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Linda Evangelista Says CoolSculpting Left Her 'Permanently Deformed'

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Linda Evangelista has taken to Instagram to detail a personal struggle that's affected her over the last five years. The 56-year-old supermodel recently shared that she's been dealing with the physical and mental toll of developing a rare condition known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia or PAH following a CoolSculpting treatment.

"Today I took a big step towards righting a wrong that I have suffered and have kept to myself for over five years," she captioned her post. "To my followers who have wondered why I have not been working while my peers' careers have been thriving, the reason is that I was brutally disfigured by Zeltiq's CoolSculpting procedure which did the opposite of what it promised. It increased, not decreased, my fat cells and left me permanently deformed even after undergoing two painful, unsuccessful, corrective surgeries. I have been left, as the media has described, 'unrecognizable.'" (Related: Drew Barrymore Just Shared a Cringe-Worthy Body-Shaming Experience)

Evangelista went on to write that she developed PAH — a complication of CoolSculpting in which the targeted fat cells grow larger rather than smaller as intended, according to research — and wasn't warned about the risk beforehand. Not only did PAH "destroy [her] livelihood," but it also sent her "into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness, and the lowest depths of self-loathing," she wrote on Instagram, noting she's since "become a recluse." Evangelista added that she's filing a lawsuit against Zeltiq, the company behind CoolSculpting. CoolSculpting did not immediately return Shape's request for comment by the time of publishing.

ICYDK, CoolSculpting is a non-invasive, fat-reduction treatment known as cryolipolysis. It works by freezing the fat cells in adipose tissue (fatty tissue) and can be performed by health care practitioners and aestheticians. (Related: Does CoolSculpting Really Work — And Is It Worth It?)

Although cryolipolysis is intended to decrease adipose tissue, in rare cases, it can result in an increase in adipose tissue, aka PAH. The first report of PAH was documented in 2014 in the peer-reviewed medical journal, JAMA Dermatology. The authors of the article estimated that it occurs in one in 20,000 people who try CoolSculpting. However, later articles in Lasers In Surgery and Medicine and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery have put that number at one in 211 and one in 138 treatments. Liposuction — a surgical fat-removing procedure — can often successfully reverse PAH, but sometimes an abdominoplasty (read: tummy tuck) might be necessary, according to a 2018 article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Linda Evangelista deformed coolsculpting
Linda Evangelista deformed coolsculpting

Getty Images

Regardless of exactly how prevalent PAH is among CoolSculpting users, it's clear from Evangelista's post that the issue has caused her a lot of anguish. Fellow models have since offered their support in the comments section of her Instagram post. "Elos I applaud you for your Courage and strength to Share your experience and not be held hostage by it anymore .. You know I love you," wrote Naomi Campbell.

"Your life's work continues to inspire generations of models & contribute to the fashion world, regardless of if you are on the runways or in the campaigns in 2021," commented Gigi Hadid. "A living icon with courage that will now inspire and protect many, and beauty that cannot be taken away. Thank you." (Related: Gigi Hadid Tells Body-Shamers to Have More Empathy)

Evangelista wrapped up her post by noting that her hope in going public with her story is to rid herself of shame. "I'm so tired of living this way," she wrote. "I would like to walk out my door with my head held high, despite not looking like myself any longer."