Padma Lakshmi

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Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi with Malcolm Smith (cropped).jpg
Lakshmi in 2013 at the Teen Health Awareness Campaign in Albany, New York
Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan

(1970-09-01) September 1, 1970 (age 49)
OccupationModel, author, actress, television host
Years active1991–present
Salman Rushdie
(m. 2004; div. 2007)
Partner(s)Theodore J. Forstmann (2009–2011)
Modeling information
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Hair colorBlack
Eye colorBrown

Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan (born September 1, 1970),[1] known professionally as Padma Lakshmi (pronounced [ˈpəd̪maː ˈləkʃmiː]), is an American author, actress, model, and television host. She is the host of the US cooking competition program Top Chef.

She has hosted the show continuously since season 2 (2006), with season 17 (2020) being the latest. For her work, she received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Host in 2009.

She has published three cookbooks and one memoir. She has also ventured into acting in film and television, and hosted several cooking programs before Top Chef. She also launched her own kitchenware line.

Early life[edit]

Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan was born in Madras (now Chennai), India, into a middle-class Tamil family.[2][3][4][5] Her mother Vijaya is a retired nurse. Her father is a retired executive with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.[6] Her parents divorced when she was two years old. Both of her parents later remarried, and she has a younger half-brother and half-sister from her father's side.

Lakshmi immigrated to the United States at four and grew up in Manhattan, New York, before moving to La Puente, California with her mother and stepfather.[7] As a teenager growing up in Los Angeles, she stated that she was bullied and endured racial aggression, which caused her to struggle to overcome "internalized self-loathing."[8]

In 1984, when Lakshmi was 14 years old, she was hospitalized for three weeks, and eventually diagnosed with Stevens–Johnson syndrome, a rare illness caused by hypersensitivity to an infection, or a potentially fatal reaction to certain kinds of medications.[citation needed]

Two days after her discharge from the hospital, she was injured in a car accident in Malibu, California, which left her with a fractured right hip and a shattered right upper arm.[9] The arm injury required surgery, which left her with a seven-inch scar between her elbow and shoulder.[10]


Lakshmi graduated from William Workman High School in City of Industry, California,[7] in 1988.[citation needed]

Lakshmi attended Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts. She began her modeling career while an exchange student in Madrid, Spain. Lakshmi graduated with a degree in theater arts and American literature.[11][when?]

Sexual assaults[edit]

In 2018, Lakshmi wrote in The New York Times that she was sexually assaulted as a small girl, "When I was 7 years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis. Shortly after I told my mother and stepfather, they sent me to India for a year to live with my grandparents. The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out."[12]

She also revealed a 1986 sexual assault, in which she was raped at the age of 16. She wrote, "It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist. Now, 32 years after my rape, I am stating publicly what happened. I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences."[12]


Lakshmi at the Metropolitan Opera, September 2006


Lakshmi's modeling career began at age 21. While studying abroad in Madrid, she was discovered by a modeling agent.[10] She has said, "I was the first Indian model to have a career in Paris, Milan, and New York. I'm the first one to admit that I was a novelty."[13] Lakshmi was able to pay off her college loans by working as a model and actress.

She has modeled for designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti, and appeared in ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus.[14] She was a favorite model of the photographer Helmut Newton, whose photographs of her often highlighted the large scar on her right arm.[15]

Lakshmi has appeared on the covers of Redbook, Vogue India, FHM, Cosmopolitan, L'Officiel India, Asian Woman, Avenue, Industry Magazine, Marie Claire (India Edition), Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, and Newsweek.[16] She also posed nude for the May 2009 issue of Allure.[17]

She has done shoots for photographers Mario Testino and Helmut Newton.[10][18]

Film, television and hosting[edit]

Lakshmi in 2010.

Lakshmi is the current host and one of the judges on the television show Top Chef, having joined in 2006 during its season 2. She has since hosted the show consecutively, with season 17 the latest. The show has been nominated in Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program from season 2 up until season 16, with season 6 winning the award in 2010.

