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Linda Evangelista was one of the world's most famous faces. 5 years ago, she became a recluse.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Linda Evangelista was one of the most recognisable people on earth. She, along with Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, formed a supermodel triad so famous they were dubbed 'The Trinity'.

The Canadian was a muse for fashion luminaries including Gianni Versace, Karl Largerfeld and photographer Steven Meisel, and a bankable cover star for titles like Vogue. A model so influential that when she chopped off her hair, the phrase 'give me The Linda' echoed through salons all over the world.

But for the past few years, Evangelista has been in hiding, a self-described "recluse", after allegedly being "brutally disfigured" by a common cosmetic procedure.

"I am so tired of living this way": Linda Evangelista's CoolSculpting lawsuit.

In a statement posted to Instagram, the 56-year-old said she had filed a lawsuit against Zeltiq, a company that licenses machines used for a procedure called 'CoolSculpting'.

CoolSculpting, or cryolipolysis, aims to freeze superficial fat cells, which then die and are metabolised by the body. While the technique is hailed as non-invasive and low-risk, it has been associated with a rare side-effect called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) in which the tissue thickens and expands.

The manufacturer of CoolSculpting machines puts the risk of PAH at 0.025 per cent, or one in every 4,000 cycles. However, a recent study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal indicated the number may be higher. The evaluation of results from eight Canadian medical centres revealed PAH incidence rates between 0.05 per cent and 0.39 per cent, with the majority of cases associated with the use of older models of the machine.

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In her lawsuit, Evangelista alleges she experienced PAH after undergoing multiple CoolSculpting procedures between 2015 and 2016 to reduce fat on her thighs, abdomen, back, flanks and chin. She claims she was not informed of the risks and that corrective surgery was unable to fix the issue.

She is seeking $US50 million (AU$68 million) in damages for lost income and emotional distress.

"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," Evangelista wrote.

"In the process, I have become a recluse.

"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 head held high, despite not looking like myself any longer."

Her statement was met with comments of encouragement from several former colleagues, including Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell.

"I applaud you for your courage and strength to share your experience and not be held hostage by it anymore, Campbell commented on Evangelista's Instagram statement. "You know I love you. We love you, and [are] here for you always. Right by your side.

"I can’t imagine the pain you [have] gone through mentally these past 5 years. Your [sic] free of it now. Remember who you are and what you have achieved and your influence and all the lives of people you have touched. [You are] still doing so to this very day by sharing your story. Proud of you and support you every step of the way."

Linda Evangelista: beauty queen to fashion royalty.

Linda Evangelista was discovered at a beauty pageant she didn't win. 

It was Miss Teen Niagara, 1981, and the 16-year-old from St. Catherine's, Ontario, caught the eye of a scout from Elite Model Management. Though she accepted the scout's card, Evangelista's strict Catholic parents made her wait two years before calling. 

It was a dream realised for the teenager.

Fashion obsessed from a young age, she was known to accessorise her school uniform with headbands and cowboy boots, and would beg her mother for new outfits.

"I decided when I was twelve that [modelling is] what I wanted to do, and I count my blessings that I got to realise my dreams," she said in 2006. "Being a rock star was out of the question. I can’t sing."

After being signed to Elite, Evangelista's career took off. Within just a few years, she booked campaigns in New York and Paris, and appeared in the pages of Vogue.

'The Trinity' of supermodels: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. Image: Getty.

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In 1988, hairstylist Julien d’Ys cropped her hair short — a move she feared would put a stopper in her career. But within two months, she achieved the Vogue 'grand slam', by being featured on the cover of the American, French, Italian and British editions. 

"[That haircut] quadrupled my rate. I did get sick of seeing it on everybody, though — every stewardess, every sales clerk, and in every restaurant," she later told Vogue.

But just two years later, Evangelista tested her own popularity, when she uttered a sentence that has been likened to a 20th Century version of Marie Antoinette's quip, "Let them eat cake." 

“We have this expression, Christy [Turlington] and I," Evangelista said. "We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day."

It's a line etched in fashion folklore and one that the model fears will also be etched onto her tombstone.

"I apologised for it; I acknowledged it; I said it was true; I said it was a joke. Do I regret it? I used to regret it. Not anymore," she told Vogue in 2001. "Would I hope that I would never say something like that ever again? Yes. Am I capable of saying something like that again? I hope not."

Linda Evangelista was engaged to actor Kyle MacLachlan. Image: Getty.

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Evangelista was married to Elite Model Management owner Gérald Marie in those early years of her career. But after their separation in 1992, she was in a relationship with Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan (now perhaps better known for playing Trey in Sex And the City). The pair were engaged but split in 1998 after six years together.

That year Evangelista retired, but her hiatus was short-lived. She made a triumphant 21st Century return in 2001, balancing modelling with activism and philanthropy (she has campaigned for AIDS/HIV research, LGBTQI causes and breast cancer research and awareness).

She added motherhood into the mix in 2006 with the birth of her son, Augustin James Evangelista. The identity of the boy's father was later revealed to be French businessman François-Henri Pinault, who is now married to actor Salma Hayek. 

It wasn't until 2016 and her experience of PAH that Evangelista stepped away from the industry for good. 

In going public about the lawsuit, the former model said she has taken "a big step towards righting a wrong" that she has suffered with in silence for five years.

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.

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