Fabulousness and Frenemies: Why the So-Called 'Fashionista Suicide' Made Headlines


On Wednesday, 22-year-old Ashley A. Riggitano — an intern for New York-based jewelry and fashion designer Alex Woo — celebrated her birthday by laying her Louis Vuitton purse on the walkway of the George Washington Bridge and jumping to her death, falling 212 feet down into the Hudson River. News outlets are calling it the “fashionista suicide,” linking her identity to her glamorous job and lifestyle. In some ways she was living the dream — young, stylish woman in New York — but at some point it turned into a nightmare of frenemies and gossip.

There are many different pop culture visions of the fun-loving, fabulous city gal making her dreams come true, from Rhoda and That Girl to Sex And The City, The Devil Wears Prada, and, to some extent, Girls. When you’re young and starry-eyed, the dazzling lights can be irresistible. But struggling has a dark side. And this town is harsh: Expensive, competitive, soul-crushingly oblivious to your feelings. You can wear the heels and carry designer handbags, but you’re not in a TV show. When you’re just starting out, trying to find your path, youthful ambition often comes with instability — financial and/or emotional — and a good support system is key. Riggitano seemed to have a contentious relationship with her friends. As the New York Post reports, in the Vuitton bag on the bridge, Riggitano left behind a “suicide diary,” including “a list of five girls she did not want to attend her funeral.”

“All my other ‘friends’ are in it for gossip,” she wrote. “Never there.”

One of the names allegedly on the list was Victoria Van Thunen, Riggitano’s business partner: The two started a jewelry design business together, a line called Missfits. From the Post:

“We are two Jersey girls who grew up one poof of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust from culturally rich NYC,” the Missfits Web site reads.
“And although we hail from the Garden State, it is Manhattan that we will always call home.”
The site also describes the “anguish at having to spend so much time on the Jersey side of the Hudson.”
The site further says, “Solid friends (the kind who won’t stick you in a cab just because they found a self-made millionaire under the age of 26 to hit on) are as rare as amazing jewelry.”

The day Riggitano died — hours before she jumped — it seems that she and Van Thunen may have had some sort of argument. Van Thunen took it on the internet:

“Those who incessantly blame others as the cause of their issues should perhaps take a step back and reevaluate these situations,” Van Thunen wrote on her Facebook page. “The common thread may be that “they” aren’t the problem, but rather that YOU are.'”

Another person banned from the funeral, Alison Tinari, had been in a Facebook exchange with Riggitano back in January. Tinari was friends with Riggitano’s boyfriend, and Riggitano was clearly threatened by the relationship. She sent Tinari messages: “You have been nothing but a bitch to me every time you walked in the door ignoring my existence” and “if you want him to be ‘happy’ because hes your ‘best friend’ stay away from me.” Tinari responded, calling Riggitano a “pathetic loser” and also wrote: “Go try to kill yourself on Xanax again, you unstable loser. Go fuck yourself and never speak to me again.” Tinari now says: “It’s really horrible what happened. I feel really bad for her family. It’s crazy. I feel really bad for her. I never went after her; she went after me… She harassed me on Facebook. I’m not her friend. The only thing I’m ashamed of is what I said about her overdosing on Xanax. I shouldn’t have said that.”

So much drama. Friends, enemies and frenemies. These antagonistic relationships may have contributed to Riggitano’s death, but, who really knows? We’re not acquainted with her mental health history. According to reports, she was on medications — including Klonopin and Adderall — and had attempted suicide at least once before. Here’s what we do know: Many young women fantasize about conquering New York, leaving dull hometown garbage behind. A fashionable life in the city seems so glamorous, thanks to SATC and the rest. (In one Facebook photo, Riggitano is literally wearing a Carrie Bradshaw-esque tutu.) But when you come here, your problems follow you. And while there are many sad tales of young people taking their own lives, Riggitano’s death makes headlines because of her status as a “fashionista.” On the surface, in the photos she left behind, it was all perfect. Blonde, young, white, well-dressed, adorned in jewelry… That’s the stuff dreams and TV shows are made of. That’s what the good life looks like, that’s what happy looks like. If you appear to have it all and you’re still not happy, what does that say? What does that mean?

Alex Woo, who employed Riggitano as a part-time intern, told reporters that Riggitano had only worked there a few weeks but often called out sick: “She definitely didn’t have perfect attendance.” Still:

‘She always had a smile on her face,’ she didn’t look depressed,’ Miss Woo said.

NJ fashionista left behind ‘grudge list’ before jumping to her death from GWB [NYP]
‘Go try to kill yourself on Xanax’: Facebook feud about a boy between fashionista who lept to her death and female pal revealed as all five women on her suicide note’s grudge list are identified [Daily Mail]
GWB jumper’s ‘frenemies’ say she was unstable and started online feuds [NYP]
Fashionista Who Jumped To Her Death Left ‘Suicide Diary’ With Grudge List Blaming Five Girls [Radar]
Partner blasts NJ fashionista who jumped to death in Facebook rant [NYP]

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