Former supermodel Linda Evangelista has been living out of sight from the public eye after a procedure that left her “permanently deformed” and “brutally disfigured.”
In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Evangelista, 56, spoke on her mental and physical anguish that CoolSculpting — a popular, FDA-cleared “fat-freezing” procedure that’s been promoted as a noninvasive alternative to liposuction — left her body.
In September, Evangelista filed a lawsuit suing CoolSculpting’s parent company, Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc., for $50 million in damages, alleging that she’s been unable to work since undergoing seven sessions of CoolSculpting in a dermatologist’s office from August 2015 to February 2016.
“I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know,” she shared through tears in this week’s cover story. “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.”
In just three months’ time after Evangelista’s treatments, she began to notice bulges at her chin, thighs and bra area. The exact same areas she’d wanted to shrink were suddenly growing, hardening, and turning numb.
“I tried to fix it myself, thinking I was doing something wrong,” says Evangelista, and she began dieting and exercising more. “I got to where I wasn’t eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind.”
Fast forward to June of 2016 when she went to her doctor. “I dropped my robe for him,” she recalls. “I was bawling, and I said, ‘I haven’t eaten, I’m starving. What am I doing wrong?’ ”
When he diagnosed her with Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), she says, “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.”
The diagnosis is a rare side effect that affects less than 1 percent of CoolSculpting patients, where the freezing process causes the affected fatty tissue to thicken and expand.
“That’s the upsetting part,” says Dr. Alan Matarasso, a New York City plastic surgeon and professor at Northwell School of Medicine, who has never treated Evangelista. “Patients go in to have something reduced, and now it’s enlarged. And the problem with PAH is that, in some instances, it may not go away. In many circumstances, the affected areas are no longer amenable to liposuction like they would’ve been in the first place.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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