I Can’t Stop Thinking About Linda Evangelista’s CoolSculpting Lawsuit

How are we supposed to age, anyway?

Adeline Dimond


Marble fragment of votive relief with Athena, ca. 405–390 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access program.

I told a friend that I wanted to write about Linda Evangelista and her lawsuit against Zeltiq, the parent company of CoolSculpting, and she promptly shut me down. “Isn’t that a tired subject? Beautiful models with body dysmorphia?” But that’s not why I’m ruminating over this story. My friend is right that the subject of women hating their bodies is a tired, boring story. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is the Greek tragedy of it all.

A recap: Linda Evangelista is a person of otherworldly strange beauty. In the 80s and 90s she looked like a cross between a gazelle and a hammerhead shark, made of alabaster — but in the best way. You could tell she knew a secret the rest of us didn’t: what it felt like to look so rarefied, so beautiful and bizarre and extra-terrestrial.

Apparently somewhere along the way, like many of us, she gained weight. She decided to “fix” this by undergoing CoolSculpting treatment. She now alleges that this treatment made her permanently disfigured. Enter lawsuit.

Without googling, here’s what I understand about CoolSculpting after years of reading glossy mag articles, Instagram ads, and brochures from med spas: It’s a non-invasive treatment to “melt” “stubborn” body fat using some sort of freezing mechanism. (Therefore it’s “cool”). “Stubborn” fat refers to subcutaneous fat, as opposed to the fat that’s more likely to make you unhealthy — the fat that you can’t see but surrounds your internal organs. The subcutaneous fat is called “stubborn” because the CoolSculpting folks are pushing this idea that even with good diet and exercise, this type of fat is hard to make disappear. Therefore, all the brochures say that you should only get CoolSculpting if you are otherwise at your goal weight, but still can’t get rid of these excess pockets of fat.

I’m not sure that people follow this last rule. I’ve seen plastic surgeons on Instagram promoting before and after CoolSculpting photos of people who are clearly “overweight” (whatever that means these days). I commented once on a before-and-after photo of a woman who was clearly, very clearly, in the very high BMI range, and asked the doctor why she was getting…