She also serves as an executive producer of the show. Lakshmi was nominated in the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program in 2009 for the season 5 of Top Chef.

Lakshmi is known as an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights and the independent restaurant industry.[19] In "Taste the Nation,” a new series on Hulu, Lakshmi collectively expands and redefines the meaning of American food.[20]

Previously, Lakshmi first served as a host of Domenica In, Italy's top-rated television show, in 1997.[21] She hosted the Food Network series Padma's Passport,[18] which was part of the larger series Melting Pot in 2001, where she cooked recipes from around the world. She also hosted two one-hour specials in South India and Spain for the British culinary tourism show Planet Food, broadcast on the Food Network in the U.S. and internationally on the Discovery Channels.[22]

Lakshmi was also an official contributor for season 19 of The View from 2015 to 2016.[23] For celebrity contestant, she competed and won against music producer Randy Jackson in an episode of TBS's Drop the Mic that aired on December 26, 2017.[24]

Her first film roles were in the Italian pirate movies The Son of Sandokan and Caraibi (Pirates: Blood Brothers). She had a comical supporting part as the lip-synching disco singer Sylk in the 2001 American movie Glitter, starring Mariah Carey. In 2002, Lakshmi made a guest appearance as alien princess Kaitaama in "Precious Cargo," the 37th episode of the science fiction TV series Star Trek: Enterprise. She portrayed Madhuvanthi in the TV movie Sharpe's Challenge (aired 2006).[25] In 2006, she appeared in ABC's Biblical TV series The Ten Commandments as Princess Bithia. In 2009, Lakshmi starred in the video for the Eels song "That Look You Give That Guy".[26]

She starred in the 2003 Bollywood film Boom, alongside Katrina Kaif and Madhu Sapre, as one of three supermodels who are accused of stealing diamonds. She played the role of Geeta in Paul Mayeda Berges's 2005 film The Mistress of Spices. Lakshmi also made a guest appearance on the NBC series 30 Rock in 2009 and appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2014.

Books and writing[edit]

Lakshmi's first cookbook, Easy Exotic, a compilation of international recipes and short essays released in 1999, was awarded the Best First Book at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Versailles. Her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet, was released on October 2, 2007.[27] Her first memoir, Love, Loss and What We Ate, was released on International's Women's Day, March 8, 2016. Lakshmi released her third cookbook, an encyclopedia and cookbook, The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs in October 2016.

She had a syndicated column in The New York Times[28] and has written articles on style for the American edition of Vogue, at editor Anna Wintour's request. She also wrote a column on style for Harper's Bazaar (UK and US editions), following a commission from editor Glenda Bailey.

  • Easy Exotic: A Model's Low Fat Recipes From Around the World (1999), cookbook
  • Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (2007), cookbook
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir (2016), memoir
  • The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World (2016), encyclopedia/cookbook


In 2009, Lakshmi launched her first line of jewelry, Padma. She also has two tableware collections. The first, The Padma Collection, is a line of dinnerware composed of Moroccan ceramics and Turkish glass. The second, Easy Exotic, is a line of more casual kitchenware. Under the Easy Exotic brand, Lakshmi also has a line of specialty spices and teas as well as a line of organic frozen rices.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In April 2004, after dating and living together for three years, Lakshmi married novelist Salman Rushdie. In July 2007, the couple filed for divorce.[29]

In 2009, Lakshmi briefly dated and broke off with venture capitalist Adam Dell. After that, she entered a relationship with businessman Teddy Forstmann from 2009 to 2011. During this time, Lakshmi gave birth to a baby girl, Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell, on February 20, 2010.[30] Lakshmi initially did not reveal the identity of the father. Adam Dell was later announced as the father.[31][32] In 2011, Dell sued for custody of their daughter, and later both reached agreement to have joint custody and co-parenting.[33] They have resumed dating since 2017.[34]

Lakshmi speaks English, Italian, Spanish, Tamil and Hindi.[35]

Health conditions[edit]

Lakshmi had two ovarian cysts removed when she was 30, but her doctor did not inform her that she had a chronic condition that needed to be monitored. In 2005, she was rushed to the hospital because of severe abdominal cramps.

