Judging by the heartfelt tributes from close friends of Australian model Annalise Braakensiek, it is clear she left a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to meet her.
However, as the messages of grief and bewilderment keep rolling in, the final days of the beloved star’s life are shrouded in mystery.
The 46-year-old may have laid dead for days before her body was discovered inside her newly-bought apartment in Sydney, Australia on Sunday.
Police still have no idea how long she was in her home, but Braakensiek’s close friends hadn’t heard a word from her in three days.
The silence was completely out of character for the larger-than-life model — who would drop her friends a message at the most unlikely times for a simple catch-up, according to one of her closest friends, Gina Byrnes.
In a heartbreaking and deeply personal social media tribute, Byrnes described Braakensiek in a way that seems worlds away from the glitz and glamor of modeling and acting.
Byrnes, who shared her home with Braakensiek for over nine months, recalled how the model was an expert in the kitchen and how she would text her at 4:30 a.m. just so the pair could meet downstairs for a “lemon water, a coffee and a [chat].”
“You carried yourself with such grace dignity and poise,” she wrote. “You had an ability to smile with your whole body — now that is an art.”
“You stayed committed to being adventurous, joyful, authentic, genuine, inclusive compassionate, forgiving and open-minded. You loved passionately and fiercely.”
She added that Braakensiek felt “so abandoned” and she was “misunderstood by some people” — but added she was “loved globally.”
“Thank you for opening up your beautiful generous heart sharing your inner secrets with me,” the devastated friend wrote.
“You made my soul shine and feel alive my spiritual queen. You rocked those long blonde braids like a true Vikingess angel face. Our motto was: Open arms Open hearts. Annaliese You are Forever in my (heart) I miss you.”
Police and ambulance crews arrived at Braakensiek’s apartment at around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday after friends and family became concerned about her whereabouts.
Close friends told News.com.au the jewelry creator, lingerie designer and health guru had not been heard from for a few days.
Police rescue and ambulance crews entered the apartment where they found Braakensiek deceased. There were no suspicious circumstances, police said, and they will prepare a report for the coroner.
Braakensiek often posted to her 39,000 Instagram followers and was very honest about her dark days. She admitted last year was “challenging,” particularly not having her own home.
The Australian model split from her stockbroker husband Danny Goldberg in April after 16 years together. At the time, in a deleted Instagram post, she wrote: “I don’t know if a broken heart mends or learns to live in pieces.”
She bought her new apartment in Novermber 2018 following the separation. When she bought property she talked about plans to decorate in her signature style and told the Sun-Herald she was focusing on her work and her pet cat Frankie and “moving forward with her life.”
On December 5 she wrote on Instagram that her “biggest challenge was not having my own home (for a year now).”
“I promise as soon as I move into my new abode I’ll be back to cooking, sharing my new jewelry designs and being a general all-round mega Vikingess,” she wrote.
She wrote on Instagram on December 15 about her “turbulent year” but said “all the pain and hard times are going to be a blessing.”
“Everything seems to feel twisted and upside down at the moment … am I right?!!!! Life’s challenges have been deep, dark, difficult, demanding and down right scary lately. For me and so many others I know. But today is a new day,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I’ve also had some of the best jobs, travels and experiences of my life this year for which I’m THAT grateful. So, here’s to happiness and light, endless possibilities and new beginnings!!!!”
Braakensiek looked radiant in a white bikini top and red bottoms when she was photographed on Bondi Beach with her sister on the day after Christmas and happily posted to her Instagram followers.
The high-profile model fought a public battle with depression for years and was an ambassador for RUOK?, a suicide-prevention charity.
At the time, she said in an interview with The Daily Edition: “It was the … negative reaction people had to me being depressed and falling under the dark cloud.”
“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.”
Braakensiek was a fixture of the community and was a strong proponent of healthy living — so much so that she was still very much in demand as a swimsuit model after nearly 30 years in the business.
A close friend of Braakensiek, Adriana Dib, who spoke to her in the days before her death said she had seemed “upbeat.”
“I spoke to Annalise on Wednesday night and I thought she sounded OK,” Dib told news.com.au.
“I wasn’t worried at all. We discussed the new year and all the wonderful things we would get to conquer and achieve.”
“To find out today that she’s gone is so devastating, I feel out of body. She brought so much magical love to everyone she knew.”
“My life was better for having had her in it. We were kindred. I felt very lucky. The world has lost a genuine beacon of beautiful light.”
Friends began to worry, however, when Braakensiek — who Dib said was never one not to return a text message or phone call — did not respond to messages and calls from Thursday onwards.