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Linda Evangelista on Why She Went Public About Fat-Freezing Procedure: “I Hope I Can Shed Myself of Some of the Shame”


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Linda Evangelista is opening up, to shed her shame, about her paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, a rare complication of the fat-freezing procedure CoolSculpting that can result in the overgrowth of fatty tissue in treated areas.

The model, who was one of the biggest faces of fashion in the 1990s, first revealed in September  that she had stopped working and making public appearances because her body had been “brutally” changed by Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure, making her “unrecognizable.” In a new cover story for People, Evangelista opens up about the mental toll the rare side effect of the procedure had on her, and why she ultimately decided to go public about what had happened.

“I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know,” she told the magazine. “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.”

The model detailed how she attempted to “fix” the issue, which according to Healthline is “a very rare but serious side effect” and more a “cosmetic rather than physically dangerous side effect,” by doing two liposuction procedures between 2016 and 2017 after her diagnosis. Before it, she says, she starved herself.

“I tried to fix it myself, thinking I was doing something wrong. I got to where I wasn’t eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind,” she explained.

Despite cutting out food, the fat deposits remained, and so in June 2016, she went to see a doctor. “I dropped my robe for him. I was bawling, and I said, ‘I haven’t eaten, I’m starving. What am I doing wrong?’ ” That’s when the doctor diagnosed her with PAH. “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.”

Evangelista made attempts through two full-body liposuction surgeries to remove the bulges but found no success. “It wasn’t even a little bit better. 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.”

Following those surgeries, she was required to wear compression garments, girdles and a chin strap for eight weeks to prevent the PAH from coming back, but it still did in rectangular pockets in the areas treated by CoolSculpting.

In addition to the skin issues, her posture has been impacted as well. Evangelista said she can no longer “put my arms flat along my side. I don’t think designers are going to want to dress me with that … sticking out of my body.”

(Zeltiq declined to comment to the magazine on Evangelista’s specific lawsuit allegations, citing the pending litigation, but in a statement to People, a representative for CoolSculpting said the procedure “has been well studied with more than 100 scientific publications and more than 11 million treatments performed worldwide” and that known and rare side effects like PAH “continue to be well-documented in the CoolSculpting information for patients and health care providers.”)

The model ultimately questioned why she decided to do the procedure in the first place, noting the pressures around women to maintain a specific body type over time. “Why do we feel the need to do these things [to our bodies]?” she questioned. “I always knew I would age. And I know that there are things a body goes through. But I just didn’t think I would look like this.”

Evangelista said she no longer looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize herself physically since the fat-freezing procedure, “but I don’t recognize me as a person any longer either.”

Ultimately, despite rarely doing interviews, Evangelista opened up about what happened to her to help people who have had the same experience with the CoolScultping procedure.

“I hope I can shed myself of some of the shame and help other people who are in the same situation as me,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

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