Padma Parvati Lakshmi, Lady Rushdie,
born September 1, 1970) is an Indian American cookbook author, actress,
and model. She has been the host of the US reality television program Top
Chef since season two. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award for
hosting Top Chef along with Tom Colicchio.
Her parents' only child together, Lakshmi is the daughter of a Pfizer
executive and his first wife, Vijaya a nurse who currently specializes in
suicide prevention. Her parents separated when she was one and divorced a
year later. Both parents later remarried.
In 1984, when she was 14 years old, Lakshmi was in a car accident, causing
an injury to her right arm that required surgery, which left a 7-inch scar
between her elbow and shoulder. The incident happened on a Sunday
afternoon as Lakshmi was being driven home from a Hindu temple in Malibu.
She remembers a flash of orange, looking over to see the large car upon
her. She described the event in the April 2001 edition of Vogue, saying,
"Being in a car crash was like an exhilarating hallucination, an
unbelievable moment that oddly remains one of the most beautiful images in
my memory." The car left Lakshmi with injuries that included a fractured
right hip and a shattered upper right arm.
From a later marriage of her father, Lakshmi has a half-brother and a
half-sister who was an actress and classical dancer but is now pursuing a
career 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
Lakshmi went to high school in the City of Industry, California. Lakshmi
is a 1992 graduate of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA,
where she received a B.A. with honors in Theatre Arts.
Lakshmi's career began at age 16, when she was discovered by a modeling
agent in Spain 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.”
She has modeled for top designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren,
and Alberta Ferretti and 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.
She has appeared on the cover of 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.
Lakshmi had a comical supporting role as the lip synching disco singer
Sylk in the 2001 American movie Glitter with Mariah Carey. She starred
with Amitabh Bachchan and Jackie Shroff in the 2003 Hindi action box
office failure Boom as Shiela Bardez, one of a trio of super models
accused of stealing diamonds. Lakshmi was last seen on screen as Geeta
with Aishwarya Rai and Dylan McDermott in Paul Mayeda Berges' 2005 film
The Mistress of Spices. She will be starring in Deepa Mehta's upcoming
film, Komagata Maru which was earlier titled Exclusion.
Padma Lakshmi made a 2002 guest appearance as alien princess Kaitaama in
"Precious Cargo", the 37th episode of the science fiction TV series Star
Trek: Enterprise. She was also hostess of Domenica In, Italy's top-rated
television show. She portrayed Sean Bean's nemesis in the 2004-2005 iTV 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
took over as host of the popular TV cooking competition series Top Chef in
2006 during its second season and has continued every season since then.
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.
Her first cookbook Easy Exotic was awarded Best First Book at the 1999
World Cookbook Awards at Versailles. She was host of the Food Network
series, Padma's Passport, which is part of the larger series Melting Pot,
in 2001. She also hosted two one-hour specials on India and Spain for the
British culinary tourism show Planet Food, which have been broadcast on
the Food Network in the US and internationally on the Discovery Channels.
Her second cookbook Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet was released October 2,
On April 17, 2004, in New York City, Lakshmi married the novelist Salman
Rushdie, to whom she was introduced at a party hosted by the journalist
and editor Tina Brown. On July 2, 2007, the couple filed for divorce. She
is the model for one of the central characters — and love interests — in
Rushdie's novel, Fury (a novel dedicated to her as well).
When questioned about Rushdie's age (he is only seven years younger than
her father) and her long estrangement from her father (whom she has
described as "the most sexy, manic, in-shape, lean, tall, handsome man I
have ever met"), Lakshmi has said that there may be a correlation: “I
think that we are attracted to what we feel we need."
On October 1, 2009, after years of struggling with endometriosis, a
condition which causes irregularities in the uterus and has been known to
cause infertility, it was publicly confirmed that Lakshmi is pregnant with
her first child. Lakshmi has always been coy about the identity of her
unborn child's father with reports speculating surrounding Teddy Forstmann
and friend Adam Dell.
Lakshmi was brought up as a vegetarian and has admitted that because of
this, she sometimes becomes "squeamish" when sampling other cultural
delicacies. However, in 2009, she starred in a commercial for the Carl's
Jr restaurant chain eating a Western Bacon Cheeseburger and in her second
cookbook Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet she credits the chain with bringing
her away from vegetarianism during her teenage years.