Tragic Details About Padma Lakshmi

She's intelligent, accomplished, beautiful, and an absolute icon. Padma Lakshmi has taken the world by storm as a television host, actress, model, New York Times best-selling author, ambassador, activist, designer, food expert, and two-time Emmy winner. 

Born in India on September 1st, 1970, she was raised in the United States and made a name for herself quite quickly. After Lakshmi received her bachelor's degree from Clark University, she began modeling and acting, becoming India's first-ever supermodel. She branched out into food-related entertainment, hosting several cooking shows and writing numerous cookbooks. Lakshmi became an ambassador for immigrants' and women's rights, wrote countless articles, op-eds, and even a children's book called "Tomatoes for Neela." She also designed a fine jewelry line, as well as a home décor line.

In her career, the multitalented "Top Chef" host has had an incredible impact on the world. Lakshmi has evolved with grace, which is certainly no small feat considering that she's had more than a few difficulties to overcome. Now 52 years old, Lakshmi continues to wow audiences everywhere with her skills and courage, which she developed despite (or perhaps even because of) the many tragedies she's faced in her life. Beneath all of the makeup, studio LED lights, and model-esque smile, here are 10 tragic details about Padma Lakshmi, the incredibly gifted and sophisticated star.

A car accident left her scarred

Many have noticed Padma Lakshmi's trademark scar on her right arm, and as it turns out, it was the result of a horrific car accident. When Padma Lakshmi was 14, she and her parents were on their way back home from a Hindu temple when they were in a car crash that left them all deeply affected. In a since-archived piece she wrote for Vogue, Lakshmi said, "We were in the air for what seemed like a very long time, flying off the freeway and 40 feet down an embankment. We hit a tree dead-on and it stopped our fall. Blood, glass, dirt, and leaves were everywhere. We seemed to have been buried alive. The tree trunk had fallen directly on top of our car." The model was left with a fractured hip, and her right arm was shattered, which required surgery. A seven-inch scar still serves as a reminder of the traumatic day.

Lakshmi spoke to People at a Planned Parenthood gala benefit about how her mother had been pregnant at the time of the accident. After suffering multiple broken bones and a cardiac contusion, her mother's heart "would not have sustained that pregnancy." So, she accompanied her mother to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. "I felt very sorry for my mother, but I thought she was making the right decision, I could see how hard it was for her to get around ... just physically, because of her injuries."

Her marriage to Salman Rushdie was tumultuous

Salman Rushdie is an Indian-English writer whose 1988 novel, "The Satanic Verses," brought a hoard of controversy, from violent protests to book bans and a bounty for the author's assassination. But to countless readers, including Padma Lakshmi, Rushdie has been considered a genius. As she told People, "For us Indians, he's like Hemingway." Their first date was in 1999 in Central Park, and they quickly found themselves becoming more deeply involved. "The fact that somebody of that stature and caliber was even interested remotely enough in me to want to take me to lunch was kind of unbelievable," Lakshmi recalled.

The couple moved in together in 2000, following Rushdie's divorce from his wife. The couple eventually wed in 2004, but Rushdie was far from the perfect husband, according to Lakshmi. In her 2016 book, "Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir," she described their relationship as "blissful" in the beginning, but that their marriage became tumultuous when Lakshmi's career began to take off. "I just wanted my own identity," she said.

Lakshmi found herself consoling Rushdie every year he didn't win the Nobel Prize, and he went from bringing her breakfast in bed each morning to hardly ever being around. Their relationship hit a wall when she would reject his sexual advances, to which he replied that she was a "bad investment," according to the "Top Chef" host. They ultimately divorced after just four years of marriage, but they remain friends today.

Padma Lakshmi suffered from endometriosis

Intercourse was painful for Padma Lakshmi, leading to numerous issues in her marriage to Salman Rushdie. What she didn't know at the time, and hadn't known for several decades, was that she was living with undiagnosed endometriosis, a condition that can cause uterine-like tissue to grow outside of the uterus and affects around one in 10 American women. It took many years and several surgeries before Lakshmi's condition was diagnosed and eventually became manageable. In an interview with Women's Health, she said, "It wasn't until a year after the surgery that I started getting really p***ed. Like, 'Wait a minute, I lost a week of my life every month of every year since I was 13 because of this s***, and I could have had this operation at 20 rather than 36?' I'm shocked that a health professional didn't say, 'This is weird. Your cramps are above and beyond what they should be,'."

