Her net worth may be $40 million, but in the food world, Padma Lakshmi is priceless.

Food writer Sohla El-Wahlly recently titled an interview she conducted with the Indian-American supermodel, author, and television host, “Where Would Food Be Without Padma Lakshmi?” It’s an accurate sentiment. It’s not just Lakshmi’s work as host, co-head judge, and executive producer of Bravo’s smash hit culinary reality show Top Chef that gives her royalty status in the food world. Lakshmi has written multiple cookbooks plus a memoir, done photoshoots for Armani, Versace, and Ralph Lauren, and become a fierce advocate for immigrants and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

From Immigrant To Advocate

Padma Parvati Lakshmi was born in Chennai, India, in 1970, but emigrated to the United States when she was 4, along with her nurse mother. Not much is known about her early life, but after graduating from Workman High School, as well as Clark University in Massachusetts, where she studied Theater and American Literature, Lakshmi went on to work in both the US and Europe as a model and actress. Discovered by a talent scout while studying abroad in Madrid, she began modeling at the age of 21, and used the earnings to pay off her college loans.

Multiple childhood traumas—include a famous scar, a result of a severe car accident, on her right upper arm; sexual assault at the hands of a family member and, later, a boyfriend—inspired Lakshmi to explore activism. In 2017, at the height of the MeToo movement, she wrote a viral essay on being a rape survivor for the New York Times, issuing this rallying cry: “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.”

Top Chef and Taste the Nation

It is her passion for food, and those in our lives who introduce us to the kitchen, that has given her an incredibly high profile on the international food scene. Top Chef is a worldwide phenomenon, and has spawned spinoffs in over a dozen countries, including Greece, Thailand, Poland, and Brazil. But long before she became the Bravo series’s presenter, Lakshmi used to host her own travel and cooking show for the Food Network. She also presented specials for a British series called Planet Food, broadcast on Discovery Channels around the world. Her fluency in Italian allowed her to host Italy’s top-rated daytime TV show—how many American TV hosts can claim that kind of cred?

Recently Lakshmi premiered her own show, Taste the Nation—I even got to interview her about the series!—which explores different immigrant communities around America and their culinary traditions. The diversity of the cuisines and customs on TTN is truly powerful: Persian, Chinese, Thai, the Gullah Geechee people, Mexican, Peruvian, and Hawaiian. For the holiday edition of TTN, Lakshmi showcased Hanukkah, indigenous Thanksgiving, Korean New Year, and Cuban Christmas. No matter the geographical location of these communities, their culinary customs will leave you swimming in your own drool.

She’s also authored a number of cookbooks including Easy Exotic, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet and her memoir The New York Times best-selling Love, Loss and What We Ate. She later published The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs as well as her first children’s book Tomatoes for Neela.”

Personal Life

In April 2004, after living together for five years, Lakshmi married novelist Salman Rushdie. In July 2007, the couple filed for divorce. She has one child, a daughter named Krishna, with businessman Adam Dell. Krishna was born in 2010, and the pair live in Manhattan.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Padma Lakshmi’s net worth is around $40 million. She makes $50,000 per episode and given the fact that each season has an average of 14+ episodes, Lakshmi’s net worth shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

READ: Padma Lakshmi’s Net Worth: The Model-Turned-Host’s Cache of Cash, Explained

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Kay Adams