Supermodel Linda Evangelista, who last year revealed that her five-year absence from the limelight was as a result of being left ‘brutally disfigured’ following a botched fat reducing treatment, has broken her silence on why she underwent the procedure in the first place.
And her confession has brought the topic of advertising ethics for aesthetic treatments into the limelight again.
In an interview in September’s issue of British Vogue, the Canadian fashionista told writer Sarah Harris: “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… So I went for it – and it backfired.”
CoolSculpting is a cryolipolysis treatment from Zeltiq Aesthetics, owned by Botox maker Allergan.
The FDA-approved procedure, which uses cold temperature to break down fat cells, has risen in popularity as a non-surgical alternative to liposuction.
In Evangelista’s case, the model developed a rare side effect called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), which increased, rather than decreased, the fat cells CoolSculpting was supposed to target.
While her PAH was diagnosed in 2016, Evangelista only went public in September last year.
In an emotional exchange with Harris, Evangelista confessed: “If I had known side effects may include losing your livelihood and you’ll end up so depressed that you hate yourself… I wouldn’t have taken that risk.”
According the the Vogue interview, three months after the treatment, Evangelista noticed areas of her face getting “larger and harder” and beginning to protrude.
Attempts to correct the protrusions, including liposuction, compression treatments and girdles, were unsuccessful.
While a lawsuit was mentioned in Evangelista’s initial 2021 Instagram post breaking the news, in July this year both parties moved to dismiss the case.
Evangelista wrote on her Instagram: “I’m pleased to have settled the CoolSculpting case. I look forward to the next chapter of my life with friends and family, and am happy to put this matter behind me.”
Contacted by British Vogue for the interview, a US-based representative for Zeltiq added: “We are pleased to have resolved this matter with Ms Evangelista.”
Protecting the vulnerable
The recent interview was accompanied by a fashion shoot with Evangelista, photographed by Steven Meisel and styled by Editor In Chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful in apparel from the likes of Fendi and Chanel.
But while Evangelista is back to being fashion’s golden girl, the situation raises the question, how is aesthetics advertising so powerful that one of the world’s most celebrated beauties was persuaded to take the plunge?
It is a question law-makers across the Atlantic in the UK are currently mulling.
In the UK, the advertising of cosmetic procedures to under-18s has been prohibited, while the administering of botulinum toxin and dermal fillers to under-18s became illegal from 1 October 2021.
Additionally, a recent cross-party report titled ‘The impact of body image on mental and physical health’, highlighted protecting groups vulnerable to exploitation by those promoting non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
“It was clear throughout our inquiry that some groups are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this growing market that has gone largely unregulated,” said Jeremy Hunt, who chaired the committee responsible for the report.
“We need a timetable now for a licensing regime with patient safety at its centre to reduce those risks.
“We hope that ministers will listen to our recommendations and set about creating the safety standards that anyone seeking treatment has a right to expect.”