Linda Evangelista has revealed how she was persuaded by TV advertisements to undergo a fat-freezing cosmetic procedure that left her with a rare side-effect which she said risks her livelihood.
The supermodel stars on the cover of British Vogue’s September issue, her first since she announced she had been “permanently deformed” after a treatment known as CoolSculpting.
Although she first thought the remedy was a “magic potion”, it led to her having to undergo liposuction after developing complications which left things “protruding from me”.
In the Vogue interview, she said: “Those CoolSculpting commercials were on all the time, on CNN, on MSNBC, over and over, and they would ask: ‘Do you like what you see in the mirror?’
“They were speaking to me. It was about stubborn fat in areas that wouldn’t budge. It said no downtime, no surgery and… I drank the magic potion, and I would because I’m a little vain. So I went for it – and it backfired.”
Evangelista, 57, said she had tried various methods to correct the rare post-procedural complication, known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia. She had two rounds of liposuction and, at one point, she stopped eating.
“I was so embarrassed, I’d just spent all this money and the only way I could think of to fix it was zero calories, and so I just drank water. Or sometimes I would have a stick of celery or one apple,” she said. “I was losing my mind.”
Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which is rare, occurs when freezing fat cells engenders a reaction in fatty tissue which causes the cells to expand rather than break down.
Evangelista said she is now “trying to love myself as I am”, but still regrets the procedure. “If I had known side-effects may include losing your livelihood and you’ll end up so depressed that you hate yourself … I wouldn’t have taken that risk.”
She said she still suffered the psychological effects from the botched surgery, but had received help from her friends.
“Am I cured mentally? Absolutely not,” she said. “But I’m so grateful for the support I got from my friends and from my industry… You’re not going to see me in a swimsuit, that’s for sure. It’s going to be difficult to find jobs with things protruding from me; without retouching, or squeezing into things, or taping things or compressing or tricking.”
In the images for Vogue, taken by the veteran photographer Steven Meisel, Evangelista looks recognizably glamorous, although notably covered up. The model was keen to make clear this was not an accurate representation.
“That’s not my jaw and neck in real life – and I can’t walk around with tape and elastics everywhere,” said Evangelista in the interview. “You know what, I’m trying to love myself as I am, but for the photos… Look, for photos I always think we’re here to create fantasies.”
Evangelista was one of the original supermodels – in 1990 she famously quipped “we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” – but the reality behind the glamor of this era is now being divulged.
After Kate Moss spoke out about her experiences as a young model on Desert Island Discs in July, Evangelista also shared a story of taking a modeling contract in Japan when she was 16.
“I went to the agency and it was all, ‘take your clothes off, we need your measurements’, but they already had my measurements,” she said. “They wanted me naked and it wasn’t a ‘would you do nudes’ conversation, it was a ‘you will do nudes’. I left and called my mother and she said, ‘Get out now and get to the embassy.’ So that’s what I did, and they got me home.”
The model originally talked about her experiences with CoolSculpting on Instagram in September 2021. She then sued Zeltiq Aesthetics, the company behind CoolSculpting, citing grievous injuries, for $50m (£42m). The suit was settled last month for an undisclosed amount.
This Vogue cover is the second high-profile shoot she has completed in the past year. In July, she appeared in advertising for the luxury brand Fendi, also shot by Steven Meisel.
In a statement to Vogue, a US-based representative for Zeltiq said: “We are pleased to have resolved this matter with Ms Evangelista.
“Our focus continues to be on empowering confidence by providing safe, reliable aesthetics products and services backed by science. CoolSculpting is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive treatment for visible fat bulges in nine areas of the body.”