“I can’t do hair worth shit,” she says. “My only styling technique is to put my hair in a bun in a tight elastic so it gets kind of wavy, and that’s it.” While filming, she gets a blowout as often as every other day and likes to air-dry her strands and use hair masks to strengthen them when her schedule loosens. “When I was a little girl, we used to take raw egg and beat it and put that in our hair for protein. Now I’m using K18 or Olaplex, but it’s the same principle.” Her history with makeup, though, runs deeper.
“I’m super beauty-focused. I think if I didn’t do what I do, I’d probably be a makeup artist,” she says. “I was doing makeup at seven years old; I used to do my aunt’s.” Beauty was a family affair: She remembers her grandmother hand-making their kajal, a traditional kohl liner. “I always wore eyeliner, for as long as I can remember. I remember wearing it when I was four. All [South] Indian girls do, and boys wear it too.”
Lakshmi also recalls doing her own glam backstage out of necessity while modeling in the ’90s. “A lot of people still could not do makeup on my skin [tone], so I learned how to do my own and how to mix my own [shades], and I’m really good with my makeup for that reason.” In 2018, Lakshmi released a capsule collection with MAC Cosmetics — “I still use it! I love it!” — inspired by her Indian heritage, including dual-ended eyeliner pencils, eyeshadow quads, and six lipsticks, packaged in golden cases that mimic the Turkish plates in her kitchen. Finding common inspiration through food and makeup is something Lakshmi finds entirely natural.
“I am that sensorial person. Mixing colors is like cooking. It’s like making my perfume. It’s like making my bath oil. Whether it’s mixing spices or mixing essential oils to get what I need, to me, it’s a very sensual experience.”
Looking at Lakshmi’s diverse career, it’s not surprising that following her senses has led to so many passion projects. “I’ve never been on a very specific track,” she says when I ask what might be next after her yet-to-be-named cookbook, which will be a collection of recipes and travelogues from her recent trips. “I’ve just always tried to push against the open door.”