Supermodel Linda Evangelista’s experience with cosmetic procedures came as a reminder of the unrealistic beauty standards placed on women.
It is rare that a tale of a botched cosmetic procedure makes me sad, but the shocking Instagram post of former supermodel Linda Evangelista has haunted me.
She wrote earlier this week of having been “deformed” by a CoolSculpting cosmetic procedure, the results of which have “sent (her) into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness, and the lowest depths of self-loathing”.
Since the procedure, she wrote, she has become a recluse.
I felt sad that one of the world’s most naturally beautiful women felt the need to fix herself with cosmetic procedures. I felt sad – though not surprised – that a woman can be so invested in her looks that a botched procedure can cause such psychological pain. And I felt sad and enraged our culture that places such intense pressure on women to fix our bodies and our faces.
God forbid we have cellulite, or the “wrong” shaped body. God forbid we have a puffy or lined or blemished face. And god forbid we allow ourselves to look our age.
Evangelista’s suffering is a direct result of our insanely unrealistic beauty standards.
We women are supposed to look gorgeous and youthful and sexy right into our fifties and beyond. For female celebrities, under the scrutiny of the world’s media, it’s a very fine tightrope to walk.
Too little intervention, and they are trolled for having let themselves go, too much intervention, and they are trolled for being “unrecognisable”.
Ideally, Evangelista would be able to shrug off her “deformity” and get on with her life. But beauty is currency in our culture, particularly for women. And Evangelista is a product of our culture.
Beautiful women are given more attention and opportunities. Young, beautiful women get better jobs. People care when bad things happen to young, beautiful women. Can you imagine the world being so invested in Gabby Petito if she had been old, unattractive and fat?
We celebrated Linda Evangelista’s face. We taught her, over a period of decades, that her value lay in her looks. It takes an enormous amount of inner strength to reject that kind of messaging, and not everyone is that tough.
Now, you can argue that Evangelista profited from the culture that made her a supermodel, and, of course, she did. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t also a victim.
Look at the Kardashians, who are both perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and profiting from them. They’re already having innumerable procedures in the quest to stay young and relevant and perfect. Khloe has completely transformed her face, apparently in response to feeling insecure. This isn’t a relaxed or a healthy way to live for anyone.
The only way to break free of these insane beauty standards is for enough women to reject them and to say enough is enough. It’s not just the risk that these interventions pose; it’s the money and time and energy that we women are channelling into our appearances, instead of our lives.
What’s more, we need famous and powerful women to be prepared to age naturally, to show us that it’s okay to look like a real, human female. We need to normalise ageing and wrinkles and imperfections, instead of normalising cosmetic interventions.
At the very least, we need more famous and powerful women to be honest about their own procedures, to stop pretending they look 35 at 53 because of water and sunscreen and meditation.
We need herd immunity to protect us all from the toxicity of the beauty industry, but this isn’t as easy getting a vaccination. We are up against the advertising industry and the media, and the socials, and surgeons and beauty therapists selling us innumerable cosmetic procedures. What’s more, we are up against ourselves, against the idea that women have the right to do what we want with our faces. Yes, yes, of course we do! But until we deconstruct the insidious forces behind these choices, we are completely at the mercy of absurd and dangerous beauty standards.
If we lived in a culture that told us that we were fine the way we are, then we would believe it, and stop trying to “fix” our flaws. And CoolSculpting and all the other cosmetic procedure providers would rapidly go out of business.