When Australian model Annalise Braakensiek was found dead in her inner Sydney apartment last week, it was impossible not to think of Charlotte Dawson, who’d met a chillingly similar end four years earlier.
Both were Amazonian blondes whose lustre had barely faded in middle age — Braakensiek was 46 and Dawson 47 — and appeared blessed with the kind of lifestyles the rest of us only dream of.
They served up tantalising bites on social media: Instagramming beautiful bodies on white sand, gravity-defying yoga poses, perfectly styled organic meals, nights out with equally beautiful friends – all having the time of their lives.
But their thousand watt smiles and glowing skin masked the chronic depression that crippled each woman behind closed doors.
While neither kept their battle with the “black dog” a secret, few realised their suffering had intensified to the point they could no longer endure it, or survive it.
“Social media was the best and worst thing that could happen to Charlotte and Annalise and I think it contributed to both of their deaths,” journalist and author Ros Reines told news.com.au.
“Both of them had difficult upbringings and perhaps because of that both were so hungry for attention and love that they constantly needed and sought validation from people they didn’t know on social media.”
In Dawson’s case that often resulted in ugly sparring sessions with trolls — many of whom would outright tell her to kill herself.
In a 2012 interview with 60 Minutes, the former model and television presenter revealed her sense of helplessness at being the target of such cruel online taunts, but said she felt compelled to fight back rather than ignore them.
“Charlotte was trolled relentlessly and she was told so many times not to engage, not to respond, but she couldn’t leave it alone,” Reines says. “It was a compulsion.”
Dawson told 60 Minutes the most “ferocious” exchanges played out on Twitter. She told of returning home one night after a party and finding a string of messages encouraging her to “stick your head in a toaster” or simply “kill yourself”.
She fought off the abuse until the early hours of the morning until, defeated, she tweeted a photo of a hand clutching tablets with the message “you win x” , following it up with the message: “Hope this ends the misery”.
The abuse led to Dawson’s admission to hospital. Finally, on February 22, 2014, she killed herself inside her luxury waterside apartment at Sydney’s Woolloomooloo.
In Braakensiek’s case, the one time star of cult TV show Fat Pizza had been staying at friend’s houses for the best part of a year following the disintegration of her 16-year marriage.
Just weeks before her January 6 death she bought a new home in the inner city suburb of Potts Point and seemed upbeat about having her own space again.
But the melancholy remained and she shared her struggles in a series of poignant Instagram posts.
In a recent interview with The Daily Edition, she lamented that when she tried to talk to people about her depression, they didn’t want to hear about it. As if her life was so blessed she had no right to be sad.
“It was the … negative reaction people had to me being depressed and falling under the dark cloud,” she said.
“In many ways my life is wonderful, for which I’m extremely grateful and there’s no doubting that, but when you’re suffering these kinds of things for people to say how dare you — you’re a model, you’re a millionaire, you’re round the world. That’s got nothing to do with this.”
Reines believes the pressure of keeping up appearances, of staying relevant and in demand in a sea of beautiful young Instagram “influencers” eventually broke her.
“You know, I saw the headline ‘Sydney model dead’ and I got such a shock when I saw it was Annalise,” she said.
“But you know, I look back at the times I spent with her and she just kept wanting to push herself more and more.
“It took a huge amount of work to look the way she did and maintain it. She would scrub and scrub herself from head to toe in circular motions to fight cellulite and stress the importance of taking saunas.
“She taught me how to pose in doorways and which way to look to catch the perfect light.
“She agonised over her weight and everything revolved around social media, so if she went out to eat it would have to be a restaurant where the food was instagrammable.
“It might have looked like a wonderful life on Instagram but in reality it was an endless, punishing cycle.”
Braakensiek’s cause of death has not yet been released. Police are preparing a report for the coroner.