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Padma Lakshmi doesn’t understand why so many women are loath to identify themselves as feminists.
“It’s a real problem. There was a trend among young women in the public eye to say: ‘Oh no, I believe in equal rights but I wouldn’t call myself a feminist,’” she says. “Feminism as a term got misaligned. Feminism just means: you believe in equal rights for everybody. It has nothing to do with body politics. I am a proud, flag-bearing feminist. You would have to be unhinged not to call yourself a feminist.”
As you might have noticed, Lakshmi has impressive knife skills, but she doesn’t mince words either. She’s the host of Bravo’s Top Chef and the author of the aromatic bible The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs. Lakshmi is also politically active, having campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It’s what compelled her to take her daughter, Krishna, to the Women’s March in Washington.
“I’d never been to a protest. I thought it was important for us to go together. She was on the floor of the convention center with me when Hillary lost. It would give her some way to do something. We’d been discussing, ‘What does this mean?’” Lakshmi tells Yahoo Style of the election.
They stayed with family in the D.C. area and made signs the night before. “Her father [Adam Dell] was with us. We were there with Planned Parenthood. It was so crowded but so peaceful. That’s what really impressed me. It was very orderly. She loved it. She marched as much as we could march,” says Lakshmi. “What she learned is that there are differences of opinion and that we’re not alone. For me, this wasn’t about Trump. It was about something much bigger. Equal rights, equal pay, immigration, health care, all of those things are why I was marching. Feminism is not just about feminine issues. It’s about equality.”
The day, she says, was “quite moving,” even though Krishna got sick and passed the cold on to her mom. “I’m actually feeling better today. The last couple of days I’ve been severely ill.”
Like all parents, she wants to make sure that her daughter doesn’t lack self-esteem, but at this point, it’s not a concern.
“My daughter has no problem loving herself. She’s very confident. I’m lucky that we’re surrounded by people who are progressive and broad-minded. It will be my job to make sure she doesn’t have those issues as she grows. The march to me as parent showed Krishna that if you believe in something, you have to fight for it. There’s a right way and a wrong way,” she says.
Clearly, at 46, Lakshmi is doing something right. Although, she cautions, she doesn’t look “very good” at the moment (and sounds hoarse on the phone), she attributes her appearance to gratitude for what she has.
“I drink a lot of water. I think doing what you love and being happy in how your day goes have a lot to do with it. If you’re my age, you don’t have the luxury of youth. I’m not old. You really get your beauty from how you feel. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love. I’m very fortunate to have my little girl. All is right in the world. I can’t complain,” says Lakshmi, who’s doing a book tour in her native India and then just “chilling. I want to rest. I need to be with my kid. I’m really drained.”