Padma Lakshmi

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For the Hindu goddess, see Lakshmi.
Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.JPG
Lakshmi at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
Born Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan
(1970-09-01) September 1, 1970 (age 45)
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
Ethnicity Tamil
Citizenship American
Occupation Model, author, actress, TV host
Years active 1988–present
Spouse(s) Salman Rushdie (m. 2004; div. 2007)
Children 1
Modeling information
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Hair color Black
Eye color Brown

Padma Lakshmi (pronounced [ˈpəd̪maː ˈləkʃmiː]; born September 1, 1970)[1] is an Indian-born American cookbook author, actress, model, television host and executive producer. Her debut cookbook Easy Exotic won her the "Best First Book" award at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. She has been the host of the US reality television program Top Chef since season two in 2006, for which she received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program. In 2010, Top Chef won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program.

Early life[edit]

Padma Lakshmi was born in Madras, India.[2][3][4][5][6] Her father was a Pfizer executive, and her mother, Vijaya, the first wife of her father,[7] was a nurse who specialized in oncology. Her mother tongue is Tamil.[8] She grew up shuttling between her grandparents in Chennai and her mother in New York.[6][9][10] She is her parents' only child from this marriage. Her parents separated when she was age one. They divorced a year later. Both parents later remarried,[11] and Lakshmi has a younger paternal half-brother and half-sister. The latter formerly worked as an actress and classical dancer but is now pursuing a career with children with special needs.[11] In an interview in The Guardian, Lakshmi said, "My father had quit his job as an executive at Pfizer to manage her career. That was kind of like rubbing salt in the wound. I didn't understand why he wanted that relationship with her, and not with me."[6]

In 1984 when she was 14 years old Lakshmi was hospitalized for three weeks, eventually diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which is caused by hypersensitivity to an infection or certain kinds of medications. Two days after discharge from the hospital she was in a car accident in Malibu, California, which left her with a fractured right hip and a shattered right upper arm.[12] The injury to her arm required surgery which left her with a 7-inch scar between her elbow and shoulder.


Lakshmi graduated from Workman High School in the City of Industry, California. She is a 1992 graduate of Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she received a BA, with Honors, in Theatre Arts.[13]

She speaks English, Tamil, Hindi, Italian and Spanish.[14]


Lakshmi at the Metropolitan Opera, September 2006


Lakshmi's career began at age 21, when she was discovered while studying abroad by a modeling agent in Madrid, Spain while sitting in a café.[6] As she has stated, "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."[11] Lakshmi managed to pay off her college loans while working as a model and actress.

She has modeled for top designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti and appeared in ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus.[15] She was a favorite model of the photographer Helmut Newton, whose photographs of her often highlighted the large scar on her right arm.[16]

Lakshmi 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.[17] Lakshmi also posed nude for the May 2009 issue of Allure magazine.[18]


Her first cookbook Easy Exotic, a compilation of international recipes and short memoirs, was awarded Best First Book at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards at Versailles. She was host of the Food Network series Padma's Passport, which was part of the larger series Melting Pot in 2001, where Lakshmi cooked recipes from around the world. She also hosted two one-hour specials on 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.[19] Her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet, was released October 2, 2007.[20]

Film and television[edit]

Lakshmi's first role was in an Italian murder mystery Il figlio di Sandokan and her subsequent role in Caraibi (Pirates: Blood Brothers), a costume drama about 17th-century pirates got Lakshmi hooked on acting in 1999. She had a comical supporting role as the lip synching disco singer Sylk in the 2001 American movie Glitter with Mariah Carey. She starred in the 2003 film Boom as Shiela Bardez, one of a trio of super models accused of stealing diamonds. She played the role of Geeta in Paul Mayeda Berges' 2005 film The Mistress of Spices.

Lakshmi served as hostess of Domenica In, Italy's top-rated television show in 1997.[7] She made a 2002 guest appearance as alien princess Kaitaama in "Precious Cargo", the 37th episode of the science fiction TV series Star Trek: Enterprise. Lakshmi portrayed Sean Bean's nemesis Madhuvanthi in the 2004–2005 TV series Sharpe's Challenge. In 2006, Lakshmi appeared in ABC's TV series The Ten Commandments with Dougray Scott, Naveen Andrews, and Omar Sharif. She serves as lead host and judge on the television show Top Chef, joining in 2006 during its second season, and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program as co-host in 2007. Lakshmi was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program in 2009 for Top Chef. The show won the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program in 2010. She is also an Executive Producer of the show.

Lakshmi has expressed a desire to work in Tamil films in future, and stated she would love to meet Kamal Haasan.[21]

Lakshmi made a guest appearance on the show 30 Rock in 2009, and appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2014.


