At the end of September 2021, Linda Evangelista published a long letter on her Instagram profile in which she explained that she had decided to live away from the public spotlight after suffering a serious problem with a cosmetic procedure that had left her “brutally disfigured” and, according to her, unable to practice her profession anymore. It took her five years to decide to tell her story, which quickly spread around the world, but since then the supermodel had not opened up again. Until now, five months later, when she finally decided to explain the torment she is suffering and how she is not even able to look at herself in the mirror.
Evangelista has not only talked about what happened, but she has also revealed her current appearance in an exclusive interview and photo shoot with People magazine. “I’m done hiding,” she assures, explaining that her goal is to get rid of the shame she has felt all this time. Good friends like Cindy Crawford encouraged her to tell her story because “her strength and true essence” remain forever recognizable.
In an article titled “My Cosmetic Procedure Nightmare,” Evangelista explained the problems she has faced after undergoing a seven-session liposculpture treatment – called CoolSculpting by its trademark name – that uses a process called cryolipolysis to freeze fat and eliminate it. She underwent several sessions between August 2015 and February 2016, and it caused a condition called Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia, or PAH. This is a serious side effect that the manufacturer estimates only occurs in one out of every 4,000 treatments, although according to a study reported by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons it can occur in 0.72% of cases, that is, in one out of every 138 cryolipolysis treatments. The former model said that after those sessions she was “permanently deformed” and “brutally disfigured” and for this reason she has sued Zeltiq, the parent company that developed the treatment, for $50 million (around €44 million) in damages.
“I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know,” she tearfully told the magazine, according to the publication itself. “I can’t live like this anymore, in hiding and shame. I just couldn’t live in this pain any longer. I’m willing to finally speak.” Evangelista said it was three months after starting the treatment when she noticed bulges at her chin, thighs and bra area, the same areas she had intended to shrink with the treatment, except in this case the areas began to grow and harden. She explained that she tried to fix it with diet and exercise. “I got to where I wasn’t eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind,” she told the magazine. In June 2016 she decided to go to her doctor. She undressed and cried as she told him that she was starving. That’s when she was diagnosed with PAH. “[The doctor] told me that no amount of diet, and no amount of exercise was ever going to fix it.”
According to the version given by the supermodel to the magazine, her doctor contacted the company to inform them about her condition and they offered to pay for a liposuction with a surgeon of their choice. According to her lawsuit, it was “on the eve” of the procedure when she found out that the company would pay for that surgery as long as she signed a confidentiality agreement that she rejected. Finally, she paid for two liposuctions, the first one in June 2016, the second one 13 months later. After that, she had to wear girdles, compression garments and a chin strap for two months, because they assured her that if not her PAH would return, which it did. Zeltiq, the parent company of CoolSculpting, has refused to discuss the matter with the magazine, citing the lawsuit as a reason.
The model says that those two surgeries did not help her improve, and that those bulges became “protrusions. And they’re hard. If I walk without a girdle in a dress, I will have chafing to the point of almost bleeding. Because it’s not like soft fat rubbing, it’s like hard fat rubbing,” she told People. She said that she can’t even put her arms flat along her sides and showed her body during the interview by pulling down her shirt and showing the “rectangular” bumps “that stick out of my body.” “I don’t think designers are going to want to dress me with that,” she lamented.
On her Instagram profile, Linda Evangelista has shared a post with the cover and one of the interior images of the magazine. “I’m not done telling my story, and I will continue sharing my experience to rid myself of shame, learn to love myself again, and hopefully help others in the process,” says her post.
“I don’t look in the mirror. It doesn’t look like me”, said the woman who was one of the most famous supermodels of the 1990s, the muse of designers and 11-times Vogue cover star in the US. Now, Evangelista claims not to recognize herself physically or psychologically.
“She is sort of gone,” she said in the interview, referring to herself. But she also stated that she hopes her situation will helps others out of that spiral of shame. “Why do we feel the need to do these things [to our bodies? I always knew I would age. And I know that there are things a body goes through. But I just didn’t think I would look like this.”