Mia Amber Davis went to a Los Angeles clinic this week for surgery on her knee to ease pain from an old basketball injury exacerbated by wearing high heels and playing tennis.
But after what was supposed to be a routine procedure on Monday, she complained of dizziness and had to be transported to Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center. At about 9 a.m. on Tuesday she was pronounced dead.
“She seemed fine leading up to the procedure,” says Craig Harvey, chief investigator for the L.A. County Coroner. “She had no prior complaints and no significant prior medical history.”
Fashion Industry Shocked
Davis’s sudden and mysterious death at age 36 stunned her family, including husband Michael Yard, and rocked the fashion industry, where Davis was a highly respected and influential plus-sized model based in New York. She also worked as an actress, appearing in Road Trip.
“We’re really heartbroken,” says Madeline Jones, editor of PLUS Model Magazine. “We feel like our whole world collapsed. And the plus-sized industry is never going to be the same. She was such an advocate for plus-sized women. Wherever she went she was made up from head to toe, not a hair out of place. She loved herself. She looked good and felt good.”
The cause of death remains unknown. Results of an autopsy are pending, and reports that a blot clot was to blame are “simply speculation,” says Davis’s cousin, Mignon Moore, a UCLA sociology professor.
“We are absolutely heartbroken and devastated by the abruptness and tragic loss of Mia Amber,” her family says in a statement released by Moore. “She was a role model for people of all colors, shapes and sizes. She was a shining star and always encouraged others to live out their dreams.”
In Road Trip in 2000, a 300-pound Davis appeared in what was played as a comedic love scene with super skinny D.J. Qualls.
Afterwards, she set a goal for herself to lose 150 pounds, writing in a 2009 article in Plus Model Magazine that her goal was “to make a better life for myself healthfully and to pursue a modeling career.”
The first 100 pounds “came off relatively quickly,” she wrote. She initially worried about the next 50 – only to find that she could get success and satisfaction as a plus-sized model – but had to work to keep her weight steady.
“I’m in a space where I want more from my career and my life,” she wrote before launching a new exercise regime to shed pounds that came back. “I want to see my true potential.”
In her memory, her family has set up the Amber Mia Fund.
• Reporting by DAHVI SHIRA and LIZA HAMM