Padma Lakshmi Makes Her SI Swimsuit Issue Debut at 52: “I’m Here Because I’m Me”

Getty / Dimitrios Kambouris

Padma Lakshmi is the newest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, and the internet quite literally can’t handle it. In the Instagram post shared by Sports Illustrated and Lakshmi on May 1, the magazine said, “Padma’s list of accomplishments is as stunning as she is, and it’s an absolute honor to feature her in the 2023 issue.”

The model posed in a series of pictures that has since received all kinds of hype, like Mindy Kaling commenting, “I fainted,” and Tracee Ellis Ross dropping some fire emoji on the thread. But even beyond how amazing Lakshmi looks, the mother, author, activist, TV host, Emmy-nominated producer, and philanthropist is proving that, at 52 years old, there’s nothing she can’t do.

In her interview with SI, Lakshmi said, “I want everybody to see this pictorial and understand that sometimes a whole new phase that’s even more exciting than anything you’ve ever experienced before can happen well over 40.”

“I have never felt better about myself.”

And as Lakshmi prepared for her debut, she said she did a lot of reflection on why she was worthy of the opportunity in the first place. “I just looked in the mirror and I reminded myself that I’m not here because I’m the world’s greatest model. I’m here because I’m me. I’m not getting this in my 20s. I’m getting this now, at this point, and it’s so much sweeter because I’m doing it now.”

While the overall response to her SI swimsuit photos has been positive, the “Top Chef” host has also faced some backlash previously for not covering up – both as a mother and a woman over 40.

Earlier this year, Lakshmi shared a topless photo of herself eating pasta in the bathtub on Instagram, and one user responded, “It’s a little much. I wouldn’t want my 12-year-old daughter to see me in this way, but live your life.” And internet trolls have even body shamed the activist for her attire when posting cooking tutorials.

In response to the backlash, Lakshmi told Page Six, “I have boobs, I have nipples – so does every woman and man on the planet. I think we should be a little bit more grown up about it, and also just accept that a woman’s body is beautiful and OK.”

Despite the influx of hate Lakshmi has received on social media, she said she feels more confident than ever. “I have never felt better about myself. My thighs may have been leaner, and my boobs were probably slightly higher in earlier parts of my life, but I wouldn’t go back to my 20s if you paid me all the money in the world. I love where I am in my life, and no, my body’s not perfect by any means, but I don’t care,” she said in her SI interview.

Clearly, Lakshmi has made quite the statement. And at 52 years old, she has defied conventional beauty standards and proven that confidence, self-love, and body positivity are ageless.

“I feel more beautiful now than I did when I was a model in my 20s,” she said. “I probably looked more beautiful then, but I feel much more beautiful now.”

Related: LSU Gymnast Olivia Dunne Is One of the First Woman College Athletes in SI Swimsuit Issue

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