Linda Evangelista's Tragic Real-Life Story

There are models, and there are supermodels. And then there is Linda Evangelista. Perhaps the most iconic supermodel of the '90s, with her cropped locks and cat-like features, Evangelista took the fashion world by storm when she was still a teenager and went on to become a household name. Evangelista raised eyebrows when she told a reporter in 1990, "We have this saying, Christy [Turlington] and I ... we don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." True diva behavior? Perhaps, but Evangelista's star just kept on rising (plus, she did apologize for her comment). 

Evangelista was seemingly on top of the world, and certainly on top of her game, but what went on behind the scenes throughout her life and career was a different story altogether. From creepy photographers to an even creepier ex-husband, heartbreak, and health woes, Linda Evangelista has dealt with it all. Read on to find out more about the tragic real-life story of this inimitable beauty icon.

A harrowing experience almost made her quit modeling as a teen

Linda Evangelista grew up in Ontario, Canada playing sports with her two brothers. She was tall and very into fashion, so she began to pursue modeling as a teenager. But one disturbing experience almost deterred her from the industry altogether. At the age of 16, Evangelista had the opportunity to spend the summer modeling in Japan, which turned out to be far less than glamorous.

According to the model, no one was there to meet her when she arrived. "I was so lost and obviously I didn't have a cell phone," she told British Vogue. To make matters worse, when she finally found her apartment, it was dirty and her new roommate wasn't particularly welcoming. But the real trouble began when Evangelista showed up for work. "I went to the agency and it was all, 'Take your clothes off, we need measurements,' but they already had my measurements. They wanted me naked and it wasn't a 'Would you do nudes?' conversation, it was a 'You will do nudes,'" Evangelista revealed to British Vogue. "I left and called my mother and she said, 'Get out now and get to the embassy.' So that's what I did, and they got me home."

Thankfully, Evangelista did not give up, and she was discovered by an agent from Elite Model Management while competing in the Miss Teen Niagra beauty pageant. From there she went on to model in New York and Paris, but it was several years before she got her signature cropped haircut and rose to supermodel status.

Linda's ex-husband preyed on young women

From 1987 until 1993, Linda Evangelista was married to Gérald Marie, the former head of Elite Model Management in Paris. Marie's powerful position gave him access to many young models, and he allegedly took advantage of that access. As of 2022, 15 women had come forward with allegations that Marie had raped them during the '80s and '90s. The Daily Mail reported that some of the victims were as young as 14 and that Marie had "prescribed" them cocaine so they would stay thin.

For Evangelista's part, she was kept in the dark when it came to her husband's behavior and adamant that she had no idea what was happening during their marriage. "During my relationship with Gérald Marie, I knew nothing of these sexual allegations against him, so I was unable to help these women," she told The Guardian.

Due to the statute of limitations under French law, the investigation into the allegations against Marie was closed in 2023. Evangelista has maintained that she believes the women who came forward, and she empathizes with them. "Hearing them now, and based on my own experiences, I believe that they are telling the truth. It breaks my heart because these are wounds that may never heal, and I admire their courage and strength for speaking up today," the model told The Guardian.

She was in love with Kyle MacLachlan, but it wasn't meant to be

After Linda Evangelista's marriage to Gérald Marie, she dated "Twin Peaks" actor Kyle MacLachlan. The two met while shooting a campaign for Barney's New York, and sparks flew instantly. The pair was often spotted together, both out on dates or in the pages of Vogue, making out and looking very much in love. "I want to get married, and I drop hints all the time, and not even subtle hints, I come right out and beg," Evangelista told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in 1995.

She and MacLachlan did become engaged, but never made it down the aisle. According to MacLachlan, he was the one who got cold feet. "I wasn't necessarily resistant to marriage but it seemed like I was, and maybe I was, but I just liked things the way we were. Obviously, she wanted more," he told The Guardian.

Despite the breakup, it seems as though the two stayed pretty close. If Evangelista's heart was broken, she didn't let it show. "We'll always remain friends, and our families are still close," Evangelista told People in 1998. "I still see Kyle regularly — as well as our two dogs. The bond will always be there."

Linda's first pregnancy resulted in a devastating loss

After breaking up with Kyle MacLachlan, Linda Evangelista found love again with French soccer player Fabien Barthez. The couple was a tabloid favorite, as Barthez was at the height of his career and Evangelista had been established as an icon in the fashion industry.

The couple confirmed that Evangelista was pregnant in 1999, but then the unthinkable happened — Evangelista's pregnancy resulted in a stillbirth at six months. While the model has not publicly gone into detail about the ordeal, she is quoted as saying it was "the hardest thing I've ever had to go through" (via Evening Standard).

