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Padma Lakshmi is a judge and the host of the long-running Bravo series Top Chef. One thing that Lakshmi is not shy about on the show is a large scar that is on her left arm. It is a seven-inch-long scar from a car accident in Malibu. Lakshmi was 14 years old at the time of the crash and Bravo reports her saying that, “My body is a blueprint of my life, of every tragedy — emotional or physical.” In 2001, Lakshmi wrote about her accident in an essay via Vogue. She recalled, “The accident happened on a Sunday afternoon filled with sunshine. I was fourteen years old and on my way back with my parents from a Hindu temple in Malibu … Then there was a loud bang, and I looked out the windshield and saw nothing but the prettiest blue sky … Our red Ford Mercury sedan was airborne. Flying in a car felt like an exhilarating hallucination, an unbelievable ride that oddly remains one of the most beautiful images in my memory. We were in the air for what seemed like a very long time, flying off the freeway and 40 feet down an embankment. We hit a tree dead-on and it stopped our fall. Blood, glass, dirt, and leaves were everywhere. We seemed to have been buried alive. The tree trunk had fallen directly on top of our car. I remained conscious, covered in glass, for the 40 minutes it took for the paramedics and firelighters to get through the traffic. They used the “jaws of life”—giant metal upfront cutters—to open the car roof like a sardine can.”
Lakshmi continued, “A helicopter landed in the middle of the highway to take my parents away. An ambulance carried me to the hospital. I finally passed out. When I woke up hours later, I had tubes coming out of several places in my body. My right arm had been shattered and my right hip had been fractured. After surgery, I regained the use of both of them but was left with a long scar on my arm. It was half an inch wide and seven inches long. I wished I’d had a conversation with the doctor and asked him to cut on the underside of the arm instead, where the scar would have been hidden … When I first got the scar, I was self-conscious about it. I perfected a casual pose that hid it under my left hand and thumb when my arms were crossed. But I also knew my scar was a symbol of my survival. The surgery that put it there had saved my arm.” Fortunately, Lakshmi and both of her parents survived the car accident. When Lakshmi started modeling, she decided to undergo chemical dermabrasion, which she said was very painful. It made the scar a bit more flat. For years, people wanted to cover up her scar, but Lakshmi soon began booking modeling gigs BECAUSE of her scar, which reportedly made her special.
In an interview with SELF, Lakshmi said that over the years, she has become more secure and embraces her imperfections. Today, Lakshmi insists that, “I love my scar. It is so much a part of me. I’m not sure I would remove it even if a doctor could wave a magic wand and delete it from my arm. The scar has singled me out and made me who I am.”
In addition to having endured a traumatic car accident, Lakshmi has also been diagnosed with endometriosis, telling SELF that she has spent a quarter of her life in bed and suffering from a chronic illness that she was unaware of for so long. After she was diagnosed, she went through several surgeries and was able to get proper treatment. Other stars with the illness include Julianne Hough, Lena Dunham, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon and Dolly Parton. According to The Huffington Post, 176 million women worldwide have the disorder.