Padma Lakshmi is many things—model, chef, television host, author, mother and feminist. But the list just got longer, with the woman behind Top Chef launching a collection with M.A.C Cosmetics. In M.A.C’s annual calendar, such collaborations are designed by a range of achievers, from actors, designers and pop stars to movies and iconic fictional characters. Indian collaborations so far have been limited to Mickey Contractor, director of make-up artistry at M.A.C India. Now, Lakshmi brings her own Indian stories in the 17-piece capsule that’s flying off the shelves. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

What’s your earliest memory of make-up?

My first notion of beauty was intertwined with food. The most important thing women did in my family was spend their daytime making the evening meal for the family.

I also looked closely at how the older women adorned themselves. They would shower in the morning and apply make-up in the evening. They would stand in front of the mirror and I would be mesmerized as they applied their powder and placed adhesive bindis. I fell in love with these rituals of self-adornment.

Lipstick in the Mittai Pink shade and 70’s Sunset Eyeshadow palette from the M.A.C x Padma Lakshmi collection.
Lipstick in the Mittai Pink shade and 70’s Sunset Eyeshadow palette from the M.A.C x Padma Lakshmi collection.

How did the collaboration with M.A.C come about?

M.A.C really introduced women to be experimental with make-up and use bolder colours. It was a popular notion that M.A.C was only meant for professional make-up usage but it’s for everybody. I have been using their products since my modelling days, and, honestly, M.A.C has a little something for everyone.

What were the details you kept in mind in designing the collection?

I wanted to come up with a collection that blends on different skin tones, and use colours that are timeless, but also dramatic and millennial. I wanted it to resonate with the vibrancy of Indian traditions, yet blend with whatever you wear.

And what role does India play in the collection?

Lipstick in the Mittai Pink shade and 70’s Sunset Eyeshadow palette from the M.A.C x Padma Lakshmi collection.
Lipstick in the Mittai Pink shade and 70’s Sunset Eyeshadow palette from the M.A.C x Padma Lakshmi collection.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m Indian, but I find it meditative to allow myself some time for beauty rituals every day. Regarding personal beauty, I think everyone should strive to highlight their assets. For me, the beauty of a woman has everything to do with her eyes. That’s why this collection is focused on the eyes. We also have six gorgeous lipsticks. The Mittai Pink is a shade I always adored but people associated it with being tacky. I have claimed it as my own with a fuchsia pink lipstick and turned it into something luxurious.

Which of these products would you love to wear all day?

One of my favourites is the Mumtaz eyeshadow, a gorgeous metallic plum shade from the 70’s Sunset Eyeshadow palette.

How does make-up make a difference in the lives of women and their perception of beauty and self-love?

I think those of us who are never going to fit into that narrow mould of what is deemed desirable and attractive have been silently waiting for this moment. We know, which, by the way, many men know, that all sizes are beautiful, all complexions are intriguing, and anything that’s “perfect" or “flawless" is often actually pretty boring. I, for one, am over the moon that the media and beauty industry are embracing a more inclusive, global, varied aesthetic. This is not only good for business; it’s good for all of us.

There are so many rituals in Indian culture that are to do with self-adornment, that to me femininity and make-up are intertwined. I don’t think it needs to be the case for everybody, but I find it relaxing to do my make-up. I still have the enthusiasm of a teenager, though not always the time.

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