Evangelista and Barthez eventually parted ways, but Evangelista did not give up on motherhood. In 2006, the model gave birth to a son, Augustin James Evangelista, whom she shares with French businessman François-Henri Pinault. "Motherhood is my whole life now," she told Harper's Bazaar. "It's the best. I am so fulfilled."

The custody battle over her son turned ugly

While motherhood certainly agreed with Linda Evangelista, she could not have prepared herself for the drama that she'd have to deal with involving her son's father. Evangelista and billionaire François-Henri Pinault dated for only four months and, according to Pinault, spent just seven days together in total. "I didn't even know her very much," Pinault claimed during a highly-publicized child custody hearing in 2013 (via Reuters).

Evangelista's attorney claimed that Pinault, who went on to marry actor Salma Hayek, encouraged the model to have an abortion when she told him she was pregnant with their son, Augustin James (nicknamed Augie). It also came to light that Pinault did not acknowledge Augie as his child until 2009, at which time he'd had a daughter with Hayek. Evangelista reportedly sought to receive $46,000 a month in child support payments, a figure she later denied. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

One surprising outcome of the turmoil with her ex was Evangelista's friendship with Hayek. Augie, now 16, spends holidays with his father, and the two women have become close. "I was sick at Thanksgiving," Evangelista told Vogue. "And Salma got on the plane with her daughter, came here, and made Thanksgiving dinner."

A cosmetic procedure left Linda 'disfigured'

Linda Evangelista is one of the original supermodels, known for her striking beauty. So, after a cosmetic procedure went terribly wrong, it not only affected Evangelista's livelihood, it took a serious psychological toll as well. "I loved being up on the catwalk. Now I dread running into someone I know," she shared with People while discussing the adverse reaction she had to CoolSculpting treatments.

CoolSculpting is an FDA-approved treatment touted as a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for its fat-removal capabilities. Evangelista underwent treatments between 2015 and 2016, and three months later began to notice bulging in the areas she'd had treated on her face and body. She was diagnosed with Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH), a rare side effect that causes the affected tissue to grow instead of shrink.

After undergoing two corrective liposuction treatments, the PAH returned, much to Evangelista's devastation. "It wasn't even a little bit better," she explained. "The bulges are protrusions. And they're hard. If I walk without a girdle in a dress, I will have chafing to the point of almost bleeding." She added, "I don't look in the mirror. It doesn't look like me." Evangelista first spoke out about her ordeal in an Instagram post in which she described herself as "brutally disfigured," and said "... [PAH] has sent me into a cycle of deep depression, profound sadness, and the lowest depths of self-loathing." In 2022 the model settled her lawsuit with Zeltiq Aesthetics, the company responsible for CoolSculpting. She sued the company for $50 million, and settled for an undisclosed amount.

She lost a good friend and fellow model to breast cancer

In January of 2023, Linda Evangelista's friend and fellow OG supermodel Tatjana Patitz passed away at the age of 56. Vogue reported the sad news about the German beauty and revealed that the cause of her death was metastatic breast cancer.

Patitz famously starred with Evangelista in George Michael's iconic "Freedom" video, alongside Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford. The women were all very close, more like family than friends. "There was a sisterhood there, defined by caring and loyalty: When one is down you pick the other one up," Naomi Campbell shared with Vogue.

On what would have been Patitz's 57th birthday, Evangelista shared a heartfelt post on Instagram dedicated to her friend. The post features a black and white photo of Patitz which Evangelista captioned, "Happy birthday Tatjana, I know your sweet soul is with the angels. I still have not come to terms with your passing. You will be forever loved, forever missed and forever in my heart."

Linda opened up about her own cancer diagnoses

Linda Evangelista got candid about her health once again in September 2023 when she revealed she'd been fighting breast cancer for the past five years. The model told The Wall Street Journal she was first diagnosed in 2018 during a routine mammogram, and she opted to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. "The margins were not good," the model explained. " ... I wanted to put everything behind me and not to have to deal with this ... Breast cancer was not going to kill me."

But her fight was far from over. In July 2022, Evangelista discovered a lump on her chest that an MRI revealed to be cancer in her pectoral muscle. The model was not going to take this lightly, and she told the surgeon to "dig a hole" in her chest. Adamant that this was not going to kill her, Evangelista recalled saying, "I don't want it to look pretty, I want you to excavate. ... I'm not dying from this."

Evangelista has said that her post-cancer prognosis is not great, but her attitude sure is. "I know I have one foot in the grave, but I'm totally in celebration mode," she told The Wall Street Journal. Her family, friends, fans, and the fashion world are all rooting for Linda Evangelista, and it seems like this powerhouse supermodel can overcome anything.