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No one in the industry batted an eye when Ariana Donati arrived three days late for New York Fashion Week, twenty pounds heavier, and not at all sober.
The iconic face of countless couture houses—once worshipped for her mesmerizing green eyes and jaw-dropping curves—had been burning bridges from the top down with her behavior for months. When Ariana's seat remained jarringly empty at both the Marc Jacobs and Givenchy shows on the last day of fashion week, many insiders deemed it to be the final straw.
A prominent editor at a major fashion publication scoffed, "I never liked that bitch. She smiled too much."
"You know what they say, darling! Out with the old, in with the new!" chuckled the lead designer of a French fashion house.
What he teased wasn't untrue. Shinier, younger, up-and-coming phenoms were a dime a dozen in the industry, and, at the ripe age of thirty-two, Ariana had long overstayed the hell out of her welcome.
On Monday morning, the runways cleared at Skylight Clarkson Square and with it the posh, flamboyant crowds trickled away. A day slipped by. Then another. And another. Ariana was still missing. She had accrued dozens of missed engagements. Her manager and personal assistant were at their wit's end. The drugs and drinking and late night partying were driving them insane. For weeks, neither of them could pin her down. Rumors began to swirl about the French-Italian beauty's whereabouts.
During happy hour one evening, an old flame of Ariana's inquired off-handedly to a mutual friend of theirs, "Tell me the truth. Did Ari really elope to Bali with that twenty-two-year-old boy toy of hers?"
"Nah," the friend responded, "I think she's simply laying low. Bad reaction to some lip injections. You know how it goes."
Despite the lightness in her tone at the time, Ariana's friend started texting her in earnest later that night. The friend called again the following morning. She left a few voicemails. Two more days passed. She never received a response.
By the time the authorities found Ariana, she had been lying in a pool of her own vomit for over a week. Stiff, lifeless. The stench in the room was rancid. Her eyes remained wide open as though trapped in a nightmarish trance. The once brilliant green of those lovely, alluring eyes now carried a dull, milky sheen.
Tabloids were quick to sensationalize the details surrounding the demise of the modeling world's most notorious has-been. Headlines were slapped across front pages with a morbid kind of frenzy: "Dead at Thirty-Two! Overdose on Champagne and Cocaine!"
Her death struck many of her fans as a reminder of their once carefree adolescence and their own limited time on this planet. She made them reflect upon unfulfilled dreams. Dreams that they had been forced to bury when the harsh realities of adulthood came a-knocking. They were devastated for the next forty-eight hours. After all, Ariana had been such a pivotal figure in their teenage years. At some point, most of them were either jerking off to her swimsuit covers or desperately trying to recreate her hair and makeup for a hot date.
Then, the news cycle moved on, and the trending hashtag #neverforgetari was forgotten.
Ariana's inner circle was deeply affected—though, not entirely shocked—by the tragedy. Poor thing had been on a downward spiral for quite some time. Former colleagues and acquaintances passed along thoughts and prayers via social media posts, and friends wept and paid their respects at the funeral, but there was only one person who truly felt the loss like a bullet through the heart…
Caterina Donati was only ten-years-old when she learned of her mother's death.