The Immigrant Story, Making a Name, and Success.
By: Nithya Mullapudi
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault + Rape.
Padma Lakshmi, is an Indian American immigrant who moved to the United States from India at the age of four. She grew up in Manhatten, New York before relocating to La Puente, California with her mom and stepfather.
Recounting her teenage experiences, Lakshmi has stated that she dealt with bullying and racial aggression which resulted in internal self-loathing. At the age of 14, she was diagnosed with Stevens–Johnson syndrome, a rare and serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes (Mayo Clinic). After being discharged after receiving treatment for her syndrome, she got into a car accident just two days later and fractured her right hip and had a shattered upper right arm. As seen in the picture at the top, this injury resulted in her getting a 7-inch scar on her upper right arm. At the age of 16, she was raped by her older boyfriend, but decided to not speak up due to experiencing sexual assault by her stepfather’s relative at the age of seven. When she decided to speak up about it, her mom and stepfather sent her to live in India with her grandparents for a year.
“The lesson was: if you speak up you will be cast out. I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences.”– Padma Lakshmi in an essay on The New York Times.
Lakshmi graduated from Clark University with a degree in American Lit. and Theatre Arts. While she was an exchange student in Spain, she began her modeling career at 21 years old. In Madrid, she was scouted by a modeling agent, and became the first Indian Model with a career in Paris, Milan, and New York.
Currently, she is a host and judge on Top Chef, where she also is an executive producer of the show, which was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award. Lakshmi while having numerous title to her name, also describes herself as an immigrant rights advocate and a part of the restaurant industry. She has also published multiple cookbooks to share her passion with the rest of the world.
- Easy Exotic: Low-Fat Recipes From Around The World
- Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day
- Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
- The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World She also has a children’s book: Tomatoes for Neela coming August 2021
Lakshmi also launched her first line of jewelry, called Padma. Additionally, she has launched tableware and casual kitchenware sets as well. They range from Moroccan ceramics, Turkish glass, spices, tea, and frozen rice.
As a strong advocate for women’s rights, Lakshmi co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which is a non-profit organization with the aim of helping with research studies and awareness against the disease. Lakshmi’s organization was essential for the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research, where she also gave a keynote address.
Lakshmi’s story is proof that adversity does not define a person, yet pushes you to become a better version of yourself. I think that a lot of sexual assault survivors are scared to speak out for the exact reason that Lakshmi was; one because they might have experienced it before, or because they think no one will believe them as society has conditioned them to think that it is their fault. Sexual Assault is NEVER the victim’s fault and no matter how many excuses assaulters can give: clothing, hormones, etc. there is NO excuse as it is a matter of self-control. I commend Lakshmi for being able to speak out about what she experienced as well as helping pave the way for the girl’s of tomorrow so they don’t have to be in constant fear of this happening to them.
Endometriosis is something that a lot of women struggle with and I think that this organization that Lakshmi created is necessary for a possible permanent cure in the future. There is so much light that this brings to the world, and as an advocate she’s not just bringing awareness, but is creating a change for a better future for women.
Lakshmi is such an inspirational person, who faced so many challenges but overcame them and fueled her passion for goodness to help change the world! I am glad to have gotten the opportunity to research her story. I will definitely be looking at her recipes and buying cookbooks in a couple years when I’m living on my own! What about you? What did you think of Lakshmi’s story?
If you or someone you know have experienced sexual assault know that you are not alone. Please reach out to the sexual assault hotline today: 1-800-656-4673 .
https://www.rainn.org/ is the United State’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and another great resource as well to seek help!