In 2009, the model and activist co-founded EndoFound, previously known as Endometriosis Foundation of America, with gynecological surgeon Tamer Seckin. Their foundation puts a focus on investigating women's reproductive conditions and, according to the EndoFound website, they "launched the first interdisciplinary research facility in the country for Gynepathology, as a joint project between Harvard Medical School and MIT." Lakshmni's initiative has also led to more than 32,000 high school students in New York being educated about the debilitating effects endometriosis can have.

Her ex-husband was stabbed on stage

Salman Rushdie has had a target on his back since the release of "The Satanic Verses," which some Muslims considered blasphemous, and the author went into hiding for many years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini put a price on his head in 1989. In August of 2022, years after his split from Padma Lakshmi, Rushdie was being introduced to give a lecture on creative freedom at the Chautauqua Institution when he was attacked on stage by a man with a knife.

Rushdie suffered at least 18 wounds to his neck, chest, and torso, underwent several hours of surgery, and had to be placed on a ventilator to recover. His agent released a statement to ABC News that read, "The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged." Thankfully, Rushdie was able to retain his eye, but he did lose some of his sight, and his hand was left inoperative. In response, Lakshmi took to Twitter to show her support. "Relieved @SalmanRushdie is pulling through after Friday's nightmare. Worried and wordless, can finally exhale. Now hoping for swift healing," the post read.

She struggled after coming forward about being raped

In 2018, Padma Lakshmi opened up about when she was raped by her 23-year-old boyfriend in an op-ed she penned for the New York Times, joining countless other women in the #MeToo movement. "I didn't report it. Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police. At first I was in shock. That evening, I let my mother know when I was home, then went to sleep, hoping to forget that night," Lakshmi wrote. "Soon I began to feel that it was my fault. We had no language in the 1980s for date rape."

But as difficult as telling her story was, it was the aftermath that seemed to affect her all the more. A couple of months after writing the article, Lakshmi admitted to the Today Show in an interview that she hadn't thought about her well-being enough before submitting the piece. "After I wrote it, I took to bed. I went to bed for three days," she said. Later in the interview, Lakshmi remarked, "We try to erase what happened to us and the only way to truly erase that trauma, is to really confront it, in whatever way is appropriate for that person. I don't know that I would have ripped off that 32-year-old band-aid, in the way that I did. I also don't recommend it." But now that her story is public knowledge, she can hope that her experience empowers others.

A close friend of Padma Lakshmi suffered an acid attack

In March 2021, a family friend of Padma Lakshmi's, Nafiah Ikram, was the victim of a horrific and cruel acid attack. Just 21 years old at the time, Ikram had been exiting her car in Long Island when an unknown man ran up to her, threw acid in her face, and fled. According to the GoFundMe page that Ikram's friend and neighbor set up, "When Nafiah screamed it caused the acid to go into her mouth, burning her tongue and throat, which prevented her from breathing ... The acid caused severe burning on Nafiah's face, eyes, chest, and arms. Nafiah was wearing contact lenses that night and the acid melted the contact lenses onto her eyes. We don't know if Nafiah will ever regain vision again."

The television personality posted a video on Twitter, sharing her friend's emotional story, along with footage of the attack and photos of Ikram's injuries. Lakshmi asked her followers to support the family financially, whom she said she has known for over a decade, as their medical bills would be astronomical. Now, two years later, the assailant has yet to be identified. Speaking in an interview with CBS News, the 23-year-old Ikram said, "Two years passes by and, unfortunately, that's why it feels like nothing has been done, because it's like my sight is still not there." She thankfully escaped the senseless attack with her life, but she may now face many years of hardship.

Her grandmother died in 2022

Padma Lakshmi's love and knowledge of food stemmed from a young age, and one of the people who helped nurture her relationship with food was her grandmother. In February of 2022, the "Top Chef" host shared a touching tribute to her on Instagram, where she announced that her grandmother had died.

