Padma Lakshmi defends supporting Planned Parenthood on 'Top Chef': 'I was expressing my opinion'

Senior Editor
Yahoo Lifestyle

Padma Lakshmi responded this week to critics of her decision to wear Planned Parenthood pins on the recent season finale of Top Chef.

“Everyone has a right to their own opinion, and I’d like to make it clear that I wore Planned Parenthood [pins] because I was expressing my opinion, not the opinion of my network or my show,” she said during an interview at Build (a part of the Oath media brand, as is Yahoo) on Monday. “I’ve been supporting Planned Parenthood for a long time; I’ve donated to them. I’ve given them my time. I know [president] Cecile Richards really well; I was with them at the Women’s March. It was my honor to be able to do that.”

Lakshmi, who stopped by the New York City studio to chat about the March 15 launch of her MAC Capsule Collection (see the full video below) and her ideas on topics from beauty to feminism, said she “had a handful” of the pins and asked the show’s other judges — Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Graham Elliot — if they would each wear one too. “Immediately, without blinking, all of them said, ‘Yes, I’d love to,’” and while the guest judges wanted to wear them as well, she didn’t have enough to go around.

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Padma Lakshmi at the Build Studio on March 12. (Photo: Mike Pont)
Padma Lakshmi at the Build Studio on March 12. (Photo: Mike Pont)

But anyway, she said, “I didn’t want to put them on the spot. Because I do believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion.”

In fact, the single mom, 47, noted, “I was actually in love with a person who was pro-life — it happens — and I respected his opinion and he respected mine, and we could discuss those things. I think we’ve gotten very polarized, and so I’m interested in talking to those people who don’t agree with me. I’m happy to hang out and have a beer with the people who do agree with me, but I’m preaching to the choir. I think we need to really listen to each other more. I think there’s a lot of talking on TV. There’s not a lot of listening.”

Lakshmi also addressed another recent Twitter tiff, in which an immigration activist called her out for wearing a low-cut top on the Top Chef season finale. “It’s 2018 — do we really need @PadmaLakshmi boobs all open and squished up on TV??” wrote Shirley Leyro, setting off a storm of defenses from Lakshmi’s loyal fans.

As for why society is still wondering whether women can show some skin and still be feminists?

“I don’t know,” Lakshmi said. “I really don’t know. And it’s a thing that I struggle with, because I want to look beautiful, and I want to look sexy, [especially] if I’ve taken the trouble to work out as much as I do. … I feel comfortable, and goddammit, I may not look this way someday, so I want to document it when I do!”

Padma Lakshmi at the Build Studio on March 12 to promote her new MAC Capsule Collection. (Photo: Mike Pont)
Padma Lakshmi at the Build Studio on March 12 to promote her new MAC Capsule Collection. (Photo: Mike Pont)

She said she believed that women could of course dress in any manner they choose and still be feminists. “I think society likes to put people in boxes. So when she made that comment, I was like, ‘So what? Why can’t I?’” Another comment disturbed her further when it assumed that Lakshmi clearly “has no control over content.”

“I was like, actually, I do. I’m an executive producer of my show, and I don’t have control over a lot of stuff, but I do certainly over my own person and what I wear,” Lakshmi said. “Also my boobs probably were squished up, because I’m consuming like 8,000 calories a day! And that was toward the end of shooting, [when] I gain 15 pounds. We have dresses in three sizes.”

Finally, shared Lakshmi — after letting her “really loyal fans” jump to her defense for a while — she responded in a nondefensive way because she didn’t want the discussion to spiral out of control.

“I know I have been snapped at online, or a little thing I said innocently turns into an internet brushfire, so I went back and … I went to her site and looked at a blog she wrote. She’s a professor, and she’s an immigration activist. … I just wanted to extinguish that brushfire. … I could tell that this person was a really good person, and she just kind of said something.”

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