Padma Lakshmi: "I'm One of the Last Women with Real Boobs"

The Top Chef host talks to Playboy about body image, her famous scar ("It's a mark of survival") and not being just another pretty face

In a town made of silicone, Padma Lakshmi is a natural beauty! The Top Chef host tells Playboy that her un-enhanced cleavage comes with some challenges: like the need to wear three sports bras while exercising.

"A regular bra doesn’t work alone, and sometimes I need more support, so I’ll put a sports bra over it. And I like to have a runner’s tank top over that," Lakshmi, 42, explains. "It’s my cross to bear, I guess. Sometimes I think I’m one of the last women with real boobs."

Not that the former model is feeling sorry for herself. In fact, she seems surprisingly relaxed about body issues -- like the fact that she gains between 10 and 15 pounds during each six-week season of Top Chef.

"I’m lucky. I have a fast metabolism, I’m tall, and my digestive tract is ironclad and can really take a beating," she admits. "Having been a model for 15 years, I also know a thing or two about how to dress if I’ve put on a few pounds."

After those weeks of steady weight gain, Lakshmi says she spends 12 weeks getting back to her normal size. "But it’s worth it," she swears. "When the timer goes off and the food is ready, I’m really excited to eat."

She has also made peace with the long scar on her arm, the remnant of a car accident when she was 14. "It’s a mark of survival, and I definitely think it made me who I am," boasts Lakshmi, who reveals that fashion photographer Helmut Newton was drawn to her because of her scar. "He loved my scar, and by extension he made me think differently about myself. All of a sudden it was something to celebrate or at least not to be ashamed of. Everything in life shapes you."

Though still a knockout, Lakshmi has no regrets about turning her back on modeling, saying that she finds beauty boring on its own.

"I don’t ever want to be boring," Lakshmi declares."I want to be someone who stimulates people in their thinking or viewpoint. If you watch Top Chef on a very surface level, it’s just a reality show. It’s a competition about food. But if you actually watch the show, it’s really serious—about the food, about mastery, about people vying to be the captains of their industry. Being passionate about what you do is never boring."

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