Endometriosis Foundation of America
Padma Lakshmi may be best-known as host of “Top Chef” and a best-selling writer, but she is foremost an advocate for the misunderstood illness endometriosis. She was misdiagnosed until age 36, when she was referred to specialist Dr. Tamer Seckin. In 2009, she and Seckin launched the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which funds research and education.
She is being honored with the Karma Award at Variety’s New York Power of Women luncheon for her work with the foundation.
“We initiated a medical conference, a teen education program, and we now have a model we use remotely in other states,” she says of EndoFound’s work.
Fighting for women’s health issues is a political issue — something that Lakshmi addresses with vigor and a touch of anger. She is also an ambassador for the ACLU, focusing on immigrants’ rights and women’s reproductive rights, works closely with Planned Parenthood, and recently gave the keynote address at the UN Women’s Empowerment forum.
“Another thing we feel is unfair to women that have [endometriosis] and other reproductive disorders is that Planned Parenthood is under attack, the Trump administration has rescinded the law that Obamacare passed that said that employers had to offer free birth control as part of their health plan, and all of this hurts a patient that has endometriosis,” she says, noting that “the only treatment we have today is hormone therapy, and the biggest form of hormone therapy is the birth control pill — so for millions of women, contraception is not the first thing they use the pill for, so we find that we are being discriminated against.
“It’s just one more way the patriarchy or male-dominated society uses their leverage to keep women under their control — inadvertently or directly.”
Education and research are key. “We give small and large grants to researchers at different universities,” she says, including the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research. But research funds remain sparse. “The government allocates between $7 million to $11 million for research,” says Lakshmi. “Yet it costs our system $21 billion a year. From a ruthless economic standpoint, never mind the collateral human suffering, it’s just bad business.”
Lakshmi’s new MAC Cosmetics collection is also more than just lipstick, with tones formulated for woman of color. “If you feel insecure about how you look, it totally throws you off your game.”