Padma Lakshmi Went By A Different Name In High School

Although she is arguably best known as the host of "Top Chef" for the past 15 years, Padma Lakshmi is also a feminist icon, social justice activist, TV host, author, former model, single mother, multi-linguist ... and the list goes on.

As she explains in her memoir, "Love, Loss, and What We Ate" (per the LA Times), Lakshmi was born in India and grew up in a middle class family. Her parents divorced when she was two-years-old and, at the time, her mother immigrated to New York City. (Lakshmi stayed in India with her maternal grandparents for two years and then joined her mother in New York.) Thereafter, she and her mother traveled between the U.S. and India often during her childhood, which made it difficult for the budding star to find her place within both cultures.

According to the LA Times, Lakshmi particularly struggled with her identity when she and her mother moved to the West Coast when she was a teenager. In one of her appearances on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" (as seen on YouTube), Lakshmi explained that she wanted classmates at her new school to call her by another name because she was tired of people mispronouncing it as "Pamda, Panda, or Padboo," and she just really wanted to fit in like the other kids.

She went by Angelique because it was 'exotic, but not too exotic'

Like any other teenager, Padma Lakshmi wanted to fit in at her new school and felt that changing her name would accomplish that. She once admitted to People that though she felt American, it was her classmates who would not accept her as such. So, Lakshmi decided to go by the name Angelique during high school, but when she became an American citizen, she legally changed her name from Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan to the shortened Padma Lakshmi, which was also meant to honor her mother's maiden name.

The TV personality also told InStyle that she now cringes at the thought of having changed her name, but that period of her life speaks to a larger theme of the immigrant experience; namely, feeling like an outsider. Her new Hulu show "Taste The Nation" highlights stories similar to her own as Lakshmi travels the country, highlighting different immigrant groups that have heavily shaped what American food is today.

"I think you don't have to be Indian to identify with the immigrant experience," she explained to People. "I think everyone has experienced feeling like an outsider. And it's something that I've carried with me — it's like this invisible shadow that's there because I was always flitting between cultures, so I was never really at home in one, and never really an outsider in the other."