In 2017, Donatella Versace organized a fashion show in Milan as a tribute to the supermodels of the 1990s, whom her brother Gianni had helped turn into stars. As famous as rock stars, the statuesque women didn’t need last names; everyone knew who Claudia, Naomi or Cindy meant. For that show, Donatella managed to bring together Carla (Bruni), Claudia (Schiffer), Naomi (Campbell), Cindy (Crawford) and Helena (Christensen). After the excitement of seeing all those icons walking the catwalk again as they did in the 1991 Versace fashion show, the inevitable question came: where was Linda? The answer: she had undergone a complex cosmetic treatment that had left her “deformed,” she said. Now, after settling the lawsuit she filed against the company that caused her “deformation,” she can turn the page.
Linda Evangelista, 57, had disappeared: for years she did not step onto a single red carpet or attend any event, fashion show, party or presentation. She didn’t attend meetings with colleagues or do major fashion campaigns. To avoid being seen, Linda Evangelista did not even appear in the photographs she uploaded to her own Instagram account. Unlike her colleagues, the Canadian model seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. Finally, in September 2021, Evangelista decided to tell the world what had happened to her in a post on her Instagram page: she had had a problem with a cosmetic procedure that forced her to retire from public life by—as she put it—”leaving her completely deformed” and unable to practice her profession. “Today I took a big step toward righting a wrong I have suffered and have kept to myself for over five years,” wrote the supermodel. “To my followers who have wondered why I have not been working while my peers’ careers have been thriving, the reason is that I was brutally disfigured by Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure[,] which did the opposite of what it promised. It increased, not decreased, my fat cells and left me permanently deformed[,] even after undergoing two painful unsuccessful, corrective, surgeries,” she wrote at the time. “I have been left, as the media has described, ‘unrecognizable.’”
Evangelista underwent a treatment called CoolSculpting, or liposculpture. The procedure is supposedly a less invasive alternative to liposuction, and it doesn’t have a postoperative period. The treatment eliminates localized fat by freezing cells, which caused the model to develop a disease called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, or PAH, as she later admitted in an in-depth interview with People magazine. The manufacturer estimates that PAH only occurs in one out of every 4,000 treatments, but according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the disease can occur in 0.72% of cases, that is, in one out of every 138. The model said that CoolSculpting “permanently deformed” her, and she sued Zeltiq—the manufacturer of the devices used in the procedure—for 50 million dollars (about 44 million euros) in damages.
Today, Linda Evangelista says she is “pleased” after settling the CoolSculpting case. She posted that sentiment on her Instagram account, where she added that she is eager to start a new stage in her life: “I look forward to the next chapter of my life with friends and family, and am happy to put this matter behind me. I am truly grateful for the support I have received from those who reached out.” Details of the agreement between the company and the supermodel are not known at this time. Sources close to the model told People that this seems to be the closure that Evangelista needed to get on with her life: “With this settled and her recent Fendi campaign, Linda is ready to try to move on. After literally years of hiding, she’s out and about again.” In the same interview in which she revealed why she was staying away from the world, Evangelista also confessed to how much she loved her profession: “I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know.” So far, the model has not returned to the catwalk, but she has starred in the latest Fendi campaign, which celebrates the brand’s iconic baguette bag. During her comeback, Evangelista has been surrounded by several good friends and confidantes, including the photographer Steven Meisel, with whom she made some of her career’s most memorable campaigns and editorials, and her friend Kim Jones, the current artistic director of Fendi and Dior Men.
In the caption of her Instagram post, the supermodel announced an upcoming Fendi fashion show on September 9, in New York, to commemorate the bag’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Who knows if Linda—the supermodel who needs no last name—will be back on the catwalk once again.