“Top Chef”s Padma Lakshmi Featured in Harper’s Bazaar
Padma Lakshmi, the glamorous host of Bravo’s, “Top Chef,” is the cover girl and feature of a story in November’s Harper’s Bazaar.
I have reposted the full article below, and you can view the photo gallery here.
Reposted from Harpersbazaar.com:
A Fashionable Life: Padma Lakshmi
The Top Chef host is living the single life in New York City and flying high — and not only because she has a swing in her living room
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Not that anyone asked, but Padma Lakshmi, the model, cookbook author, actress, jewelry designer, and host of Bravo’s Top Chef, believes that her greatest asset is not her beauty, her intellect, or her indomitable gumption. Rather, it is her taste. “Whether it’s my taste in food, my taste in clothes, my taste in music, furnishings, or art,” she says confidently, “that is the one skill I have, and it can be applied to anything.”
Due to the success of Top Chef, “I can get a table at any restaurant I want,” Lakshmi says. And though she hates to drop names — “It makes me feel cheesy” — she now counts Charlize Theron as one of her fans. “She even did an impression of me. My assistant said, ‘Oh, my God, that is totally Padma.'”
Originally, Lakshmi imagined the show as good publicity for her 2007 cookbook, Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet, but turned down the first season to work on a BBC miniseries. Katie Lee Joel hosted instead and was replaced. “She’s a nice girl,” says Lakshmi, “but she was ill prepared for it. I think a lot of it wasn’t Katie’s fault. The producers really wanted me and didn’t get me, and it’s hard for anyone to come into those shoes. But I don’t think she’s suffering at all.”
It is just a few days after Lakshmi’s 38th birthday. “I’m probably one of the few models or actresses who will just tell you my age. I feel good. I really like the way I look,” she says while snacking on the almonds, olives, and dried plums she’s laid out in the living room of the modest East Village apartment she moved into after her marriage with literary giant Salman Rushdie ended in the summer of 2007.
The living room’s focal point is undoubtedly the swing. A businessman friend had it made for her after she searched, without luck, for one on Craigslist and eBay.
Lakshmi jumps out of her chair to demonstrate. “You really swing!” she squeals, her slippers dropping to the floor as she glides from her kitchen counter to her green velvet couch. Though Pamela Anderson cavorted in the nude on a swing in her living room while hubby Tommy Lee played the piano, Lakshmi claims hers isn’t so naughty.
“I thought it would be a really romantic thing to have,” she muses. “If I can’t sleep, I come out here and swing in the dark.”
The swing contributes to Lakshmi’s idea of a little bohemia. Her life downtown is very different from when she was attached, for just over three years, to Rushdie. When asked if she misses married life, she thinks for a moment and answers, resoundingly, “No.” She explains, “I miss the good times I had with the man I was married to, but I’m much happier today than I was a year and a half ago. In order to get there, I had to walk through an ocean of crap. But I’ve built my life around the way I want to live now, and my little corner of the world feels nice.”
Days she is not filming Top Chef are shared with an assistant and a designer who, from a small office in her apartment, are helping her develop a line of Indian-inspired jewelry. “My success is their success,” Lakshmi says steadfastly of her two employees. “That’s really how it works.” Sometimes the girls work until 10:00 p.m., “sometimes they leave at 4:00 for pedicures.” It’s a far cry from the global success of, say, Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks, but it’s a living. “I wasn’t a Sports Illustrated model. I was much more a couture girl. I’m sure that those girls made a shitload more money than I did,” she explains. “It’s with great humility that I say that those girls have achieved a lot.”
She describes her apartment as something of a street fair. There’s always “fairy water,” Lakshmi’s spice-and-fruit-infused water, and “there’s always food, always music and candles and incense. I’ll have a girlfriend who’s a DJ stop by for a drink. My girls walk around barefoot. It’s like Andy Warhol’s Factory, but in gypsy-girl mode.” Adding to the Warhol spirit is the large portrait of Lakshmi wearing a diaphanous red dress that exposes her breasts, painted by her longtime friend Francesco Clemente.
At the moment, Lakshmi’s apartment is a shrine to her fashion obsessions. A few old Stella McCartney pantsuits and Tom Ford archival pieces hang in her bedroom closet, while a bureau is devoted to traditional saris and costumes from acting gigs like the Ten Commandments miniseries. Her dressing room features new Chanel boots, a new bejeweled Roger Vivier clutch she picked up in Paris, and the outfit her friend Marc Jacobs sent her to wear at his show.
Lakshmi’s hope is that one day soon she will be able to expand into the townhouse she’s eyeing eagerly next door. What’s more, it would give her space to start a family. “I would like to have some children very soon,” she says. As for her personal life, “I date some. I think it’s hard. As you grow older, you become a little less malleable.”
According to Lakshmi, what you see is what you get. “There was no interior decorator who came into my apartment and said, This would look kitschy and great. There wasn’t a ghostwriter who said, It would be cool if you had an essay about Morocco in your cookbook,” she says. “The things I’ve accomplished have really been on my own steam. For good or bad, every word, every picture, every taste is mine.”