We've always been a little jealous of Padma Lakshmi, the gorgeous host of Bravo's cooking competition show "Top Chef." After all, she's beautiful, smart, seems to eat whatever she wants while maintaing a flawless figure... and she's an Emmy nominee to boot. Still, despite all of our Padma-envy, we really like her. While on the surface it may look like she's had an easy road to stardom, she's definitely had some bumps on her journey. Check out these surprising facts about Padma Lakshmi through the years.
People are so fascinated by Padma Lakshmi's scar that Vogue magazine dedicated an entire article to it in 2001. Here's the story behind the fashion world's most famous flaw: When Padma was just 14 years old, she was riding home from a Hindu temple in Malibu, California, when her family's car careened off the freeway down a 40-foot embankment. Luckily, a tree broke their fall. A conscious Padma sat, covered in broken glass, for 40 minutes until paramedics rescued her with the Jaws of Life. Her hip and right arm were shattered, and the surgery that followed left a scar — seven inches long, one inch wide — on her right arm. She was sure her dreams of a modeling career were over. But with her undeniable beauty, coupled with body makeup and long sleeves, she was able to get some modeling work. Still, the scar was impacting her career, so she had injections to flatten it and chemical dermabrasion to lighten its color.
Finally, famed photographer Helmut Newton changed her life. Having booked her for a second job (after she canceled the first, due to fear of posing fully nude), Newton was devastated to see that Padma had removed the dark spots from her scar. He told her that she had ruined its beauty. His solution was to have the makeup artist add lipstick spots to restore the defect to what Helmut saw as its natural beauty. Word spread of Helmut's approval, and suddenly work was pouring in, including an 18-page shoot for Italian Elle. These days, Padma embraces her scar, wearing it as a survivor's badge of courage.
Two months before the accident that caused Padma Lakshmi's scar, she had her first photo shoot. A local photographer took her pictures on the Santa Monica Pier with the hopes of making her a star. But Padma's mother wasn't crazy about the idea of her 14-year-old daughter modeling, so the photographer promised to hold the shots until her mom said it was OK to send them out to agencies. Never feeling pretty enough (and because of her scar), Padma didn't initially pursue a career in modeling. And her physical issues weren't her only hurdle — there weren't a lot of faces like Lakshmi's in the fashion industry. In fact, the only woman of a similar ethnicity that Padma could recall when she was starting out was pretty Pakistani poser Yasmeen Ghauri. Ultimately, this didn't stop the Kerala-born Lakshmi. She became the first Indian beauty to have a successful runway career in the meccas of modeling: New York, Milan, and Paris.
You Can't Judge a Book
Looking at Padma Lakshmi, you'd think she could pick any top model or movie star to be her man. But when she married in 2004, she chose brains over beauty. The then 34-year-old Lakshmi took 57-year-old author Salman Rushdie to be her husband. She met the notorious scribe of "The Satanic Verses" at a party for magazine editor Tina Brown's new rag, Talk, in 1999. Besides the obvious age difference, Padma is two inches taller and a million times hotter than Salman. But they cultivated a long-distance telephone friendship and eventually fell in love. Less than a year after Rushdie and wife #3 split, he married Padma in a Hindi-influenced ceremony. Ironically, it seems that one of the reasons for their divorce was the fact that the author, who is most famous for going into hiding when a fatwa was issued on him, liked to go out, while Padma is more of a homebody. They had no children, but they'll have an eternal connection: he modeled the character Malik Solanka in his novel "The Fury" after Lakshmi, scar and all.
How the "Top Chef" Star Stays in Top Shape
We always wonder how someone who makes a living eating can stay as thin as Padma does. After all, when "Top Chef" is in production, she has to sample each and every one of the buttery, rich concoctions that the contestants prepare for the head-to-head cooking bouts — every day, for five weeks straight. Well, believe it or not, Padma is not perfect, and she tends to gain 10-to-15 pounds a season, so the show's wardrobe department keeps two dress sizes around her for to expand into for the season's later episodes. Even with the weight fluctuations, Padma manages to stay trim by carrying a jump rope with her when the show is filming. And when the series is on hiatus, she spends a lot of time in the gym (boxing, doing the treadmill, and lifting weights), and she cuts out all red meat, cheese, and alcohol from her diet. Now that's a culinary challenge.
Bad Movie Star
Padma graduated from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1992 with a degree in theater arts. And while most of us know her for her work in reality TV, she has a few feature film flops under her belt as well. She played the lip-synching singer Sylk in the 2001 cult classic (aka really bad Mariah Carey movie) "Glitter," a fashion model in the Hindi action flick "Boom," and an Indian-American girl in "The Mistress of Spices." She's fared a little better in scripted TV, appearing on "Star Trek: Enterprise" and on a recent episode of "30 Rock."
And She Can Cook, Too
Whenever we see Padma on "Top Chef," she's eating. Little did we know that she can cook, too. Lakshmi has written two culinary tomes: "Easy Exotic," which won the 1999 World Cookbook Awards at Versailles, and "Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet," which was released in 2007. But could she win a Quickfire Challenge using only ingredients she pulled out of a vending machine? We think not.
Who Da Baby Daddy?
Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie divorced in 2007, and she hasn't had a high-profile romance since. So gossip columnists were shocked in October of this year when Lakshmi announced that she's pregnant. Since then, the burning question has been the identity of the baby dady. Padma isn't saying who the father is. And, hopefully, she isn't taking her cousin, Manu Nathan, to any more red carpet events. He was falsely ID'd as the dad-to-be when photos surfaced of Padma with him at the "Inglourious Basterds" premiere. Rumors are also swirling that Teddy Forstmann, a 69-year-old billionaire, might be the father. Whoever the private proud papa is, Padma must be grateful, as she has reportedly tried to conceive for many years.
Nude Is Good
Padma canceled her first photo shoot with Helmut Newton early in her career because she was afraid to pose nude. But she seems to have embraced the concept of baring it all. Just this past year, she's done two nude spreads. The first was part of Allure magazine's "The Naked Truth" feature. And most recently, a six-month pregnant Padma went au naturel for a shoot for Page Six magazine and told them she likes being naked: "When anyone put clothes on, he immediately puts a character on."
That Look You Give That Guy
Earlier this year, Eels' guitarist and lead singer Mark Oliver Everett lived out his fantasy: he had a date with Padma Lakshmi. She came to his house, had dinner, played with his dog, then he taught her a few chords on the guitar, and they kissed goodnight. Unfortunately for Everett, who told Spinner.com, "I always dreamt of dating someone as beautiful as Padma Lakshmi," it was all part of the band's music video for the song "That Look You Give That Guy." Oh well, at least he got to live out his fantasy on camera.
Written by Amy & Nancy Harrington
Originally for GetBack.com