Former supermodel Linda Evangelista has opened up about the mental health toll of her disfiguring cosmetic procedure, telling British Vogue that she struggled with depression and at one point even stopped eating. The 57-year-old also revealed she had been influenced by repeated TV commercials, saying she would have refused the fat-freezing treatment if she had known that “side effects may include losing your livelihood and (ending) up so depressed that you hate yourself.”
Evangelista’s comments come one year after she filed a $50-million lawsuit against US firm Zeltiq Aesthetics over its CoolSculpting body-contouring procedure, which she said left her “brutally disfigured.” The Canadian model claimed that she was not made aware of a rare side effect, called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, that causes swelling and the thickening of fatty tissue.
In July, she announced that she had settled the suit but did not reveal the terms of the agreement.
The model was unveiled as the star of British Vogue’s upcoming September issue on Thursday, marking her first appearance on the UK edition’s cover in almost 24 years. The feature is accompanied by a series of glossy photos of Evangelista, who has rarely been seen in public during five years spent in “hiding” in New York.
“Am I cured mentally? Absolutely not,” she is quoted as saying, later adding: “I’m trying to love myself as I am.”
‘I was losing my mind’
Linda Evangelista fronts the cover of Vogue Credit: Steven Meisel/Vogue
In a wide-ranging interview, Evangelista discussed various attempts she has made to reverse the damage, including undergoing two liposuction treatments and wearing compression garments. “I’ve had my entire body tightly girdled for eight weeks — nothing helped,” she said.
The model also revealed that she was so depressed and “embarrassed” that she stopped eating entirely.
“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, adding: “I was losing my mind.” A mainstay of 1980s and 90s fashion alongside fellow supermodels Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, Evangelista said she had been persuaded to undergo body-contouring by advertisements.
“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.”
Zeltiq Aesthetics’ parent company, Allergan Aesthetics, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time of the settlement. But a Zeltiq representative told Vogue in a statement that the company is “pleased to have resolved this matter with Ms. Evangelista,” adding: “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.”
“You’re not going to see me in a swimsuit, that’s for sure” said Evangelista. Credit: Steven Meisel/Vogue
Gradual return to the spotlight
After years without modeling work, Evangelista took part in a high-profile campaign with Italian label Fendi in July. But the model admitted that it will be “difficult to find jobs with things protruding from me; without retouching, or squeezing into things, or taping things or compressing or tricking.”
“You’re not going to see me in a swimsuit, that’s for sure,” she said. For the newly published Vogue photos, in which Evangelista appears mostly covered, celebrity make-up artist Pat McGrath “gently drew her face, jaw and neck back with tape and elastics,” the magazine wrote. British Vogue’s editor in chief, Edward Enninful, welcomed Evangelista’s return to the spotlight.
“There was a point in fashion when it didn’t matter how successful you’d been, you got popped in the (trash can) once your sell-by date was up,” he wrote in his editor’s note, adding that her generation of supermodels is still “loved” by the magazine’s readers. “I don’t stand for that and lots of others don’t either now. So, for many reasons, I have felt Linda’s absence keenly.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the model discussed recounted traveling to Japan in the early 1980s, aged 16, where an agency pressured her to remove her clothes.
“They wanted me naked and it wasn’t a ‘Would you do nudes?’ conversation, it was a ‘You will do nudes,'” she recalled. “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.”