Among the long-limbed glamazons who pitched ‘supermodel’ into the lexicon of fashion, she was the chameleon who faced the camera like she owned it.
Not forgetting that at the height of her powers she had an influence like few others. With a single snip of the scissors, Linda Evangelista spawned a stampede of women clamouring for gamine crops.
She changed hair colour 17 times in five years, ever confident that, in front of the camera, she was nothing less than captivating.
Her ‘confidence’, in fact, was legendary. She was the woman famously misquoted as saying she didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 per day (the actual quote, to Vogue magazine, was, ‘we don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day’).
But it would seem the same cannot be said of Evangelista’s state of mind in more recent times.
Yesterday, the 56-year-old model, whom the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld once compared to a Stradivarius violin, revealed she had been suffering a ‘cycle of deep depression’ and ‘self-loathing’ so severe it had made her a recluse.
The cause of such despair? A rare reaction to a cosmetic procedure, a reaction so severe she endured two painful corrective procedures to undo the damage — both unsuccessful.
Linda Evangelista was the chameleon who faced the camera like she owned it. Her ‘confidence’, in fact, was legendary. She was the woman famously misquoted as saying she didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 per day (pictured in 1994)
In a poignant post to her 900,000 followers on Instagram, the model wrote: ‘Today I took a big step towards righting a wrong that I have suffered and have kept to myself for over five years. To my followers who have wondered why I have not been working while my peers’ careers have been thriving, the reason is that I was brutally disfigured by Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure which did the opposite of what it promised.’
CoolSculpting is the brand name for cryolipolysis, a procedure which cools fat to a temperature so frozen, dead fat cells can be excreted out of the body through the liver.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010, cryolipolysis was first offered in UK clinics shortly afterwards. It has proved both popular and successful for many patients looking to reduce fat without the surgeon’s knife.
Last night Dr Ravi Jain, a specialist in aesthetic medicine at Riverbanks Wellness, Hertfordshire, told the Mail patients are informed of the risks in the UK. ‘Reactions are extremely unusual, which isn’t to say they don’t happen. But this treatment really changes the quality of people’s lives.
‘In a nutshell, it’s the first truly non-invasive treatment for body contouring that works. It really does do what it says on the tin.
‘It’s hugely popular and I would say we are treating a few patients every day in our clinics.’
He added: ‘For Linda Evangelista, her appearance has been her life and her success so I can quite understand that any changes for her [that are out of the ordinary] could be devastating.’
But yesterday, the 56-year-old model, (pictured in April 2017) revealed she had been suffering a ‘cycle of deep depression’ and ‘self-loathing’ so severe it had made her a recluse as a result of a rare reaction to a ‘fat freezing’ cosmetic procedure
In a poignant post to her 900,000 followers on Instagram, the model said the reaction she had developed was Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia, or PAH, a rare and adverse effect of when fatty tissue grows instead of shrinking in response to treatment. Pictured: Evangelista on social media in 2017 hiding her face in a mask
The CoolSculpting website says it is used for ‘treatment of visible fat bulges in the submental (under the chin) and submandibular (under the jawline) areas, thigh, abdomen and flank, along with bra fat, back fat, underneath the buttocks (banana roll), and upper arm’. Zeltiq parent company Allergan has been contacted by the Mail for comment.
It was not immediately clear from Evangelista’s post on what areas of the body she’d had treatment, but she went on to say: ‘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, “unrecognisable”.’
This, of course, was reference to one of the very few occasions in which the model has been spotted, in public in recent years.
With her hair scraped back beneath a baseball cap, figure disguised under a baggy coat and her trademark chiseled jawline noticeably absent, she cut an uncharacteristically dowdy figure when she walked through the airport in New York in 2017, having largely disappeared from the public eye in 2015.
That was the year she appeared at the Met Gala, statuesque in a red gown in which she appeared a little heavier around the midriff than previously.
A year later, in Tokyo, she looked strained, a boxy jacket concealing her torso, her swanlike neck noticeably thickened. Hinting at a lawsuit, Evangelista said the reaction she had developed was Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia, or PAH, a rare and adverse effect of when fatty tissue grows instead of shrinking in response to treatment.
Claiming she had not been made aware of the risk prior to the procedures, Evangelista wrote: ‘PAH has not only destroyed my livelihood, it has sent me into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness and the lowest depths of self-loathing.
‘You are loved’: The ’90s supermodels all commended Evangelista for sharing why she has become a ‘recluse’ over the past five years
Support system: Dozens of famous models, actors, and designers flocked to the comments to praise Evangelista for opening up about her struggle
‘In the process, I have become a recluse. With this lawsuit, I am moving forward to rid myself of my shame and going public with my story. 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.’
The soul-baring post was met with a chorus of support from friends and followers and her fellow supermodels.
‘I applaud you for your courage and strength to share your experience and not be held hostage by it any more… proud of you and support you every step of the way,’ wrote Naomi Campbell, while Helena Christensen said she had broken down in tears reading the post. ‘It is so important and beautiful when someone steps out of the shadow and are brutally honest and real,’ she said. ‘Thank you for being beautiful inside and out.’
