The 57-year-old supermodel took some unexplained time out of the spotlight before coming to Instagram in Sept. 2021 to explain that she had been "brutally disfigured" by a non-invasive body-contouring procedure with Zeltiq CoolSculpting. Just one year after sharing her truth, she's making a big return to modeling, although she hasn't fully recovered physically or mentally from what transpired.
"Those CoolSculpting commercials were on all the time, on CNN, on MSNBC, over and over, and they would ask, 'Do you like what you see in the mirror?’ They were speaking to me. It was about stubborn fat in areas that wouldn’t budge. It said no downtime, no surgery and… I drank the magic potion, and I would because I’m a little vain," Evangelista told the publication. "So I went for it — and it backfired."
She previously shared the details of the procedure in People magazine, where she explained that she had undergone seven sessions of CoolSculpting between August 2015 and Feb. 2016 with the intention of reducing body fat in specific areas. Fairly quickly, however, she had noticed the opposite effect as those areas of fat began to expand and harden. She was later diagnosed with Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia (PAH), a rare complication that she claimed she wasn't made aware of.
"If I had known side effects may include losing your livelihood and you’ll end up so depressed that you hate yourself…" she told British Vogue, "I wouldn’t have taken that risk."
The model had filed a lawsuit against the company responsible, although she and a U.S.-based representative for Zeltiq confirmed to the magazine that the case was dismissed and settled. "Our focus continues to be on empowering confidence by providing safe, reliable aesthetics products and services backed by science. CoolSculpting is an FDA-cleared, non-invasive treatment for visible fat bulges in nine areas of the body," the company's representative said.
Evangelista remains focused on healing and repairing what damage she can, although she's shared that liposuction didn't work.
"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," she explained. At one point, she even resorted to not eating. "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. I was losing my mind."
While sharing her story hasn't been easy, Evangelista has recognized it as a vital part of moving forward.
"I couldn’t live in that pain any longer. I knew I had to make a change, and the only change was to tell my truth," she said. "Am I cured mentally? Absolutely not. But I’m so grateful for the support I got from my friends and from my industry."
She's even garnered the support of her now 15-year-old son Augustin who had difficultly understanding changes he'd seen in his mother.
"What really stabbed me in the heart was when he said to me, ‘Remember when you used to be so much fun? Remember when you used to laugh all the time?’ It was such an innocent comment. That was a lot to handle," she recalled of the time she was trying to maintain her secret. Eventually, she explained the situation to him in more depth. "He was as understanding as a 13 year old could be. I told him there would be a lawsuit and I said, 'You might hear things and be embarrassed.' And he said, 'Why would I be embarrassed? I’m sad for you. I’m not embarrassed.' Then he said, 'I’m going to take care of you, don’t worry.' What parent wants to be a burden to their child?”
The model went on to say, "telling my story did me so much good. I'm so happy now." Still, she recognizes that stepping back in front of the camera will have its difficulties. She's also prepared to set some boundaries when it comes to the work that she'll do.
"I miss my work so much, but honestly, what can I do? It isn’t going to be easy," 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…"
For the sake of transparency she even revealed that tape and elastics were used by makeup artist Pat McGrath to pull Evangelista's face tighter for this British Vogue cover.
"That’s not my jaw and neck in real life – and I can’t walk around with tape and elastics everywhere," she said. "I’m trying to love myself as I am, but for the photos ... I always think we’re here to create fantasies. We’re creating dreams. 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."
Despite the aesthetics of it all, Evangelista isn't afraid of aging and is excited to think about what's to come.
"Bring it on. I just want to be here to see it all," she said. "I’m not done."
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