It turned out that some endometrial tissue had wrapped itself around my small intestine like a tourniquet. The gastroenterological surgeon who called this tissue "scar tissue" said that he snipped it off and that I should be fine. Again, I was far from fine, and all of the symptoms I had came raging back with my next period.

At the age of thirty-six, Lakshmi was diagnosed with endometriosis,[36] which she has had since early adolescence:

I was told by my mother that this was just our lot in life, because I'm sure that's what she was told by her mother. So I expected the pain, saw my mother go through it in fact, month in and month out.


Lakshmi is a co-founder of The Endometriosis Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing awareness, education, research, and legislative advocacy against the disease.[37][38] The foundation was instrumental in the opening of the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research, where Lakshmi gave the keynote address.[39] She is a global ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, and since 2007 has traveled to sites in India on their behalf. She is also a strong advocate of women's rights.[40]


Lakshmi is the American Civil Liberties Union ambassador for immigration and women’s rights. She has been an outspoken critic of skin-lightening creams that are marketed to people of color, particularly in non-white majority nations. She has also spoken about the colorism she has experienced while living in India and the United States.[41][42][43]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Notes Role
1995 Unzipped Documentary (US) Herself
1997 Domenica In TV Program (Italian) Host
1998 Il Figlio di Sandokan TV Series (Italian, Drama)
1999 CaraibiPirates: Blood Brothers TV Series (Italian, Adventure) Malinche
2000 Linda e il brigadiere
 ep: "Il fratello di Linda"
TV Series (Italian, Comedy) Indian Lady
Planet Food Documentary (Cooking) Host
2001 Glitter Film (US) Sylk
Melting Pot: Padma's Passport TV Program (US, Cooking) Host
2002 Star Trek: Enterprise TV Series (US) Kaitaama
Episode: "Precious Cargo"
2003 Boom Film (Indian) Shiela Bardez
2005 The Mistress of Spices Film (Indian) Geeta
2006 The Ten Commandments TV Series (US) Princess Bithia
Sharpe TV Series (UK) Madhuvanthi
Episode: "Sharpe's Challenge"
2006– Top Chef TV Program (US, Reality/Cooking) Host / Judge
(Season 2–present)
2009 30 Rock TV Series (US) Herself
Episode: "The Problem Solvers"
2014 Whose Line Is It Anyway? TV Series (US) Herself
2014 Exclusion Film (Indian)
2015–2016 The View TV Program (US, Panel) Herself, contributor
2017 Drop the Mic TV Program (US, Reality) Herself, contestant
Episode 10 (season 10)
2018 RuPaul's Drag Race TV Program (US, Reality) Herself, guest judge
Episode 2 (season 10)
2019 Butterbean's Café TV Series (US) Chef Belle Legume (Voice)
Episode: "The Towering Tower of Crepes!"
2020– Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi TV Series (US, Cooking) Herself, host and executive producer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Padma Lakshmi". TV Guide. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  2. ^ Gauri Sinh (January 25, 2002). "It's my life, says Padma Lakshmi". The Times of India. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  3. ^ Neha Tara Mehta (October 24, 2010). "Padma a secret in Rushdie memoir". India Today. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Amit Roy (April 30, 2006). "The Telegraph – Calcutta : Look". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. Archived from the original on October 4, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Jennifer Bain (December 22, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi a global brand in the making". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  6. ^ K, Kannan (January 23, 2002). "Talk of The Town". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  7. ^ a b Yamato, Jen; Shyong, Frank. "Padma Lakshmi". Asian Enough (Podcast). The Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Hauser, Christine (March 9, 2016). "Padma Lakshmi Opens Up About Rushdie in Memoir". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  9. ^ "Letter From New York". Vanity Fair. Issues 566–568. 2007.
