Padma Lakshmi: Why I'm Going to the Women's March on D.C.

"I am offended on behalf of everything that this country and the Constitution stands for," says 'Top Chef' star

'Top Chef' star Padma Lakshmi tells us why she is attending this weekend's Women's March on Washington. Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty

The Women's March on Washington will gather hundreds of thousands of people to the U.S. capital to show their support for not only women, but, as organizers write, "for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country." Madonna, Katy Perry, Cher and Jessica Chastain are just a few of the dozen of high-profile names set to attend the march.

Padma Lakshmi might be best known as a model and the host of Bravo's hit Top Chef, but she's long been an advocate for women. She is a co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which helps women get early diagnoses for the reproductive disease, and has been part of political campaigns with organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights calling for fairer legislation around women's choices. She's an outspoken feminist, and was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, spending election night at the Jacob Javits Center with her six-year-old daughter, Krishna. She and Krishna will be attending the Women's March together.

Lakshmi spoke with Rolling Stone hours before she was set to pick up her daughter from school and head down to Washington, D.C. 

I didn't know about the march as quickly as November 9th or anything, but the minute I heard about it, I wanted to go. I think we have to let our government know you don't need to be a woman to be a feminist – and this march is not even just about women's rights for me personally. It is about immigration, it is about the environment, it is about healthcare, it is about education, it is about the National Endowment for the Arts, it is about common decency, it is about, of course, women's health and women's reproductive health. I am offended on behalf of Mexicans. I am offended on behalf of Muslims. I am offended on behalf of everything that this country and the Constitution stands for.

This is not an anti-Trump rally for me. This is about decency and having a moral core. This is me, as an American, voicing my freedom of speech and fighting for what I believe is worth protecting, and worth ensuring is there for my daughter when she's my age. It's for all of the sacrifices that my mother made when she came to this country with literally $200 in her name and built a life for us as a single mom. It's about the Supreme Court. It's even about diplomacy and America keeping its word.

"This is not an anti-Trump rally for me. This is about decency and having a moral core."

With this presidency, I'm worried that a young girl in the Bronx who has endometriosis and does not have access to health insurance that will cover her surgery unless she goes to the emergency room. She won't even have access to birth control, which is one of the many ways that you treat reproductive diseases. I'm worried people will not be able to have Planned Parenthood to get pap smears and other health services they need. I am worried that there will be a collection of Supreme Court justices who will take away my rights to choose what happens to my body.

For a long time, women weren't able to vote and women weren't able to own property. The ACLU started 100 years ago with the women's Suffragette movement. So we take these liberties for granted, we take the Fair Pay Act for granted, the Lilly Ledbetter Law; all of these things that we have and we think that we already resolved are going to be big issues that come up again in this administration.

This march for me is about doing whatever I can in an orderly and peaceful fashion. It's about teaching my daughter that when something's not right, you open your mouth and you speak up. You just don't go away or hide or wait until it passes. You have to be respectful, even if the other side is not – but you have to stand up for what's right. If people in this country 50 or 60 years ago didn't do that, I wouldn't be able to have the life that I do today. If women at Seneca Falls didn't do what they did, I wouldn't be voting today.

I am a brown person living in a white world, and I am acutely aware that I still have it much easier because of my particular position in life. But that nurse, or that carpenter walking to work, or that child of a nurse or carpenter who happens to be brown; in another part of the country that isn't New York City, they're not so lucky and have ample reason to be afraid when they pump gas in the middle of the afternoon and get harassed. And it's just opened up some kind of door to people feeling like they can be insulting, violent, humiliating to those who are not the same as them, and that's not my country.

I recently made a big donation to Emily's List, for a start. I think it's a great organization because it works on both sides of the political aisle to get more women elected to public office and support them so you have a greater diversity of representation. And actually in this last election, the one small win was very lucky gains in minority women being elected to public office. You can just tell by who Trump's appointments have been thus far, to see that there are lots of conflicts of interest. If we paid our teachers in this country what we pay our CEOs, in 20 years we really would be the ruler of the planet because we would have a smarter population; we would put our money where our mouth is. The reason that India and China are superseding the United States is not because Indians and Chinese are born more intelligent, it's because those countries value education.

"This moment is important to speak up for all Americans because our politicians work for us."

You tell a group of disenfranchised manufacturing workers that they're going to have their jobs back when the truth is that their jobs have become obsolete because of technological advancements – nobody can give those people the same jobs back. And if you tell those people you care about their salaries and their way of life but refuse to raise the minimum wage, then there's a contradiction there. There's a clear and apparent disconnect between what you say you wanna do and what you're actually doing.

This moment is important to speak up for all Americans because our politicians work for us. They decide where our money goes, our tax dollars go, and they define who we are in the world, as a nation and as a people. And we cannot let that power be thrown away, because if you do, it will be very hard to regain that power. It is my right as an American and as a taxpayer, to hold my lawmakers accountable and I intend to do that in every lawful and peaceful way that I am able.

As told to Elisabeth Garber-Paul.