After spending years in “hiding” due to a fat-freezing procedure that left her “permanently deformed”, former supermodel Linda Evangelista has officially returned to the spotlight.
The 57-year-old, who has kept a low profile since 2016, took to Instagram to share a new ad for Italian fashion house Fendi, and promote the brand’s upcoming New York fashion show to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its iconic baguette bag.
Evangelista, who wears a gray turtleneck and multiple pink silk caps on her head in the photo, wrote that she was “so grateful” to everyone involved.
Fellow supermodels Carla Bruni and Karen Elson commented, “U look so good dearest” and “Oh my god YES LINDA!”, respectively, while Amber Valletta called her “beautiful” and Christy Turlington left a series of heart emojis.
The campaign is particularly monumental for the Canadian, who rose to prominence in the 1990s, because it marks her return to the industry after a six-year break.
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She revealed last September that the “reason” she had “not been working while my peers’ careers have been thriving” was because she’d developed Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH) – a hardening of localized fat – after undergoing a CoolSculpting fat-reducing procedure.
Evangelista said the risk of the rare reaction was not something she was made aware of before she had the surgery, prompting her to file a lawsuit against CoolSculpting’s parent company, Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc, for $50 million ($A68 million) in damages.
“I was brutally disfigured by Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure which did the opposite of what it promised,” Evangelista claimed in a post on Instagram.
“It increased, not decreased, my fat cells and left me permanently deformed even after undergoing two painful, unsuccessful, corrective surgeries.”
The mother-of-one wrote that “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.
“In the process, I have become a recluse,” she added.
Evangelista, who has been featured on more than 700 magazine covers over her career, said she kept the health battle a secret for more than five years.
“Today I took a big step towards righting a wrong that I have suffered and have kept to myself for over five years,” she wrote, adding she is “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.”
She was pictured for the first time on the cover of People in February, telling the magazine through tears that she now “dreads running into someone I know”.
“I loved being on the catwalk… 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,” Evangelista told the publication.
In one photo, she showed a “protrusion hanging off my body” while wearing a brown camisole top, the matching cardigan hung low on her shoulders.
As a result, she told the outlet she doesn’t look in the mirror because “it doesn’t look like me”, explaining the “bulges” are painful and prevent her from walking with ease because 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,” she claimed.
PAH has been reported as a rare complication after cryolipolysis (fat freezing), occurring when the treated area becomes larger rather than smaller in the weeks after the procedure, leaving a “painless, visibly enlarged, firm, well-demarcated mass” under the skin .
“Based on data from the manufacturer of the cryolipolysis equipment, PAH has been estimated to occur in one out of every 4000 treatment cycles, for an incidence of 0.025 per cent,” a report in ScienceDaily stated.
PAH can be treated with liposuction, but patients must wait a few months before treatment, the report explains.
“Surgeons must be extremely sensitive when dealing with patients who have PAH, both when explaining the problem and when offering them a potential surgical solution.”
Evangelist told People that within three months of having the series of CoolSculpting treatments, she began to notice bulges at her chin, thighs and bra area, which grew and hardened before finally “turning numb”.
“I tried to fix it myself, thinking I was doing something wrong,” she said, stating she turned to excessive dieting and exercise.
“I got to where I wasn’t eating at all. I thought I was losing my mind.”
It was at a point of desperation and “starvation” where Evangelista went to see her doctor, where – while “bawling” her eyes out – she was diagnosed with PAH, much to her shock.