Padma Lakshmi, author Salman Rushdie’s soon-to-be divorced wife, cookbook writer, model and chef, is apparently “available” and willing.
In an unusual attempt to pivot off their client’s headline-grabbing divorce from the recently knighted Rushdie, International Management Group (IMG), the world’s largest sports and celebrity management company, has sent out an email to subscribers of exchange4media, a New Delhi-based website catering to the Indian entertainment and advertising world, soliciting work for Lakshmi.
“Hey! I’m available now,” goes the subject line of the mass email sent out last week, a seemingly clever play of words on the 36-year-old Lakshmi’s newly single status. The mailer, which was sent in her name by exchange4media.net, is accompanied by a come-hither image of Lakshmi posing in lingerie, and seeks licensing and brand endorsement responses for the “India-American cookbook author, actress and Supermodel”.
In a telephone interview, IMG vice-president Suvrangshu Mukherjee says the firm, which only recently signed Lakshmi, regularly sends out such mailers on their clients. He said IMG is already in discussions with several interested brands for Lakshmi and added that an announcement is likely to be made by the end of the year. He didn’t give any details.
“She is a premium lifestyle brand and the global face of India and we are targeting the premium fashion, food and lifestyle segment for her,” said Mukherjee. “She is very choosy about what she does and will do only one of two endorsements a year, so we have to actually shortlist a few of the brands, which are the right fit for her, and that will take a few months.”
So why would IMG send out a mass email if their client, named in May by People magazine as one of 100 Most Beautiful People, is going to be so selective, and wouldn’t an unsolicited, mass pitch diminish her premium brand image?
“We already know the CEOs of most companies and the mailer is only a kind of marketing initiative to reinforce our discussions with companies directly,” maintains Mukherjee.
Not everyone in the industry believes such an email would have been the way to go.
Vivek Kamath, creative director at Matrix Entertainment, a celebrity management company, says mass emails aren’t going to land deals from top-notch brands for premium clients. Kamath should know. He has structured deals for the likes of the Hindi film industry’s Aamir Khan, John Abraham, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif and Karan Johar, as well as cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni.
“The celebrity management business is a cottage industry,” insists Kamath. “Deals are not done on an assembly line. It is one deal at a time, structured after a one-to-one understanding of a brand’s needs. Most celebrity deals are in the region of Rs1 crore plus. Look at other products and services in that price bracket. Would you buy a Mercedes S-Class based on a mailer? Would you sign up with a private banking wealth management product based on a mailer? Personal interface and customization becomes imperative at that kind of price point.”
Indeed, IMG’s Mukherjee concedes that “the Padma Lakshmi mailer has found a lot of takers but most of them are too small for this brand and not the right fit for her.”
Lakshmi, who originally hails from Tamil Nadu, and Rushdie said in a statement in early July that their three-year marriage was over. Lakshmi’s new cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, will be out later this year. She started modelling as an exchange student in Spain from Clark University from where she has a BA in Theatre Arts. She has appeared on US television shows, movies such as Mistress of Spices as well as fashion shows for designers such as Ralph Lauren.