Cindy Crawford added: ‘Linda — your strength and true essence are forever recognisable and iconic! Bravo!’
Evangelista’s absence from the fray, both the modelling world and the red carpet, has been notable during a period in which her aforementioned peers have been in high demand.
Rarely has maturity been quite so in vogue and as recently as 2014, fronting a campaign for Dolce & Gabbana make-up, it appeared Evangelista would do the same. That same year she was a guest judge on TV show Australia’s Next Top Model.
Then those glossy moments quietly seemed to slip away, the last notable forays being a fragrance campaign for Moschino and a 2016 campaign, alongside Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, to support the #KnotOnMyPlanet campaign, which supports the Elephant Crisis Fund.
Evangelista’s absence from the fray, both the modelling world and the red carpet, has been notable during a period in which her aforementioned peers have been in high demand. Pictured: Hiding behind sunglasses and a floppy had on social media
What a contrast to the model’s heyday when she walked the catwalk for Chanel, Versace, Valentino and appeared on the cover of more than 600 magazines.
She also appeared alongside Campbell, Turlington and Crawford in the music video for George Michael’s Freedom! ’90.
It was all a dizzying leap for a teenager from Ontario, Canada, who almost gave up modelling before she even started when asked to strip off for a shoot in Japan (she was a sheltered teen from an Italian catholic family who wasn’t even allowed a boyfriend).
She dusted herself down and was scouted by Elite Model Management while appearing at the Miss Teen Niagara pageant, but it nevertheless took three years of graft (and financial assistance from her mother) before her career really took off.
In the glossy whirl of the late 1980s and early 1990s, she and her supermodel cohorts were the epitome of glamour. There was drama too. As Harper’s Bazaar once put it, Evangelista ‘became known for being the industry’s best in front of the camera and the industry’s worst away from it’.
Aged 22, she married Gerald Marie, the head of her Paris agency who is now at the heart of rape inquiries in France. Marie has stated that he ‘refutes with dismay’ the ‘false and defamatory allegations’, against him.
Linda left him for (and almost married) the actor Kyle MacLachlan and in 2006 had a son, Augustin James (known as Augie).
At the time she refused to name the father. It later emerged he was the French billionaire businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, who is now married to actress Salma Hayek — the pair embarking on a high-profile battle over child support in 2012 which concluded in an out-of-court settlement. On the work front, she ‘retired’ from full-time modelling in 1998, but returned after three years which was the ‘respite’ she needed, she said.
That Evangelista chose to go down the path of cosmetic ‘tweakments’ is perhaps no surprise given the increasing popularity in popular culture.
The soul-baring post was met with a chorus of support from friends and followers and her fellow supermodels including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford. Pictured: Wearing a pair of ski goggles
CoolSculpting has many celebrity fans, including Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian.
In a 2014 interview, which one assumes was shortly before Evangelista’s experience with the treatment, she said: ‘People are always asking me how I feel about ageing. As I lost my father this year I now have a good answer to that question. I want to age, I want to get older, thank you very much, because I certainly don’t want the only other option.
‘I believe that women can be beautiful at any age. So while I am happy to get older, I still want to look good. I don’t want to look younger, just good.’
Part of that, she said, was working out with a trainer five times a week, as well as a strict beauty routine.
The latter used to involve no less than 26 bottles of various lotions and potions, she once said, until she discovered and became creative director of skincare brand Erasa — one that has been the outlet for Evangelista’s scarce recent modelling forays. Only three years ago, she declared herself ‘pro Botox, pro filler, pro laser — pro everything’, when asked about the trend to embracing cosmetic procedures, cautioning ‘if that’s what you want’.
But that she felt some degree of external pressure regarding her appearance was clear when she returned to the subject of ageing, in 2019. ‘If you don’t look like you did when you’re young, it’s not good. And, if you try to do something, people say, “Oh look, she’s trying to look young.” You just can’t win.’
She made no reference to any adverse reaction to treatments then, though she did describe the reaction she got from fans when she joined Instagram and began posting ‘natural’ pictures.
‘The few times, in the beginning, that I posted a natural picture of me with no make-up, the comments were like, “Oh my God, is she sick?” They expect you to look like your Italian Vogue pictures — I don’t look like my Italian Vogue pictures. That’s like, four hours of hair and make-up later.’
‘Social media has ruined everything,’ she said.
That may explain why there are so few recent photographs of the model on her account. There’s her beloved French bulldog, a scattering of pictures from her modelling heyday and just the occasional glimpse of Evangelista as she is today, invariably wearing a hat, or not in full view of the camera.
Now we know that part of that is because the woman whose face was one of the most recognisable of the 1990s has been struggling with despair.
Perhaps the chorus of support drawn by her latest post will help remind the Stradivarius of the supermodels of some advice she once said she would give young women today.
‘The only advice I would offer young women today is what I say to my son every day. “You are beautiful, you are perfect.” ’