Linda Evangelista says she stopped working after CoolSculpting left her “brutally disfigured”

The face of a generation.
The face of a generation.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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Supermodel Linda Evangelista revealed the extent of her cosmetic procedure disfigurement in an interview with People magazine on Feb. 16.

She says she started noticing uncomfortable fat bulges on her chin, thighs, and chest area after undergoing CoolSculpting, a procedure that is meant to shrink fat from patients’ bodies.

“I don’t look in the mirror,” she said of the negative side effects from the procedure. “It doesn’t look like me.”

Evangelista was left “brutally disfigured”

Evangelista revealed last September that she hadn’t worked for more than five years because a cosmetic procedure left her “brutally disfigured.” The 56-year-old Canadian was one of the most in-demand models in the 1990s, starring in top designers’ runway shows—and a George Michael music video—alongside the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington.

In an Instagram post, Evangelista said she’s stayed out of the spotlight while her peers’ careers have been “thriving,” after she underwent CoolSculpting, which she blames for her condition—it allegedly did the “opposite of what it promised.” Back then, she did not share an image of her face.

What is CoolSculpting?

The Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment promises to eliminate fat cells from certain areas of the body, such as upper arms, thighs, and abdomen. What’s more, CoolSculpting is non-invasive, meaning patients don’t have to go under the knife.

The popularity of so-called “body-sculpting” procedures like the one Evangelista received has been on the rise in recent years, with the number of treatments quadrupling between 2012 and 2017, according to the American Society for Dermatological Surgery.

But there is a rare yet serious risk associated with CoolSculpting: Some patients develop a condition called Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH), which actually causes fat cells to grow, rather than shrink. Evangelista says she developed this condition after receiving CoolSculpting from a device manufactured by Zeltiq Aesthetics. Despite undergoing two painful corrective surgeries, she says the procedure left her “permanently deformed.”

Evangelista filed a lawsuit against Zeltiq in New York federal court on Sept. 21 alleging negligence, misleading advertising, and that the company failed to warn customers of the possible side effects, according to Reuters. She is seeking $50 million in damages. Quartz reached out to Allergan, which acquired Zeltiq in 2017, for comment.

The pressures of aging and looking good

Evangelista has received an outpouring of support from the fashion industry for her decision to come forward, with British Vogue editor Edward Enninful and fashion designer Marc Jacobs both sharing words of encouragement on her post. But her exit from the workforce speaks to the immense pressures women face as they age.

More and more people are turning to cosmetic surgery to help them look good at all times, and they’re increasingly even younger than Evangelista. According to a 2019 report in the South China Morning Post, procedures have been rising globally, but the average age of clients has dropped.

This piece has been updated.