Real name: Padma Lakshmi
Partner: Salman Rushdie
Padma Parvati Lakshmi, Lady Rushdie (born September 1, 1970 in Chennai, India) is an Indian-American cookbook author, actress, and model who has described herself as the first well-known model from India. She has been the host of the reality television program Top Chef since season two and is an ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
She was born into a South Indian, Malayali family in 1970 and raised in Madras, India and the United States. Her first name means "lotus" in Sanskrit, as well as "pearl" or "jewel." Parvati is a consort of Shiva. Lakshmi is the name of the Hindu goddess of wealth.
Her parents' only child, Lakshmi is the daughter of an executive with Pfizer and his first wife, Vijaya, a nurse who presently specializes in suicide prevention. The senior Lakshmis separated when their daughter was one and divorced a year later. Both parents later remarried; her mother's third and present husband is a plumber. She reportedly had no further contact with her father until 1998.
Lakshmi was brought up as a vegetarian and has admitted that because of this, she sometimes becomes "squeamish" when sampling other cultural delicacies. She also has been diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition which results in a hypersensitivity to infection and some medicines.
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. By him, she has two stepsons, Zafar and Milan. On July 2, 2007 the couple filed for divorce, shortly after Rushdie was granted a knighthood.
When questioned about Rushdie's age (he is 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."
She has modeled for top designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti and done 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.
Padma Lakshmi made a 2002 guest appearance as alien princess Kaitaama in Precious Cargo, the 37th episode of the popular 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. Padma took over as hostess of the popular TV cooking competition series Top Chef in 2006 during its second season and continues in 2007 in its third season.
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. She has also been a guest host on parts of the British culinary tourism show Planet Food, hosting the segments on India and Spain. Her second cookbook Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet is due for release in September 2007.