Lakshmi at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
|Native name||Tamil: பத்மா பார்வதி லக்ஷ்மி வைத்யநாதன்|
|Born||Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan
(1970-09-01) September 1, 1970
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
|Occupation||Model, author, actress, TV host|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
Padma Lakshmi (pronounced [ˈpəd̪maː ˈləkʃmiː], பத்மா லக்ஷ்மி; born Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan; September 1, 1970) is an Indian-born American 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. Her debut memoir Love, Loss and What We Ate was released on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.
Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. Her father was a Pfizer executive, and her mother, Vijaya, is a retired nurse who specialized in oncology. Her parents divorced when she was two, and both parents later remarried. Lakshmi is her mother’s only child, but she 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 working with children with special needs. 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.”
Lakshmi’s mother moved to the United States to escape the stigma of divorce in India. She grew up shuttling between her grandparents in Chennai and her mother in New York. Her native tongue is Tamil, her parents being Tamil Brahmin Iyers.
In 1984, when she was 14 years old, Lakshmi was hospitalized for three weeks, and eventually diagnosed with Stevens–Johnson syndrome, which is caused by hypersensitivity to an infection or certain kinds of medications. Two days after her 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. 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. During her time in school, she chose to study abroad in Madrid, which is where her modeling career began.
Lakshmi’s modeling career began at age 21 while studying abroad in Madrid, when she was discovered by an agent one afternoon while sitting in a café. 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.” Lakshmi was able to pay off her college loans by 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 has appeared in ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus. She was a favorite model of the photographer Helmut Newton, whose photographs of her often highlighted the large scar on her right arm. After Newton’s endorsement of Lakshmi, she was increasingly sought after by other major photographers and designers.
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. Lakshmi also posed nude for the May 2009 issue of Allure magazine.
Her first cookbook Easy Exotic, a compilation of international recipes and short essays, was awarded Best First Book at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards at Versailles. She hosted 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. Her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet, was released on October 2, 2007. Her first memoir, entitled “Love, Loss and What We Ate,” was released on International’s Women’s Day, March 8, 2016. Lakshmi has since also released the “Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs” in October 2016.
Film and television
Lakshmi’s first role was in an Italian pirate movie 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, starring Mariah Carey. Lakshmi 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 also made a guest appearance on the NBC series 30 Rock in 2009, and appeared on Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2014.
Lakshmi served as hostess of Domenica In, Italy’s top-rated television show in 1997. In 2002, she made a 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 currently serves as the host and one of the judges on the television show Top Chef, having joined in 2006 during its second season. Top Chef was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program 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. Lakshmi also serves as an Executive Producer of the show.
Lakshmi launched her first line of jewelry in 2009 entitled “Padma,” which consisted of forty pieces. Lakshmi also has two tableware collections. The first, entitled “The Padma Collection,” is a line of elegant dinnerware composed of Moroccan ceramics and Turkish glass. The second is a line of more casual kitchenware called Easy Exotic. Under the Easy Exotic brand, Padma also has a line of specialty spices and teas, which were sold on HSN, as well as a line of organic frozen rices, which can be purchased at most major grocery stores.
Lakshmi 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 for Harper’s Bazaar (in the UK and US), following a commission from Editor Glenda Bailey.
On April 17, 2004, Lakshmi married the novelist Salman Rushdie, after living together for three years. Rushdie dedicated his novel Fury to her. On July 2, 2007, the couple filed for divorce. Lakshmi has one daughter, Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell (born February 20, 2010), with venture capitalist Adam Dell, brother of Michael Dell. She was also in a relationship with Teddy Forstmann, the Ex chairman and former CEO of IMG.
At age 36, Lakshmi was diagnosed with a chronic disease called endometriosis, which she has suffered from since early adolescence. As Lisa Goldstein reported at womenshealth.com, the disease causes
intense pain, cramping, nausea, headache, fatigue, and excessive blood flow. “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,” [Lakshmi] says. “So I expected the pain, saw my mother go through it in fact, month in and month out.” …
[Lakshmi] had a couple of ovarian cysts removed when she was 30, yet her doctor didn’t 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,” she recalls. “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.” …
Not only does endometriosis affect a woman’s fertility and physical health, but it’s devastating emotionally, says Lakshmi. “Nobody wants to talk about this stuff,” she says. “It’s an incredibly private subject for most women, and even more so for a teenage girl. If I had been diagnosed at 16, or 26 or even 32, I would have gained valuable time. I would have been able to be more present for my family and friends… [had] a greater capacity to advance professionally, and I would have also had a greater capacity for intimacy.” …
As Lakshmi says, endometriosis causes all kinds of scars, including many that can’t be seen with a surgeon’s scope. And this is why she started the [Endometriosis Foundation of America]. “I didn’t want the next generation of women to go through what I went through, to feel betrayed by their own bodies or to feel alone,” she says.
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. The EFA was instrumental in the opening of the MIT center for Gynepathology research, where Lakshmi gave the keynote address. She is a global ambassador for Keep a Child Alive, and since 2007 has traveled to KCA sites in India on their behalf. She is also a strong advocate for women’s rights.
|1995||Unzipped||Documentary (High Fashion)||Herself|
|1997||Domenica In||TV Series (Italy)||Host|
|1998||Il Figlio di Sandokan||TV Series (Italian, Drama)|
|1999||Caraibi – Pirates: 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|
episode: “The Problem Solvers“
|TV Series (US, Comedy)||Herself|
|2014||Whose Line Is It Anyway?||TV Series (US, Comedy)||Herself|