Photo Credit: Justin Stephens/Bravo
After struggling with endometriosis that went undetected for years, Padma Lakshmi doubted whether she would ever be able to have children. So when the Top Chef host learned she was pregnant with now-3-month-old daughter Krishna (whose father is venture capitalist Adam Dell), “I was very surprised because I was told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally,” the 39-year-old former model and author explains. “She was a total surprise blessing to me.”
Hoping to help other women suffering from the reproductive disease that is a leading cause of infertility, Lakshmi cofounded the nonprofit Endometriosis Foundation of America with her doctor to help educate women and fund research about the condition that often goes undiagnosed. (Lakshmi has recently partnered with Dial NutriSkin Body Wash – when you “like” the product on their Facebook page, $1 goes toward her charity.) “The diagnosis has been a revelation in every aspect of my life,” she explains. “That’s why I was so passionate to let other women know that this condition exists and why you don’t have to go through some of the things that you go through anymore if you seek treatment.”
iVillage caught up with Lakshmi about how her life has changed since being diagnosed with endometriosis, how she’s handling single motherhood and what surprises are in store now that the new season of Top Chef (which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET) has headed to Washington, D.C.
What can we expect from the new season of Top Chef?
There’s a lot of diversity in this cast, which I’m very excited about. There are a lot of different people from all over and their cooking styles are very different and that’s nice to see. In seasons past we’ve had clear front-runners -- I don’t know if there’s any front-runner in this season. In fact, we kind of thought that maybe a couple of them were, but then sort of midseason things got kind of topsy-turvy. It really made it more fun for us.
How was Washington, D.C. as your host city?
I love D.C. I went back to work six weeks after having (Krishna). It was a great city to film in; it’s very child-friendly and my mother enjoyed it too because there was a lot of sightseeing she could do. We have a lot of culinary luminaries on the show but we also have a lot of Washington locals: We had (speaker of the House of Representatives) Nancy Pelosi on the show, we have White House assistant executive chef Sam Kass, who’s doing the childhood obesity initiative with Michelle Obama. We try to cater the challenges -- as we do every season -- to the city and whatever their catering needs are, say the CIA or the Senate. It’s very exciting!
And how about chef Eric Ripert becoming a regular judge?
He’s great! He probably has one of the most refined and developed palates I’ve ever come across, so it’s wonderful to have that kind of presence at the judges’ table. He’s one of the best chefs but he’s also got a great humanity to him.
I hear Krishna cooing next to you as we talk. In what ways has motherhood changed your life?
Everything is better with her around. That’s the simplest way I know how to say it: Every single thing in life is better with her around. It just forces you to prioritize and really plan your time properly. Time management becomes everything.
What’s the most important parenting lesson you’ve learned so far?
Just to have patience and to find what works for you. I read a lot of books and I took a lot of counsel and advice from friends who have children, from different family members. I found I needed to collate all of that information in a way that made sense for me and my life and my daughter. Everyone’s life is different and you should really find the path that works best for you and your family.
What has been the biggest challenge of being a single parent?
I don’t really feel like the single parent because I have my family and my friends around me. I am a single parent, of course, but my mother’s been here. She just left recently, but she was here even before Krishna was born. I’m lucky I have a lot of help. I don’t think any of us do it or should do it alone. I am very fortunate in that I can afford childcare to help me, although she’s never very far from me because I’m constantly nursing. I also have extended family. I have a whole host of people who are involved in her upbringing.
You cofounded the Endometriosis Foundation of America to help women suffering with the condition you suffered with for many years. What was finally getting diagnosed like for you?
It’s been a revelation in every aspect of my life. I was very galvanized by my own experience to start the foundation with my doctor who really changed the quality of my life and prevent young girls from having to go through what was for me years and years of chronic monthly pain. I wasn’t diagnosed until a few years ago and it was terrible. I mean, I would be bedridden three days a month -- I would have to lie on a heating pad, I would have to take really strong prescription painkillers. I would have a headache, a backache, nausea, all of that. It definitely did limit me participating in the normal activities of my life on a regular, constant basis.
Finding out you were pregnant must have been amazing since you didn’t think you would be able to have a child because of your endometriosis.
I was very surprised because I was told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally. She was a total surprise blessing to me. I did feel very thankful that I got treated when I did, because in my mind it wasn’t a moment too soon. By some miracle it wasn’t too late when we all thought it really was for me. Like any mother I was overjoyed. I just wanted her to come out healthy and happy and safe and thankfully she did. I’m very, very blessed.
As a former model, how has your beauty routine changed since you became a mom?
I definitely don’t have as much time on my hands, so I have to prioritize. I would say that my beauty regime is now much more simplified. If I don’t have time to go get a pedicure, I’ll often just make sure I use a pumice stone in the bathtub. Or if I don’t have a chance to go to the spa for a full scrub and massage, I’ll try and at least use some essential oils and some jojoba oil and make my own massage oil and put that on when I get out of the shower. That Dial body wash is great too because it has some lemongrass extract in it, so again it’s a way to get a little bit of a spa treatment in your everyday routine.
What beauty advice do you want to pass on to Krishna?
I think the most important thing is to make sure you spend your life doing something that you’re passionate about and something that you love. Because if you’re happy on the inside that definitely shows on your face.
'Top Chef' premieres June 16 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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