  10. ^ a b c Cartner-Morley, Jess (April 8, 2006). "Th unlikely wife of Salman Rushdie Padma Lakshmi talks to Jess Cartner-Morley". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  11. ^ "Padma Lakshmi". Bravo TV Official Site. June 25, 2012. Archived from the original on November 10, 2006. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Padma Lakshmi (September 25, 2018). "I was raped at 16 and I kept silent". The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2018.
  13. ^ Padma Lakshmi — Evening Standard Magazine
  14. ^ Padma Lakshmi Bio Archived November 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ D'Souza Wolfe, Nandini. "At Home with Padma". New York Press. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  16. ^ "Press for Padma Lakshmi". Archived from the original on November 28, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  17. ^ Lysaght, Stephanie (April 13, 2009). "Padma Lakshmi of 'Top Chef' and Chelsea Handler of E! get naked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  18. ^ a b Unny, Divya (July 5, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi..the woman who broke Rushdie's heart". DNAIndia. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  19. ^ "Padma Lakshmi's political "Taste the Nation" food series could not have debuted at a better time". Salon. June 18, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  20. ^ Rao, Tejal (June 18, 2020). "Padma Lakshmi Finds a New Voice, Amplifying the Voices of Others". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  21. ^ Stephen Henderson (April 25, 2004). "Weddings/Celebrations – Vows – Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 28, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  22. ^ "Food – TV and radio". BBC. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (December 27, 2017). "Padma Lakshmi Faced off with Randy Jackson and It Got Really Savage". Bravo.
  25. ^ "Escape Views". Harpers & Queen. March 2004. Archived from the original on November 28, 2004.
  26. ^ "Eels, 'That Look You Give That Guy' – Video Premiere – Spinner UK". September 1, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  27. ^ Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (Hardcover)
  28. ^ "Padma Kakshmi's column". New York Times.
  29. ^ "Rushdie, Top Chef Wife Skewer Marriage". E!. July 3, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  30. ^ "Padma Lakshmi Gives Birth To Daughter". Access Hollywood. February 22, 2010.
  31. ^ McNeil, Liz (March 18, 2010). "Adam Dell Is the Father of Padma Lakshmi's Daughter". People. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  32. ^ AGENCIES (March 19, 2010). "Adam Dell fathered Padma Lakshmi's daughter". The Times of India. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  33. ^ "Padma Lakshmi Settles Custody Dispute". People. March 15, 2012.
  34. ^ "Padma Lakshmi and Adam Dell Are 'Closer Than They've Ever Been' After Rekindling". US Magazine. October 2, 2018.
  35. ^ Hattersley, Giles (April 2, 2006). "My husband? Oh, he's a writer dude". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  36. ^ Redbook Magazine (October 17, 2011), Padma Lakshmi shares her struggle with endometriosis., retrieved February 12, 2016
  37. ^ "ABC Nightline: Padma Lakshmi: Where Foodie Meets Fashion". Hulu. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  38. ^ Goldstein, Lisa A. (March 12, 2015). "Padma Lakshmi's Personal Cause: The Endometriosis Foundation of America" (online news story). Retrieved March 18, 2016. The whole of Goldstein's article is reproduced by (see [1]), without acknowledgment of the author, through a URL appearing at the base of the derivative page.
  39. ^ cambchron (December 8, 2009), TV host of 'Top Chef' Padma Lakshmi speaks at MIT, retrieved February 12, 2016
  40. ^ CNN (January 9, 2013), Lakshmi: Problem goes beyond gang rape, retrieved February 12, 2016
  41. ^ Arora, Priya; Maheshwari, Sapna (June 25, 2020). "Criticism of Skin Lighteners Brings Retreat by Unilever and Johnson & Johnson". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  42. ^ "". Twitter. Retrieved July 1, 2020. External link in |title= (help)
  43. ^ Rao, Tejal (June 18, 2020). "Padma Lakshmi Finds a New Voice, Amplifying the Voices of Others". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 1, 2020.

External links[edit]