Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi with Malcolm Smith (cropped).jpg
Lakshmi in 2020
Padma Parvati Lakshmi

(1970-09-01) September 1, 1970 (age 51)
Alma materClark University
OccupationModel, author, actress, television host
Years active1992–present
(m. 2004; div. 2007)
Partner(s)Theodore J. Forstmann (2009–2011)
Modeling information
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Hair colorBlack
Eye colorBrown

Padma Parvati Lakshmi (Tamil pronunciation: ['pəd̪mə 'ləkɕmi]; born September 1, 1970)[1] is an Indian American author, activist, model, and television host. She has hosted the cooking competition program Top Chef on Bravo continuously since season 2 (2006). For her work, she received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Host in 2009 and 2020. She is also the creator, host, and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed[citation needed] docuseries Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, which premiered in June 2020 on Hulu and explores the food and culture of immigrant and indigenous communities across America.

She has published six books: two cookbooks, Easy Exotic and Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet; an encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World; a memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate; a children's book, Tomatoes for Neela illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, and guest edited The Best American Travel Writing 2021.

Early life

Padma Parvati Lakshmi was born in Madras (now Chennai), India, into a Tamil brahmin family.[2][3][4][5][6][7] Her mother Vijaya is a retired oncology nurse. Her parents divorced when she was two years old.

Lakshmi immigrated to the United States at age four and was raised in New York City before moving to La Puente, California with her mother and stepfather.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] The arm injury required surgery, which left her with a seven-inch scar between her elbow and shoulder.[10]

In a 2018 essay for The New York Times, Lakshmi revealed that she had been raped at the age of 16 by her older boyfriend, which she did not report. She stated that her decision to keep silent about the rape was informed by an earlier sexual assault she experienced at the age of seven, by her stepfather's relative. After telling her mother and stepfather about the assault, she was sent to India to live with her grandparents for a year. She wrote that, "The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out." She went on to say, "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 graduated from William Workman High School in City of Industry, California,[8] in 1988.[13]

Lakshmi attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, graduating with a degree in theater arts and American literature in 1992. She began her modeling career while an exchange student in Madrid, Spain.



Lakshmi's modeling career began at age 21, when she was discovered by a modeling agent while studying abroad in Madrid.[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."[14] 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.[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 has appeared on the covers of Redbook, Vogue India, FHM, Cosmopolitan, L'Officiel India, Asian Woman, Elle, Avenue, Industry Magazine, Marie Claire (India Edition), Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country, and Newsweek.[17] She also posed nude for the May 2009 issue of Allure.[18]

She has done shoots for photographers Mario Testino and Helmut Newton.[10][19]

Film, television, and hosting

Lakshmi is the current host and one of the judges on the television show Top Chef. The show has been nominated for a 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 and in 2020 for Top Chef.

Lakshmi is also the creator, host, and executive producer of Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, which premiered on Hulu on June 18, 2020[20] and received the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series [21] and a Critic's Choice Award for Best Culinary Show.[22] Taste the Nation received 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.[23] In 2021, Hulu released a 4-episode special, Taste the Nation: Holiday Edition. In Taste the Nation, Lakshmi collectively expands and redefines the meaning of American food.[24]

Previously, Lakshmi first served as a host of Domenica In, Italy's top-rated television show, in 1997.[25] She hosted the Food Network series Padma's Passport,[19] 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.[26]

Lakshmi was also an official contributor for season 19 of The View from 2015 to 2016.[27] 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.[28] She has appeared on See Us Coming Together, "a special that celebrates the rich diversity of Asian and Pacific Islander communities as part of Sesame Workshop’s ongoing racial justice initiative".[29]

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).[30] 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".[31]

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.[citation needed]

Books and writing

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[32] and was reissued in March 2021 [33] and was named one of Apple's Best Books of 2021.[34] Her first memoir, Love, Loss and What We Ate, was released on International's Women's Day, March 8, 2016. Lakshmi's third book, an encyclopedia and reference guide, The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs on October 4, 2016.[35] Her first children's book Tomatoes for Neela, released on August 31, 2021 and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, debuted fourth on The New York Times best-seller list.

Lakshmi also guest edited The Best American Travel Writing 2021, a collection of essays from renowned travel writers.

Lakshmi wrote a syndicated column in The New York Times[36] 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.

Personal life

In April 2004, after living together for five years, Lakshmi married novelist Salman Rushdie. In July 2007, the couple filed for divorce.[37] She was in a relationship with billionaire Theodore J. Forstmann from 2009 until his death in 2011.[38][39] During a break in her relationship with Forstmann, she had a daughter, Krishna (b. 2010), with businessman Adam Dell.[40]

Lakshmi speaks five languages: English, Spanish, Italian, Tamil and Hindi.[41]

At the age of 36, Lakshmi was diagnosed with endometriosis,[42] which she has had since early adolescence.


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.[43][44] The foundation was instrumental in the opening of the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research, where Lakshmi gave the keynote address.[45] She is a global ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, and since 2007 has traveled to sites in India on their behalf.


