Padma Lakshmi Freaks Out Over 'Holy Grail' SI Swimsuit Model Gig

Padma Lakshmi just joined the ranks of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models!

She makes her debut in the magazine's annual issue, which comes out in May.

The author, activist, and Top Chef TV host couldn't hide her excitement over the news during a recent visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live!, raving about the amazing opportunity.

While on the late-night show, host Jimmy Kimmel congratulated Lakshmi on the great news, before asking her if the opportunity is meaningful to her.

She said, "It's definitely meaningful. You know, I would've killed for it when I was in my 20s and a model, because it is the holy grail, and they never even called me for anything like this. I really thought that ship had passed, to be honest."

Lakshmi then described her complete shock at getting the call a few months ago, letting out a few swear words in response and thinking it was a joke.

The 52-year-old went on, "I did not believe the news on the phone. And then I started freaking out."

Lakshmi said that, at the time, she had just come back from filming Top Chef, where the host and judges can consume up to 9,000 calories a day tasting the contestants' food.

Because of that, she was "already hitting the gym pretty hard," which was good preparation for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot.

"It’s an absolute honor to feature [Padma] in the 2023 issue," said Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's Editor in Chief MJ Day in a statement about Lakshmi's debut. "The importance of Padma’s presence here is multifold. She is here because she feels better than ever both inside and out."

The statement continued: "At 52, she has curated a life that represents who she authentically is: a powerful, beautiful, brilliant, accomplished woman in her prime. She can make the world look and listen and is here to remind us all that women can be all of these things and feel sexy AF."

Along with her work hosting Top Chef and writing best-selling cookbooks like Easy Exotic, Lakshmi also hosts Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi on Hulu, in which she travels around the U.S. to explore different flavors and cultures. Season 2 drops on Friday, May 5.