Don't hate Padma Lakshmi because she's beautiful. Hate her because she speaks five languages and is a best-selling author, a skilled chef and a globe-trotting fashion model.
Since catching the eye of Helmut Newton six years ago at age 21, the New Delhi-born Lakshmi has graced the pages of Elle, Vogue and Glamour, traipsed down runways for Versace, Armani and Ralph Lauren, and been considered all the more exotic for the seven-inch scar on her right arm--the result of a rather serious car crash she endured as an adolescent. Now the leggy Lakshmi is making her film debut in the Mariah Carey rags-to-musical riches vehicle Glitter as a diva from planet Witch. Lakshmi is hoping the role will launch her movie career and help pave the way for her production company, Lakshmi Films, but she has a faithful audience in any case. Her cooking show, "Padma's Passport," based on her popular cookbook, Easy Exotic: A Model's Low-fat Recipes From Around the World, is a hit on the Food Network. "I've always loved to cook and I'm really good at it," she says matter-of-factly. "People always ask me what I eat to stay so skinny, so I decided to write it all down." Lakshmi's career isn't the only thing cooking in her life--she's been romantically linked with author Salman Rushdie for a year and a half. "He's one of the greatest intellects of our time," says Lakshmi. "To Indian people, he's as large as Faulkner or Hemingway, and when I think about that, I wonder when he's going to figure out that I'm just a silly girl."