Padma Lakshmi Reveals Why She Changed Her Name in High School
These days, Padma Lakshmi has one of the most recognizable names in the world. She’s been hosting arguably the most popular (certainly one of the longest running) cooking competition on television, Top Chef, since 2006. If you love cooking and chefs, you’ve probably heard and seen her name hundreds of times before. That wasn’t always the case though. Growing up in Los Angeles, where she attended high school, her name was so often mispronounced that she actually decided to change it.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Lakshmi explained that she became known as Angelique in her high school years. Though she points out that her name is pronounced phonetically, people still called her any range of incorrect names.
“I got tired of telling people how to say my name,” she recalls. “Even people who saw me regularly would call me Pamda, Panda, Padboo.”
While it might make her laugh looking back on that phase, it was probably incredibly frustrating at the time. So why pick Angelique? Well, she’s embarrassed about it now, but Lakshmi says that she wanted a name that sounded exotic “but not too exotic” (Corden jokes that it sounds like an “obscure perfume”).
Lakshmi doesn’t specify when she decided to go back to her birth name—probably after high school when she got a little older and realized Padma is a beautiful name, even if some Americans have trouble wrapping their minds around it—and thank goodness she did.
Lakshmi is one of the few Indian women to appear on American television. Back in 2016, she told Munchies (the food blog at Vice) that she often feels like an outsider.
“I'm an Indian woman living in the U.S., so it's hard not to feel a little left out,” she said. “I'm also someone who works in television, where it's getting better, but there's not that much diversity. Most Asians are stereotyped, one way or another.”
Through her work on television and with food, Lakshmi has beenquietlyy breaking down those barriers. Now the world will never have to know Angelique, and maybe that's not such a bad thing.