Padma Parvati Lakshmi is an Indian-American activist, author, philanthropist, model and television host. Born in India, Lakshmi moved to New York as a toddler, before moving to La Puente, California. At the young age of fourteen, she was hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome. After her discharge from the hospital, while on the way to the temple to pray with her mother, she was in a car crash that broke her pelvis and shattered her upper right arm; the latter surgery leaving her with a seven-inch scar along her arm. It was this scar that would become her distinguishing feature during her modeling career.
Lakshmi attended Clark University in Massachusetts, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and American literature. While studying abroad in Spain, she was scouted by a modeling agent, thus becoming known as India’s first supermodel. She began a successful modeling career, working for affluent designers such as Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, and Ralph Lauren, among others.
During her career, Lakshmi appeared on the covers of Vogue India, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She then transitioned to acting roles with bit appearances in Glitter, starring Mariah Carey, and an appearance on the Star Trek: Enterprise television series. During her role in the Italian miniseries, Caraibi, she gained thirty pounds for the part. After this role, she would release her first cookbook Easy Exotic, a collection low-calorie recipes that helped her lose the weight previously gained for the acting role, and inadvertently launched her career in the food industry. The book ended up being a great success, and opened the door for her first show on the Food Network: Padma’s Passport.
Lakshmi was then chosen to replace Katie Lee as the host of Bravo’s Top Chef, and has been the esteemed host of the show for the last eighteen seasons. Since becoming host of Top Chef she has received multiple Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Reality Host. She has since created, produced and starred in the critically acclaimed Hulu docuseries, Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. She has published five more books since Easy Exotic, including her first children’s book, Tomatoes for Neela.
After being diagnosed with endometriosis in 2007, she co-founded the non-profit Endometriosis Foundation of America. Ambassador for immigration and women’s rights for the American Civil Liberties Union, she is known as an activist and advocate for equality.
In 2018, Lakshmi became an ordained minister with ULC in order to officiate a mass same-sex wedding for an airing of Top Chef. While the episode was filmed prior to the Supreme Court ruling that made marriage a legal right for all Americans, it was an important way for all involved in the show to take a political stand for marriage equality.
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