Family & Companions
As a former high-fashion model, Padma Lakshmi made her mark strutting down runways in the 1990s for such haute couturiers as Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Alberta Ferretti. The onetime wife of controversial novelist Salman Rushdie, author of 1988's controversial The Satanic Verses, Lakshmi was also a best-selling author in her own right. Her first book, the award-winning, Easy Exotic: A Model's Low-fat Recipes from Around the World (1999) sold extremely well, winning her accolades from the culinary world. A popular television personality to boot, Lakshmi also appeared on a number of programs, usually, as her glamorous self. Given her areas of expertise, it was only a matter of time before Lakshmi was hired to host her own cooking show. Her first program, "Padma's Passport" (Food Network, 2005-06) led to her next gig as host of cable's top-rated competitive reality program, "Top Chef" (Bravo, 2005- ). By 2010, the former model had become a brand unto herself, boasting a résumé that included stints as a cookbook author, reality show host, jewelry designer, and actress in television and film, with more occupational hats likely on the way.
Born in Madras, India, in 1970, Lakshmi was the daughter of an Indian father and a European mother. Named after the Sanskrit word for "lotus," Padma shared her surname with Lakshmi, the revered Hindu goddess of prosperity. Exceedingly beautiful as a child, Lakshmi was a favorite of her relatives, particularly, her grandparents. Still, Lakshmi was taught from early on that a proper Indian wife's greatest asset should be not her beauty, but her skills in the kitchen. It was a lesson that Lakshmi would obviously take to heart and one which would inform her later life. The happiness of her childhood was interrupted when, in 1984, 14-year-old Lakshmi was involved in a serious automobile accident, causing an injury to her right arm that required surgery, leaving a seven-inch scar between her elbow and shoulder. Although some might have let such a visible injury alter their career plans - particularly those of a model/actress - Lakshmi forged ahead, making peace with the scar; in time, even proudly showing it off. It would become her signature feature.
Breaking into acting while modeling in Europe, Lakshmi appeared in a number of popular Italian series, including the comedy program, "Linda e il Brigadiere" (Italia-1, 1997-96). In 2001, Lakshmi landed a supporting role in her first American release, the much-panned "Glitter," starring pop songstress Mariah Carey. Quickly putting that unfortunate bit of resume fluff behind her, Lakshmi continued collecting credits in showier roles. In 2002, Lakshmi became a darling of sci-fi geeks the world over when she guested as an exotic alien princess in an episode of "Star Trek: Enterprise" (UPN, 2001-05). Lakshmi also landed a supporting role in the blockbuster Bollywood drama, "The Mistress of Spices" (2005) starring Aishwarya Rai and Dylan McDermott. With her career on a roll, Lakshmi popped up again in 2006 opposite Dougray Scott, Naveen Andrews and Omar Sharif for the U.S. miniseries adaptation of "The Ten Commandments" on ABC.
But it would be Lakshmi's first great passion - cooking - that would kick her career into high gear. When Lakshmi's first book, Easy Exotic, was awarded Best First Book at the 1999 World Cookbook Awards in Versailles, it launched Lakshmi's career into unexpected new territory. In 2001, the former model got her own show, "Padma's Passport," which was part of the Food Network's popular "Melting Pot" series. Lakshmi was later tapped to replace Katie Lee Joel, wife of singer Billy Joel, as host of the second season of Bravo's runaway hit reality cooking show, "Top Chef." She immediately took the reigns and became the show's most visible star, which earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host For a Reality or Reality-Competition Program in 2009. With her visibility increasing almost exponentially, Lakshmi appeared as herself on a 2009 episode of the hit comedy series "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-13).
As well as her professional life was going, things were looking even brighter on the personal front for Lakshmi. She was overjoyed when, after years of unsuccessful attempts - due in part to a medical condition known as endometriosis - she became pregnant in 2009 and gave birth to her daughter, Krishna, in February of 2010. Although Lakshmi initially refused to divulge the identity of Krishna's father, he was later revealed to be millionaire venture capitalist, Adam Dell, who Lakshmi had been dating since 2007. However, the couple had already split prior Krishna's birth, and by early 2011, Dell began a very public and messy custody lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend in an effort to gain joint custody of the child. Despite the tabloid nature of these personal developments, her work on TV continued apace when "Top Chef" won the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition program. In 2011, Lakshmi expanded her exposure when she appeared as a guest judge on "Top Chef: Masters" (Bravo, 2008-13), as well as an episode of "Rocco's Dinner Party" (Bravo, 2011- ).
Made acting debut in the Italian series, "Linda e il brigadiere"
Published first cookbook <i>Easy Exotic: Low-Fat Recipes from Around the World</i>
Hosted a documentary series called "Planet Food" for the Food Network
Hosted the Food Network series, "Padma's Passport"
Made film debut as the lip synching disco singer, Sylk in "Glitter" with Mariah Carey
Appeared as an alien princess in an episode of "Star Trek: Enterprise" (UPN)
Co-starred with Amitabh Bachchan and Jackie Shroff in the Bollywood film "Boom"
Portrayed Sean Bean's nemesis in the BBC's two-part mini-series "Sharpe's Challenge"
Co-starred in Paul Mayeda Berges' "The Mistress of Spices"
Appeared in ABC's mini-series "The Ten Commandments" with Dougray Scott, Naveen Andrews, and Omar Sharif
Joined Bravo's "Top Chef" at the start of the second season, replacing Katie Lee Joel as the host; earned an Emmy nomination in 2009 as Host for a Reality/Competition Program
Released second cookbook <i>Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet</i>
Nominated for the 2009 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
Began producing on "Top Chef"
Played herself on the TV series "Royal Pains"
Was a guest co-host on the daytime talk show "The View"
Published <i>The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs</i>
Published her memoir <i>Love, Loss and What We Ate</i>