Padma had a syndicated column in The New York Times and has written articles on style for the American edition of Vogue magazine, at Anna Wintour's request. She also wrote a column on style in Harper's Bazaar, following a commission from Editor Glenda Bailey.

Music video[edit]

In 2009, Lakshmi starred in the Eels video for the song "That Look You Give That Guy" playing the love interest of Mark Oliver Everett.[22]

Jewelry design[edit]

Combining her culinary and fashion style tastes, Lakshmi launched her first line of jewelry in 2009. Titled "Padma", the first collection consisted of forty pieces.

Personal life[edit]

On April 17, 2004, in New York City, Lakshmi married the novelist Salman Rushdie, twenty-three years her senior, to whom she was introduced at a party in 1999 hosted by the journalist and editor Tina Brown.[7] Rushdie dedicated his novel Fury to her.[23] On July 2, 2007, the couple filed for divorce.[24] Lakshmi has a four years old daughter, Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell with Adam Dell. Following a custody battle with Adam, Dell was added as a last name to her daughter's name. [25]


Lakshmi is a co-founder of The Endometriosis Foundation of America, which is a nonprofit organization focused on increasing awareness, education, research, and legislative advocacy against the disease. Padma is now a speaker and fundraiser at the MIT center for Gynepathology research[26] and gave the keynote address at its launch. She has also been a global ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, since 2007 and has traveled to KCA sites in India on their behalf.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Notes Role
1995 Unzipped Documentary (High Fashion) Herself
1997 Domenica In TV Series (Italy) 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, Drama) Sylk
Melting Pot: Padma's Passport TV Series (US, Cooking) Host
2002 Star Trek: Enterprise
 episode: "Precious Cargo"
TV Series (US, Sci-Fi) Kaitaama
2003 Boom Film (Indian, Drama) Shiela Bardez
2005 The Mistress of Spices Film (Drama) Geeta
2006 The Ten Commandments TV Series (US, Biblical) Princess Bithia
 episode: "Sharpe's Challenge"
TV Series (Action/History/War) Madhuvanthi
2006– Top Chef TV Series (US, Reality/Cooking) Host / Judge
2009 30 Rock
 episode: "The Problem Solvers"
TV Series (US, Comedy) Herself
2014 Whose Line Is It Anyway? TV Series (US, Comedy) Herself

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Padma Lakshmi". Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  2. ^ Gauri Sinh (January 25, 2002). "It's my life, says Padma Lakshmi". The Times of India. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  3. ^ Neha Tara Mehta (October 24, 2010). "Padma a secret in Rushdie memoir". India Today. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  4. ^ Amit Roy (April 30, 2006). "The Telegraph – Calcutta : Look". The Telegraph (Calcutta, India). Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  5. ^ Jennifer Bain (December 22, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi a global brand in the making". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d Jess Cartner-Morley, "Beautiful and Damned". The Guardian. April 8, 2006
  7. ^ a b c Stephen Henderson (April 25, 2004). "Weddings/Celebrations – Vows – Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-02. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  8. ^ K, Kannan (January 23, 2002). "Talk of The Town". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  9. ^ Escape Views Harpers & Queen—March 2004,
  10. ^ Divya Unny (July 5, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi..the woman who broke Rushdie's heart". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  11. ^ a b c Padma Lakshmi — Evening Standard Magazine
  12. ^ "Letter From New York". Vanity Fair. Issues 566-568. 2007. 
  13. ^ (2007)BIOS / Padma Lakshmi
  14. ^ Hattersley, Giles (April 2, 2006). "My husband? Oh, he's a writer dude". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2006. Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  15. ^ Padma Lakshmi Bio
  16. ^ D’Souza Wolfe, Nandini. "At Home with Padma". New York Press. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Press for Padma Lakshmi". Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  18. ^ Lysaght, Stephanie (April 13, 2009). "Padma Lakshmi of 'Top Chef' and Chelsea Handler of E! get naked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  19. ^ "Food – TV and radio". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  20. ^ Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (Hardcover)
  21. ^ "Padma Lakshmi – The Lotus Position, Filmfare". Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  22. ^ "Eels, 'That Look You Give That Guy' – Video Premiere – Spinner UK". September 1, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  23. ^ Fury
  24. ^ "Rushdie, Top Chef Wife Skewer Marriage". E! News. July 3, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. 
  25. ^ "Padma Lakshmi loses battle with ex Adam Dell so daughter will take his last name (but she'll still have her trust fund from Teddy Forstmann)". Daily Mail UK. March 15, 2012. 
  26. ^

External links[edit]