Late in the afternoon on a Wednesday, Linda Evangelista is in a windowless, air-conditioned-to-the-hilt studio in New York’s Meatpacking District wearing a floor-length, silver trench coat by Gucci. A chaotic nexus of crew, hangers-on and assistants politely buzz around her – not too close, but close enough to complete the various tasks at hand. Statuesque, she glides in full fashion and make-up, from wardrobe to set, passing me en route for a brisk introduction. “Oh, hi. I’m sorry, my nails are wet,” she says, by way of explaining why she doesn’t stop. Is there a more supermodel “hello” than that?
Even at 57 years old, and even after the trauma of her much-publicised ordeal with Zeltiq CoolSculpting, a body-contouring treatment, Linda has a presence that could part an ocean. The ultimate glamazon, she was the most major super of them all. Always portrayed as the merciless one, likely because of her brilliant demands (it was Linda who quipped, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day”), but also, perhaps, because her beauty was so exacting that it verged on intimidating. Those pale blue, upward-slanting feline eyes, probably the most gorgeous nose of all time, arched eyebrows, a jawline of dreams, that megawatt mouth… a genetic accident that, well, looks like nothing was left to chance. Add to it all an element of surprise – you never knew which Linda you were going to get: brunette, platinum blonde, searing copper. (Today, brunette.)
The following morning, we meet at The Orchard Townhouse in Chelsea, a few blocks from her apartment. It’s a hot, sunny day and she’s seemingly make-up-free, wearing layers of loose linen, flats and carrying a forest-green Birkin, a bag she has had since 1985, back when you could walk into an Hermès store and stumble upon a Birkin for sale. “Hermès invited me to choose something,” she recounts, “and I remember walking in thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to get in here?’ The stores weren’t like they are today. And then I saw this bag. But even the sales assistants said it was ‘démodé’, which I guess it was at the time, because it was just left on the top shelf. They actually blew dust off it. Of course,” she leans in, taking a sip of iced tea, “I had no idea who Jane Birkin was.”
She’s warm and engaging, but her mood is also contemplative and, emotionally, she’s a little exhausted. Understandably so. Yesterday’s session with Steven Meisel was her first Vogue cover and fashion shoot in some time – she says that she has spent five years in “hiding” since, she alleges, a fat-freezing procedure left her “brutally disfigured”. She decided that the only way out was to tell her story. “I couldn’t live in that pain any longer,” she says. “I knew I had to make a change, and the only change was to tell my truth.”
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