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A Tortoise File


How a lucrative fantasy collided with the reality of the body


First published
Tuesday 4 January 2022

Last updated
Friday 7 January 2022

Why this story?

She had been one of the most visible, and most beautiful, women in the world. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, Linda Evangelista was one of the Big Five, with Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford – their beauty a lucrative super-brand. Evangelista once reportedly said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000. But then, as time went on, and she approached her 50s, she disappeared. Until September, 2021. She posted on Instagram, explaining that a procedure called CoolSculpting, promising to freeze away unwanted fat, had damaged her almost beyond recognition; that it had caused trauma, scarring, and “masses”. She announced she was suing the company that had developed and sold her the procedure. 

I started reporting on CoolSculpting when I saw Evangelista’s post. On forums across the internet, other people – predominantly women – were speaking of “masses” too. I discovered a story about a giant pharmaceutical company which trades in fantasies and remains vague about the risks and possible harm to its customers; and a cautionary tale, about a body that rejects the secret it is being asked to keep on our behalf. Basia Cummings, Editor