go, they’d send me back home without any money as i break my contract if i am not doing what i am supposed to do: to function like a model, better, mannequin, without emotions, brain or own opinion about that all. it was also the case that there haven’t been lunchbreaks at the jobs, it didn’t happen all the time but in a 7 day week of work at least 2-3 times, which means that the client wants to finisch these 200-400 outfits on that very day as they don’t want to pay more than they want to. and if you’re not fast enough they just ripp the clothes and shoes of you and hurt you while acting like a wild animal.
    so i came to the conclusion that i wouldn’t recommend to go to china. money good or bad, china isn’t worth the pain. why all that money if you’re sick at the end, burned out and have a bitter taste on your tongue while speaking about chinese people just because these rude clients and bookers have ruined it for you???
    and i am really deeply sorry for ths poor girl. all the shoulds and woulds won’t help her anymore but as soon as you feel something appears bizarr or shouldn’t supposed to be like you would know it, change your flight and get the hell outta there!!! i hope she is at a better place now, hollowed be thy name !!

    be aware guys, be aware.

  40. juju says:

    I’m in Shanghai now and this is why mother agents shouldn’t be sending 15 year old girls… which is all too frequent. When put in situations like Diana’s or other situations like model parties where the drinks are drugged etc. they don’t have the tools to react in appropriate ways, just as some girls who are in their 20s don’t. It’s a recipe for disaster.

  41. Brian Rolfe says:

    What a sad, sad story and tragic waste of a young model’s life… for the sake of some obvious safety research she would maybe have still been with us now.

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