Padma Lakshmi has said on record more than once that she’s a feminist and … unlikely to be able to be friends with anyone who isn’t. I got a chance to meet her for a quick interview today and to moderate a Facebook Live with her for her publisher HarperCollins India — and she laughs when I quote that back to her. It’s true too, she says.
Also Read: Padma Lakshmi on Food Writing and Feminism
She’s on a book tour in India promoting both the very personal Love, Loss and What We Ate, and the Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs — and is doing a book signing at Bahrisons Bookstore in Khan Market this evening (in case you’re around, she’s promised to sign as many copies as are available!), and will jet to Bengaluru and her native Chennai to round out her book tour. She says she is looking forward to interacting with her fans and readers in India, and connecting to a peer group she missed out on knowing, given her entire working career being in the US.
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— amrita tripathi (@amritat) February 8, 2017
Her memoir is very detailed (sometimes too much so) but nowhere is it stronger than when it discusses her own insecurities and “impostor syndrome” from when she was younger. The need to be taken seriously, the need to be taken ‘more’ seriously than just as a supermodel and TV host, the need to prove her mettle as a writer, and the naked honesty with which she describes relationship issues packs quite the punch.
It’s not just Salman Rushdie, either — she’s equally honest about her relationship with the late billionaire Theodore “Teddy” Forstmann and Adam Dell and not being sure who was the biological father of her child until a paternity test was conducted. There’s a few bittersweet lines from when she realises how much Forstmann meant to her in the process, the hurt and several other feelings when he realised that Dell was the father, but also the tightly-knit bonding, and…then his diagnosis of cancer and his passing away.
Which is all to say, it feels very real — going beyond just the veneer of sophistication and glamour that you would expect from the Top Chef host and former supermodel. (Though you’ll get more than your share of how she learned the tricks of the trade and more about culture and food from her stint in Europe as a young adult!)
I didn’t ask her about Rushdie (possibly the first interview to skip past that) — partly in the interest of time, but mainly because her identity has so successfully moved from being linked to his. There is also a lot that she says in the book, for those of you who are curious, and between Rushdie’s Joseph Anton and Lakshmi’s memoir, I think we know way more than we need to (almost) about where / how that relationship happened and how it ended.
I did ask her about her honesty when it comes to talking about the debilitating illness endometriosis, which she suffers from, and which prompted her to set up a foundation… As well as about her wonderful honesty when it comes to body image and going up a few dress sizes, each season of Top Chef. She writes of going from a size 4 to a size 14 in motherhood … and that as someone in the public eye, how she is always being asked about how she manages to look so good (a question that her male co-hosts don’t get, for one!). She makes it clear that it takes work. From taking out the time to gym, to exercising willpower when it comes to food choices. No shortcuts. Not for that. And not for the writing either.
We will not be silenced. We are America too. And we immigrants make America great not again but Always! https://t.co/PkJrlKBlBS
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) February 8, 2017
It should be interesting to see what Lakshmi gets up to next — because she’s sure found her voice, and how! She recently spoke about being a part of the incredible Women’s March, taking her young daughter Krishna along… and being part of that resistance to US President Donald Trump and what he stands for. She wasn’t always “political”, she says, but is calling out the racism and sexism as she sees it. As an immigrant in the US, at this particular juncture, it’s probably the most poignant and apt moment for her to do so.
Do check out the video of the interview coming soon over on Harper Broadcast