In September, supermodel Linda Evangelista revealed that she was planning to sue the company behind Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting procedure, a non-invasive fat-reduction treatment that she says left her “brutally disfigured” as a result of a rare side effect known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH).
Now, after filing the suit against Zeltiq Aesthetic, Inc., for $50 million in damages, Evangelista has sat down with People for her first public photo shoot since the procedure. “I don’t look in the mirror,” she told the publication in the accompanying interview. “It doesn’t look like me.” She added, “I don’t recognize myself physically, but I don’t recognize me as a person any longer either.”
PAH is a rare response to CoolSculpting in which the body produces new fat cells to replace cells that are frozen by the procedure. Instead of the intended result — the lymphatic system’s absorbing and expels the frozen cells — the body forms hard, rectangular bulges of fatty tissue in the areas the treatment was done. Studies have estimated that the chances of developing PAH from CoolSculpting are less than 1 percent, but Evangelista claims she was not made aware of the risk before her procedure.
A few months later, after she noticed bulges on her body, she said she tried starving herself, believing she could reduce them by dieting — which, as she would soon find out, has no effect on PAH. According to her account, once her doctor diagnosed the condition and reached out to Zeltiq, the company offered to pay for liposuction treatment. However, she claims that the night before the scheduled procedure she found out that the liposuction would only be covered if she signed a confidentiality agreement. She ended up paying for two rounds of liposuction herself, which she referred to in her initial announcement as “painful” and “unsuccessful.”
While speaking freely about cosmetic procedures is slowly becoming less taboo, Evangelista is among the first public figures who have been willing to openly discuss negative side effects. “I hope I can shed myself of some of the shame and help other people who are in the same situation as me,” she told the magazine. “I’m not going to hide anymore.”