"I am heartbroken. My dear paati is gone. Rajima lived life serving others. She raised us all. She was my rock and example. She was much more than a grandma, the only one I knew," Lakshmi wrote. Her post included a series of images in the form of a slideshow, including shots of her grandmother and family. She added that Rajima had helped her mother raise her and that Lakshmi learned several valuable lessons from her grandmother.

"She didn't just teach me about food, but about life, often through food," she said, adding that lessons included timetables, "how to temper spices," and that "everything and everyone has their boiling point." Lakshmi's emotional tribute touched many of her fans, and they poured their support and encouragement during this difficult time into the comment section.

She suffered from pregnancy complications

Due to her diagnosis of severe endometriosis, Padma Lakshmi was advised by her doctor that she would likely never be able to get pregnant naturally. After having some tests done, she decided to freeze some eggs, just in case. On the People podcast "Me Becoming Mom" hosted by Zoë Ruderman, the model opened up about the joy she felt when she miraculously became pregnant. "I remember finding out and taking a taxi ... and I couldn't get this smile off my face. I was sitting in the back alone and I just kept smiling, I felt so strange and happy and elated and confused, and so many different emotions at the same time," she said.

Most of Lakshmi's pregnancy went well, but in her final trimester, she suffered from placenta previa (when the placenta blocks the mother's cervix). Her doctor recommended bed rest for the final three months of Lakshmi's pregnancy, which she described on the podcast. "It was very scary ... I just did everything from my bed ... I tried as best I could to go on with business as usual. Not only because I was afraid that my company would suffer, but also because I didn't want to go stir crazy." The model added that she had gone to the hospital twice due to her condition, where her doctor administered drugs to stop her contractions. Thankfully, Lakshmi delivered her daughter Krishna Thea safely in 2010.

A custody battle ensued over her daughter

In her memoir, Padma Lakshmi covered her pregnancy exhaustively, including the debate that centered around the paternity of her daughter, Krishna. Some time after her divorce from Salman Rushdie, she had been seeing both Theodore "Teddy" Forstmann, CEO of IMG, and Adam Dell, a venture capitalist. It was only after her affair with Dell that Lakshmi realized she was pregnant and, after a paternity test was taken, realized it was his baby. She was still with Forstmann, who was a couple of decades older than her, and he offered to raise the child as his own. However, the television host wanted Dell to be aware (and as involved as he liked).

After Dell's name failed to appear on Krishna's birth certificate, he was furious, according to Lakshmi's book. Dell sued her in 2011, and they entered into a nearly two-year-long custody battle over Krishna. The case was eventually settled out of court in March 2012 when Krishna's last name was amended to Lakshmi-Dell, in order to reflect her father's involvement in her life. A source told People at the time, "Padma basically said it was fine to add his name, but she retains all decision-making power, which is really what matters most to her. She makes all the decisions on education, health, everything." The source added that Lakshmi will continue to let her daughter and Dell spend time together, as it was never much of an issue for her to begin with.

Padma Lakshmi's boyfriend died of brain cancer

Although Theodore "Teddy" Forstmann was reportedly bitter that Krishna was not his biological daughter, as Padma Lakshmi wrote in her memoir, he still remained a prominent fixture in the few years he was in her life. Unfortunately, around the time that the custody battle between Lakshmi and Dell went forward, Forstmann became increasingly ill, and he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain cancer that grows at an alarming rate. The CEO of IMG and Lakshmi's boyfriend of many years died in November 2011, and he reportedly left a trust fund for Krishna, who was 2 years old at the time, in his will.

Lakshmi's relationship history is doubtlessly complicated, but her love for Forstmann is undeniable. In March of 2018, the "Top Chef" host appeared on E!'s "Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry," where she attempted to connect with her late boyfriend and partner. "He was my lover and his name was Teddy, and we were never married nor did we live together but ... he was sick for a lot longer than we knew," Lakshmi said, teary-eyed. "I remember the phone call and I remember asking what time did he actually die, because the night before, I had like an alarm bell go off in my head and I called over to his house to say 'I can come over right away.'" After Forstmann's passing, Lakshmi dated Terrance Hayes, but she is now single and focusing on raising her daughter.