Less than one year after Linda Evangelista exclusively revealed to People that she was left “permanently deformed” and “brutally disfigured” after undergoing the popular, FDA-approved “fat-freezing” procedure known as CoolSculpting, the supermodel is gracing the glossies once more. Only Evangelista’s return to an industry that’s long been known to be unkind to...well, everyone who isn’t young, white, waif-thin or obscenely wealthy is a bit more bleak than it is beautiful.
A flawless, yet discernibly airbrushed Evangelista appears on the cover of this month’s issue of British Vogue, her face framed by a scarf and hat that appear to be an attempt at hiding her, beside a quote she gave the magazine: “I’m trying to love myself as I am.” In the piece, the model candidly admits that the photographs aren’t exactly representative of her actual appearance post-procedure—in fact, her jaw and neck were taped to achieve what the magazine deemed a more cover-worthy look.
”That’s not my jaw and neck in real life—and I can’t walk around with tape and elastics everywhere,” Evangelista told the magazine.
When asked why she allowed the photoshoot to tape her face into commercial perfection, she pointed to the long-accepted reality of the industry: Fashion magazines have long tried to sell entirely unattainable and inaccurate images to consumers—namely, women and femmes. “Look, for photos I always think we’re here to create fantasies. We’re creating dreams,” said Evangelista. “I think it’s allowed. Also, all my insecurities are taken care of in these pictures, so I got to do what I love to do.”
Last September, Evangelista filed a $50 million lawsuit against CoolSculpting’s parent company, Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc., for damages, claiming that since undergoing seven sessions of the non-invasive procedure from August 2015 to February 2016, she’s been unable to book modeling gigs due to the damage incurred from the treatments. Within three months of the procedure, Evangelista recalled to People that she soon began noticing “bulges” at the areas she’d wanted to shrink and tighten—her chin, thighs and upper torso. Those bulges eventually grew, hardened and became numb, and she recalled starving herself and exercising more frequently in the hopes that the protrusions would disappear: “I tried to fix it myself, thinking I was doing something wrong,” Evangelista said. “I got to where I wasn’t eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind.”
Evangelista expounded upon the drastic measures she took to British Vogue: “I have incisions all over my body. I have had stitches, I have worn compression garments under my chin, I’ve had my entire body tightly girdled for eight weeks–nothing helped. I was so embarrassed, 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.”
After seeing a doctor in 2016, the model was diagnosed with a condition called Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), a rare side effect in which the fatty tissue treated by the procedure expands and thickens instead of shrinks. Evangelista attempted two liposuction procedures to lessen the effects to no avail. She’s since lived largely in seclusion for the last six years.
“I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know,” confided in the People feature.
Now, one of the most successful supermodels in history—a woman who has appeared on 11 Vogue covers and willingly subjected herself to a whole host bodily harm to maintain thinness and an illusion of youth—must be shrouded in distracting accessories, taped to mimic the bone structure of her youth, and retouched within an inch of her life, just so she’s able to work. Even still, Evangelista seems sadly resigned to the business’s binary views of what and who is beautiful enough to sustain the vile fashion industrial complex.
“I miss my work so much, but honestly, what can I do?” she said. “You’re not going to see me in a swimsuit, that’s for sure. It’s going to be difficult to find jobs with things protruding from me; without retouching, or squeezing into things, or taping things or compressing or tricking…”
Frankly, while I’m deeply saddened for Evangelista, I’m more enraged with British Vogue, who bungled an opportunity to depict reality and instead, opted for fantasy yet again. Considering that the public is already well aware of what the 57-year-old Evangelista looks like post-procedure, not to mention the trauma she’s suffered in sacrificing herself to the demands of an industry that has all but discarded her, it would have been infinitely more powerful to present her as she is: a living embodiment of all that women and femmes put themselves through to attain a cruel, expensive, and outdated beauty ideal.