2023 SI Swimsuit Model Padma Lakshmi Shares Insightful Wisdom on Feeling Beautiful From Within

The food connoisseur and best-selling author responds to frequently asked beauty questions.

Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi was photographed by Yu Tsai in Dominica.

In addition to being a New York Times best-selling author, television host, mother and philanthropist, Padma Lakshmi returned to her modeling roots when the 52-year-old posed for the 2023 SI Swimsuit Issue.

While the Taste the Nation creator worked as a model throughout her 20s, she pivoted industries and quickly became known as a leader in the food industry. In 2006, she began hosting the Emmy Award-winning show Top Chef, a position she held for 17 years. In early June, Lakshmi announced she’d made the decision to leave the program after 20 successful seasons.

Whether she’s in front of the camera hosting or posing for this year’s SI Swimsuit Issue with Yu Tsai in Dominica, one thing remains the same: Lakshmi does everything with heart. Her approachable, down-to-earth nature is just one of many reasons why Lakshmi’s fans can’t get enough of her content, whether she’s roaming the globe for her Hulu show or whipping up an authentic home cooked meal on Instagram.

Lakshmi, while on location in the Caribbean country with SI Swimsuit, revealed that many of those aforementioned fans, young women in particular, often ask her two very similar questions: “What makes you feel beautiful?” and “How do you look your best?”

“It’s never really what you look like, it’s what you feel like inside,” Lakshmi thoughtfully responds. “And if you feel supported, you feel nurtured, you feel like yourself, that’s when you’re going to look the most beautiful, in my opinion. That’s when you’re going to carry yourself more comfortably, that’s when you’re going to be free, that’s when you’re going to be your whole sensual self.”

Lakshmi, who is mother to a 13-year-old daughter, Krishna, adds that she learned from a young age that things like beauty and fashion are quite arbitrary. Instead of focusing on outer beauty, she chooses to channel her inner strength.

“What’s important is that you feel beautiful no matter what. And that you understand that sometimes your—I’m not going to even say weaknesses—your obstacles, and overcoming them, can often be your strength. I feel more beautiful now because I hold that strength and I hold the experience in my flesh, in my person and in my spirit. That’s really made me who I am.”

While Lakshmi admits that it’s sweeter posing for the SI Swimsuit Issue at 52 than it would’ve been in her 20s, she acknowledges that many people still hold ageist ideals and don’t like to see women past a particular age thrive—a notion she couldn’t possibly disagree with more.

“The truth is, I love being a woman,” Lakshmi shares. “I love my body and I love expressing myself artistically and if I can use my body as an instrument to do that, great. I’m going to do that before it’s too late. But I’ll tell you what—at 52, it ain’t too late.”

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Cara O’Bleness


Cara is a trending news writer/editor for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. A passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media, she loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. Prior to joining the team, Cara worked as a writer and editor across a number of content verticals, including food, lifestyle, health and wellness, and small business and entrepreneurship. In her free time, Cara loves reading, spending time with her family and making her way through Michigan’s many microbreweries. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.