Photo of Padma Lakshmi Padma Lakshmi

A model turned actress and TV host whose upper right arm bears the distinctive scar of a car accident she survived in her teens, Padma Lakshmi was born Sept. 1, 1970, in Madras, India. But she spent most of her adolescence in the United States, earning a degree in theater from Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Lakshmi launched a modeling career during a stint as an exchange student in Spain, where a scout spotted her in a café. She later landed featured roles in television and film, starring opposite Mariah Carey in Glitter (2001) and playing the Egyptian princess who discovers the infant Moses in the ABC miniseries "The Ten Commandments" (2006).

Best known as the Emmy-nominated host of the cutthroat culinary competition "Top Chef," Lakshmi has also written several cookbooks. She was briefly wed to author Salman Rushdie, who used her as the model for a character in his novel Fury.

Padma Lakshmi in Top Chef

Top Chef

2006 TV-14

Bravo's Emmy-winning reality series documents the tantrums and friendships that erupt in the kitchen when a group of aggressive "cheftestants" cook their hearts out in a heated competition to be crowned Top Chef. Host Padma Lakshmi and mentor Tom Colicchio join the brightest stars of the culinary world in concocting devilishly difficult challenges and judging the competitors' spectacular and sometimes odd cuisine.

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