Linda Evangelista has made a bold return to fashion after a cosmetic procedure left her “brutally disfigured” in 2016.
In a campaign for Italian fashion house, Fendi, Linda poses with an array of Fendi hats and bags and appears to have regained her supermodel confidence – something she previously admitted to having lost after a cosmetic procedure went wrong.
The Canadian was one of the standout models of the 1990s supermodel era and her heavily arched brows, feline eyes and razor-sharp cheekbones graced the pages of nearly 700 glossy magazines.
Linda was also one of the most bankable faces of her generation and at the peak of her prowess, she was making $25 000 (then R62 500) a day.
“I won’t wake up for less than $10 000 a day,” she once famously said.
Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld described her as the best in the business.
“She’s a true model, pure and simple. She doesn’t pretend or aspire to do anything else. She’s just brilliant at what she does,” he said.
Last September, Linda revealed on Instagram that in 2016, she had multiple cryolipolysis procedures to “decrease” fat cells on her thighs, abdomen, back, flanks and chin – but instead of sculpting her face and figure, she said the procedure “increased” her fat cells.
During the procedure, a device that’s usually set below freezing temperature is applied to fat deposits, causing cell death in fat tissue.
But the procedure, which is also known as body sculpting or CoolSculpting, failed to work for Linda, who developed paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH). This is a rare side-effect that has been reported in 0,0051% of the 1,5 million CoolSculpting procedures performed worldwide.
The condition results in the treated area becoming larger instead of smaller in the weeks after the procedure. It can also leave a visibly pronounced mass underneath the skin.
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According to Linda, a corrective surgery to fix the PAH has not worked.
She then launched a $50-million (R750m) lawsuit against Zeltiq, the company that performed the procedure. She wants compensation for lost income and emotional distress because she says she’s unemployable and hasn’t earned anything from modelling since 2016.
“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 says.
“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 held high, despite not looking like myself any longer.”
The supermodel added that she was no longer going to “hide in shame” after her disfigurement.
She recently announced her lawsuit had been settled. “I look forward to the next chapter of my life with friends and family and am happy to put this matter behind me. I am truly grateful for the support I have received from those who have reached out,” she wrote on Instagram.
Linda (57) was one of the “Big Six”, along with Naomi Campbell (now 51), Claudia Schiffer (51), Kate Moss (47), Cindy Crawford (55) and Christy Turlington (52) who ruled the catwalk and launched a thousand dreams.
Her announcement has been met with messages of support from her fellow supermodels.
“I applaud you for your courage and strength to share your experience and not be held hostage by it anymore,” Naomi said.
“Linda – your strength and true essence are forever recognisable and iconic,” Cindy wrote. “Bravo!”
Unlike the Kendall Jenners and Kaia Gerbers currently ruling the runway, Linda hails from the golden age of modelling when rich and famous parents could do little to boost your career.
Her Italian-Canadian parents were middle-class, hard-working people – dad Tomaso worked for General Motors and mom Marisa was a bookkeeper.
Linda always wanted to be model but her career got off to a rocky start.
“I took a modelling course in my hometown, St Catharines in Ontario. It was sort of a scam. To work as a model, you had to pay for the classes,” she recalls. “Then I was chosen by a Japanese agency to go over to Japan for the summer to work.”
Her mom and dad were wary of letting their 16-year-old daughter fly across the world with strangers – and rightly so, as it turned out.
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“My parents were strict Italians who didn’t let me go out past 10 o’clock and I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. But they said okay. I got there and it was a catastrophe,” she says.
“They wanted me to take my clothes off and shoot me naked. It was a nightmare and I panicked and basically the Canadian embassy helped me out. I was there for about two days and went home, saying, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this ever again’.”
But once she’d recovered she decided to give it another go.
She entered the Miss Teen Niagara pageant and a scout gave her his card – and before long she had the industry at her feet.
She was the chameleon of the catwalk, changing her hair colour 17 times in five years and lopping it off in 1988 to launch an unforgettable pixie trend.
Her private life was colourful too. When she was 22, she married Gérald Marie (now 71), the head of her Parisian modelling agency, then left him for actor Kyle MacLachlan (now 62).
In 2006 she had a son, Augustin James, but refused to name the father. It was later revealed to be French billionaire businessman François-Henri Pinault, who dated Linda for a few months before settling down with actress Salma Hayek.
Linda filled fashion magazines with glamour and tabloids with drama, becoming known as the industry’s best in front of the camera and worst away from it.
“I’m just too honest,” she remarked when asked about her reputation for being difficult. “I say what other people wouldn’t. I like to be tongue-in-cheek.”
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The advent of social media transformed the fashion industry and the ageing beauty struggled to find her feet in the digital era.
“There’s just so much judgement with social media,” she said in a 2017 interview. “The few times, in the beginning, that I posted a natural picture of me with no makeup, 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 makeup later. So, when you give them the real you, they don’t really want that, not from me.”
British columnist Olivia Petter says while the body-positive movement can be admirable and inspiring, it can also fail.
“If Linda Evangelista has taught us anything, it’s that the pressures placed on women to look a certain way aren’t getting any better,” she writes. “In fact, I’d say they’re getting worse.”
Sources: vogue.com, harpersbazaar.com, independent.co.uk, washingtonpost.com, nytimes.com, dailymail.co.uk, thetimes.co.uk, theguardian.com, theglobeandmail.com, i-d.vice.com, elle.com, interviewmag.com, people.com, cosmopolitan.com, instagram.com