Model Linda Evangelista ‘brutally disfigured’ by fat-freezing procedure, she says

Supermodel Linda Evangelista in 2012
Linda Evangelista, seen at the 2012 Met Gala in New York, says a recent cosmetic procedure ruined her modeling career.
(Charles Sykes / Associated Press)

Linda Evangelista, whose face graced the covers of countless fashion magazines in the 1990s, said Wednesday that she had taken “a big step towards righting a wrong that I have suffered and have kept to myself for over five years.”

The supermodel says she’s a victim of a cosmetic procedure gone wrong, and she has filed a lawsuit.

“To my followers who have wondered why I have not been working while my peers’ careers have been thriving,” the 56-year-old wrote Wednesday on Instagram, “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.

“I have been left, as the media has described, ‘unrecognizable,’” she said.

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This from one of the world’s original supermodels who said in 1990, when she was experiencing overwhelming success, that she didn’t wake up “for less than $10,000 a day.”

CoolSculpting is a non-invasive procedure from Zeltiq Aesthetics, a subsidiary of Allergan, approved by the FDA to reduce visible bulges under the chin and jaw and on the thighs, abdomen, flanks and back.

A representative for AbbVie, which acquired Allergan in 2020, did not respond Thursday to The Times’ request for comment on Evangelista’s statement.

Evangelista said she has become a “recluse” since the procedure due to a rare side effect she maintains she was not informed about. In the Instagram message, she gives no further details about the filing.

She explained that after undergoing the fat-freezing procedure, she developed paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, described in a 2014 National Institutes of Health publication as “a rare, previously unreported side effect of cryolipolysis with an incidence of 0.0051%.”

“PAH has not only destroyed my livelihood,” Evangelista wrote, “it has sent me into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness, and the lowest depths of self-loathing. In the process, I have become a recluse.”


Paparazzi photos published in recent years — illustrating those “unrecognizable” stories the model mentioned — have shown Evangelista with a dramatically different jawline. Her agency, DNA Models Management, said Thursday that it does not comment on behalf of its clients concerning pending litigations.

“With this lawsuit, I am moving forward to rid myself of my shame, and going public with my story,” Evangelista wrote in her post. “I’m so tired of living this way. I would like to walk out my door with my head held high, despite not looking like myself any longer.”

Evangelista’s attorney filed the product liability lawsuit against Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc. on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The supermodel is seeking “past and future” compensatory damages “in an amount sufficient to punish Zeltiq and deter future similar conduct.” In addition to detailing the physical harm she suffered and work she has lost, the lawsuit says Evangelista developed social anxiety and agoraphobia in the wake of the CoolSculpting treatment and the invasive surgeries that followed.

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Supportive comments from famous friends were abundant on Instagram.

Fellow ’90s modeling icon Cindy Crawford wrote in the comments, “Linda — your strength and true essence are forever recognizable and iconic! Bravo!”

“I can honestly say that I broke down in tears reading this,” model Helena Christensen wrote. “Not only because I knew in my heart you somehow had been quietly going through something deeply personal and disturbing but also because I thought of all the scars life leaves on us all, whether physical or emotional and how long we suffer mostly in silence and alone. It is so important and beautiful when someone steps out of the shadow and are brutally honest and real.”

Gwyneth Paltrow, Isaac Mizrahi, Zac Posen, Olivier Theyskins and Debi Mazar were among the many others sending their love.

“Love that you’re reclaiming your story,” actor January Jones wrote. “This strength and bravery supersedes any superficial outward appearance. An icon is an icon is an icon. Always.”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell also chimed in, writing, “I applaud you for your Courage and strength to Share your experience and not be held hostage by it anymore .. You know I love you.”


12:30 p.m. Sept. 23, 2021: This story was updated with information from Linda Evangelista’s lawsuit against Zeltiq Aesthetics.