- Linda Evangelista has shared photos and her story with People after a cosmetic procedure she says was botched.
- The model says CoolSculpting disfigured her body and kept her out of work. She's suing its maker.
- Evangelista said she has to wear a girdle and can't look in the mirror at her hardened fat lumps.
After nearly five years hiding from the world and even her own reflection, Linda Evangelista is sharing her experience with the CoolSculpting cosmetic procedure that she said has left her "brutally disfigured."
In an upcoming print issue of People magazine, the 56-year-old supermodel shares photos of what she describes as her "unrecognizable" body, talking to reporter Jason Sheeler about the physical and emotional pain she says CoolSculpting has caused.
The interview follows Evangelista's September announcement on Instagram that she is suing CoolSculpting's parent company, Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc., for $50 million in damages. She said the procedure, a less-invasive alternative to liposuction, led to a rare side effect called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH). PAH causes the targeted areas to grow and harden rather than shrink.
A CoolSculpting representative told People the procedure "has been well studied with more than 100 scientific publications and more than 11 million treatments performed worldwide" and added that known rare side effects like PAH "continue to be well-documented in the CoolSculpting information for patients and health care providers."
Evangelista says she needs to wear a girdle so she doesn't bleed from chafing, and can't look in the mirror
Evangelista told People that months after her procedure ending in February 2016, lumps of tissue around her chin, thighs, and chest grew, hardened, and went numb.
She tried to double down on diet and exercise to the point of starvation, she said, but nothing worked. In June 2016, her doctor diagnosed her with PAH, which she said she'd never heard of.
Evangelista then underwent liposuction twice to try to reverse the damage, but the PAH came back. She said Zeltiq originally offered to pay for the procedures, but declined when Evangelista wouldn't agree to a confidentiality agreement.
"It wasn't even a little bit better," she told People. "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 said she can't put her arms flat against her side, and, in the issue, revealed a PAH bulge under her arm. "I don't look in the mirror," she added. "It doesn't look like me."
Evangelista told People she's sharing her experience to comfort others. "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."
In a recent interview with Vogue UK, fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell called Evangelista "a strong woman" who's "very brave." "It takes a lot of courage to come out and speak her truth. I stand by her absolutely," Campbell said.
CoolSculpting is considered relatively safe
CoolSculpting is an FDA-approved procedure that aims to kill fat cells through, essentially, frostbite. Since fat freezes at a higher temperature than skin, cool paddles can be placed on the skin to destroy some of the fat beneath it without hurting your skin, according to WebMD.
Some research suggests PAH affects only 0.0051% of CoolSculpting patients. It's unclear why certain people are affected, though men are at higher risk, and treatment options, as Evangelista experienced, are limited.
Still, Harvard Health calls CoolSculpting a "relatively safe" procedure. that's been performed on more than 8 million people worldwide. "Unlike liposuction, which can require anesthesia and comes with risks of bleeding or serious infection, CoolSculpting is a relatively safe in-office procedure, with minimal pain and no downtime," the website says.