In an absorbing memoir, Lakshmi (Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day, 2007, etc.), host of Top Chef, cookbook author, fashion columnist, and coveted supermodel, focuses more on love and many wrenching losses than on glamour and glitter.
Born in India, Lakshmi came to the United States when she was 4, flying alone to New York to join her mother. Although struggling financially, her mother, who reminded her that “beauty is not an accomplishment,” always managed to send the author back to India each summer, where she lived with her doting grandparents. Her family, their culture, and especially the food they shared (the book includes a few recipes) were crucial to her identity. Encouraged to work hard in school, she majored in theater arts at Clark University but had no clear career goals. She never thought she was particularly beautiful, and growing up in the U.S., she came to believe that “lighter skin is equivalent to a more attractive, worthier self.” Modeling happened by accident, during a stay in Europe, but once launched, Lakshmi found great success. In Europe, she embarked, also, on the first of several important relationships. The author realizes she always sought “a mentor, an older, wiser man” to make up for the absence of her own father, but it seems she was also attracted to wealth and power. Her European lover was urbane, cultivated, and rich. Later, she married Salman Rushdie, but they divorced after several rocky years. Lakshmi was intent on pursuing her TV career, while Rushdie expected her presence as he traveled the world as a literary star. Health issues also interfered: diagnosed with endometriosis, she required several surgeries during which Rushdie, self-absorbed, offered little support. Two men—a billionaire financier and philanthropist and a venture capitalist—came into her life later, one fathering her daughter.
An intimate, revealing portrait, far different from the woman blazoned in the tabloids.