Lakshmi is known as an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights and the independent restaurant industry[46] and is a strong advocate of women's rights.[47]

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 with darker skin, particularly in non-white majority nations.[48] She has also spoken about the colorism she has experienced while living in India and the United States.[49][50]

Lakshmi was appointed United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador on March 7, 2019. "My main mission as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador is to shine a spotlight on the fact that inequality can affect people in rich and poor countries alike. Many nations have greatly reduced poverty, but inequality has proved more stubborn," said Lakshmi. "Inequality is further compounded by gender, age, ethnicity and race. It especially affects women, minorities and others who face unimaginable discrimination in the societies in which they live."[51] In December 2021, she received the Advocate of the Year Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA).[52]

Selected filmography

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–present 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–present Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi TV Series (US, Cooking) Herself, host and executive producer
2022 Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness TV Series (US, Fun Educative) Herself, guest and expert

See also


  1. ^ "Padma Lakshmi". TV Guide. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  2. ^ Cox, Interview by Ana Marie (March 17, 2016). "Padma Lakshmi Won't Date Men Who Aren't Feminists". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  3. ^ Gauri Sinh (January 25, 2002). "It's my life, says Padma Lakshmi". The Times of India. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Neha Tara Mehta (October 24, 2010). "Padma a secret in Rushdie memoir". India Today. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Jennifer Bain (December 22, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi a global brand in the making". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  7. ^ With a new series of her own, Padma Lakshmi is at the top of her game : Washington Post
  8. ^ a b Yamato, Jen; Shyong, Frank. "Padma Lakshmi". Asian Enough (Podcast). The Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Hauser, Christine (March 9, 2016). "Padma Lakshmi Opens Up About Rushdie in Memoir". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d 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. ^ "Letter From New York". Vanity Fair. Vol. Issues 566–568. 2007.
  12. ^ 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." In Newsmakers. Vol. 2. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2012. Gale In Context: Biography (accessed July 17, 2020).
  14. ^ Padma Lakshmi — Evening Standard Magazine
  15. ^ Padma Lakshmi Bio Archived November 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ D'Souza Wolfe, Nandini. "At Home with Padma". New York Press. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  17. ^ "Press for Padma Lakshmi". Archived from the original on November 28, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  18. ^ Lysaght, Stephanie (April 13, 2009). "Padma Lakshmi of 'Top Chef' and Chelsea Handler of E! get naked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  19. ^ a b Unny, Divya (July 5, 2007). "Padma Lakshmi..the woman who broke Rushdie's heart". DNAIndia. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  20. ^ "Taste the Nation". Hulu Press. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  21. ^ Davis, Clayton (January 12, 2021). "'Nomadland' Wins Best Feature at Gotham Awards, Riz Ahmed and Nicole Beharie Upset in Acting Categories". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  22. ^ BEST CULINARY SHOW - 3rd Annual Critics Choice REAL TV Awards, retrieved February 10, 2022
  23. ^ Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi, retrieved February 10, 2022
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Food – TV and radio". BBC. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  27. ^ "Season 19 of 'The View' kicks off with new cast, old favorite". ABC7 San Francisco. September 8, 2015.
  28. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (December 27, 2017). "Padma Lakshmi Faced off with Randy Jackson and It Got Really Savage". Bravo.
  29. ^ "See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special | Sesame Workshop". Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  30. ^ "Escape Views". Harpers & Queen. March 2004. Archived from the original on November 28, 2004.
  31. ^ "Eels, 'That Look You Give That Guy' – Video Premiere – Spinner UK". September 1, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  32. ^ Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day (Hardcover)
  33. ^ "Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi Serves It Up Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet". Cherry Bombe. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  34. ^ "Apple's Best Books of 2021". Apple Books.
  35. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs". HarperCollins. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  36. ^ "Padma Kakshmi's column". New York Times.
  37. ^ "Rushdie, Top Chef Wife Skewer Marriage". E!. July 3, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  38. ^ "The Unwritable Memoirs of Teddy Forstmann: How the Billionaire Treated His Ghostwriters". Vanity Fair. January 11, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  39. ^ "Teddy Forstmann Wanted Padma Lakshmi's Baby to Be Raised as His Own Daughter". Vanity Fair. January 3, 2013. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  40. ^ Padma Lakshmi Is 50! Top Chef Host Feels 'Truly Blessed' as She Celebrates with Partner Adam Dell People, Claudia Harmata, September 01, 2020
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ "Padma Lakshmi shares her struggle with endometriosis". Redbook Magazine. October 17, 2011. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2016 – via YouTube.
  43. ^ "ABC Nightline: Padma Lakshmi: Where Foodie Meets Fashion". Hulu. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  44. ^ 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. ((cite journal)): External link in |quote= (help)
  45. ^ cambchron (December 8, 2009), TV host of 'Top Chef' Padma Lakshmi speaks at MIT, retrieved February 12, 2016
  46. ^ "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.
  47. ^ Lakshmi: Problem goes beyond gang rape, CNN, January 9, 2013, retrieved February 12, 2016 – via YouTube
  48. ^ Furdyk, Brent (June 9, 2020). "Padma Lakshmi Slams Skin-Lightening Cream Targeting People Of Colour". ET Canada. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  49. ^ 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.
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ "Padma Lakshmi". UNDP. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  52. ^ "UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Padma Lakshmi Wins 2021 Advocate of the Year Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) | United Nations Development Programme". UNDP. Retrieved February 10, 2022.