Model Bridget Malcolm Sheds Light on Industry 'Pressure' for Perfection amid Linda Evangelista's Struggle

The former Victoria's Secret model tells PEOPLE how she, like many in the fashion world, understands supermodel Linda Evangelista's plight to look perfect

bridget malcolm and linda evangelista
Photo: Hanna Lassen/Wireimage; Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Former Victoria's Secret model Bridget Malcolm understands the pressure Linda Evangelista may have felt to look perfect — leading to the alleged CoolSculpting damage that left her "permanently deformed."

"There's a huge amount of pressure, more so than people realize because once you get the shot, the photo often gets retouched to the point where you don't even recognize yourself," Malcolm, who in recent months has been an industry whistleblower on injustices models face, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue on newsstands Friday. "It creates quite a strange dichotomy in your mind. I'm being booked for my looks, this is how I look, I can't really help that. But then once we take the photo I get retouched into sometimes a whole new being. It can be quite disconcerting."

While Malcolm says she's never tried CoolSculpting or other body contouring treatments herself, she notes that it's common among models. "Just get a little bit further in their body goals. I completely empathize with that... that headspace is a horrible place to be in," she says.

Malcolm went on to explain that society often expects models to be "super confident in ourselves" because they have "been validated by society," but that isn't necessarily the case.

"I never realized there were so many things wrong with the way I looked until I started modeling," she says. "Your success is tied directly to how you look."

However, since she began modeling 16 years ago Malcolm has noticed the industry shift. "I wish I could start modeling as a teenager now because it's so much more inclusive. That gives me a lot of hope," she says. "But I think it's not just the modeling industry that needs to shift. It's the world at large and these insane pressures we put on women to look a very specific way."

On Sept. 23, '90s supermodel Evangelista, 56, made headlines when she announced a lawsuit against Zeltiq Aesthetics, seeking $50 million in damages after a CoolSculpting procedure five years ago left her "permanently deformed." Zeltiq Aesthetics markets and licenses CoolSculpting devices.

Linda Evangelista
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

In her complaint obtained by PEOPLE, she explained more about what exactly happened after her procedures, the hardships she faced in follow-up surgeries, and her current physical and mental state today.

Evangelista detailed each spot on her body she treated with CoolSculpting, (which is designed to break down fat cells in the body) including her abdomen, flanks, back and bra area, inner thighs, and chin. She alleged that after a few months she "developed hard, bulging, painful masses under her skin."

Representatives for Zeltiq have not responded to PEOPLE's repeated requests for comment.

What Evangelista allegedly experienced was Paradoxical Adipose Hyperplasia or PAH — "a very rare but serious side effect" where the targeted fat cells in the treatment site grow bigger instead of becoming smaller, according to Heathline. The model said she was not made aware of this "risk" ahead of her procedure.

On Instagram, the supermodel said she has "been left, as the media has described, 'unrecognizable,' and "become 'a recluse.'" In the court filing, she also claimed she has "severe anxiety and agoraphobia" following her surgeries and has lost numerous job opportunities, one of which included walking in the 2017 Versace show alongside her fellow models.

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