Padma Lakshmi: Foodie Meets Fashionista

"It's really weird because I always thought the concept of 'Top Chef' was really nice, but I kind of did it to give my cookbook a little push, you know," she said. "I never knew that it was going to turn out the huge success that it has and that's kind of cool."

For five seasons, she has been the on-air guide for the show, challenging chefs each week and sending them home with their knives.

Lakshmi: Up Close and Personal

In almost everything she does, Lakshmi emanates an extraordinary sense of ease, an attitude of "this is me, take it or leave it." Take the deep long scar on her arm, the result of a car accident as a teen. Even as a model, she didn't hide it or cover it up.

"There wasn't really anything I could do about the car accident and certainly something I wouldn't wish onto anyone else, let alone myself," she said. "But I have a scar and it's part of me and it makes me who I am. Hopefully, that experience, as traumatic as it was, makes me more human. And I don't think that is something to shy away from."

Nor is a condition that she has made something of a crusade.

"I am a sufferer of endometriosis," she said. "I didn't want any young women to go through what I went through. I thought that people should know about it."

Endometriosis, which affects millions of women, occurs when the tissue that makes up the lining of the uterus begins to grow outside of the womb. The cells can spread to other organs in the abdomen, causing pain, cramping, scar tissue and infertility.

Lakshmi launched a foundation to help shine a spotlight on the condition.

"Every woman on the planet has her period, at least until she goes through menopause," she said. "I mean, it's not a big deal. It's where we all come from and I want endometriosis to be discussed as openly as breast cancer is."

After several surgeries for endometriosis, Lakshmi gave birth to a baby girl, Krishna. Now she has a cradle in her office, a business model built around a baby.

"I conducted all kinds of meetings from bed," Lakshmi said. "I figured if people didn't understand then I didn't want to be in business with them. I met the head of a network downstairs, you know. It was fine. Everybody has kids. Everybody understands."

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