Former fashion icon Linda Evangelista–who was a prominent supermodel during the 1990s–broke her years-long silence to spread awareness and reclaim herself as a person after she said a popular cosmetic procedure called CoolSculpting left her "permanently deformed" and "brutally disfigured."
CoolSculpting is described as a popular, FDA-approved "fat-freezing" procedure that was marketed as a "noninvasive alternative to liposuction."
Evangelista claimed after seven sessions of CoolSculpting in a dermatologist's office from August 2015 to February 2016, it led to her diagnosis of Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH).
PAH is a rare side effect affecting less than 1% of CoolSculpting patients.
The affected fatty tissue hardens and increases in size rather than shrinking.
In an interview with People, the 56-year-old–who was highly regarded by fashion industry icons like the late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld and renowned photographer Steven Meisel–opened up about the emotional and physical pain she endured in recent years from CoolSculpting.
"I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know," she said.
Her statement is especially heartbreaking considering she graced over 700 magazine covers throughout the course of her career and was regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential models of all time.
Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour–who put Evangelista on the cover of the iconic fashion magazine 11 times–told the media outlet:
"No model was more super than Linda."
Regarding her trauma, Evangelista added:
"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."
In September, she filed a lawsuit against CoolSculpting's parent company, Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc. for $50 million–alleging she developed PAH after undergoing seven sessions of CoolSculpting.
Within three months of treatment, Evangelista said she noticed bulges at her chin, thighs, and bra area. These were the very same areas she was trying to shrink, but instead, she noticed they were increasing in size and eventually becoming numb.
"I tried to fix it myself, thinking I was doing something wrong," recalled Evangelista.
So she began dieting and exercising frequently but her efforts yielded no positive results.
"I got to where I wasn't eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind."
Evangelista found out about her diagnosis after a doctor's visit in June 2016.
"I dropped my robe for him. I was bawling, and I said, 'I haven't eaten, I'm starving. What am I doing wrong?' "
After hearing her PAH diagnosis, she recalled:
"I was like, 'What the hell is that?' And he told me no amount of dieting, and no amount of exercise was ever going to fix it."
Dr. Alan Matarasso–a New York City plastic surgeon and professor at Northwell School of Medicine, who never treated Evangelista–told the media outlet:
"That's the upsetting part. Patients go in to have something reduced, and now it's enlarged."
"And the problem with PAH is that, in some instances, it may not go away. In many circumstances, the affected areas are no longer amenable to liposuction like they would've been in the first place."
When her doctor contacted CoolSculpting about her PAH, Evangelista claimed they offered to pay for her liposuction to correct the PAH damage, but under the condition she sign a confidentiality agreement.
She refused and went ahead to pay for the liposuction herself.
After the surgery, she was informed to wear compression garments, girdles, and a chin strap for eight weeks, otherwise "the PAH may come back."
And after having a second liposuction surgery in July 2017, the PAH did come back.
"It wasn't even a little bit better," she said.
"The bulges are 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."
Evangelista also said her posture was affected because she was no longer able to "put my arms flat along my side. I don't think designers are going to want to dress me with that."
"I don't look in the mirror. It doesn't look like me."
In sharing her traumatic experience, Evangelista hopes to provide some comfort to those who are suffering from a similar situation.
"I hope I can shed myself of some of the shame and help other people who are in the same situation as me," she says. "That's my goal."