Padma Lakshmi was thinking about her 8-year-old daughter Krishna when she bravely came forward with her #MeToo story.
In an exclusive chat with PEOPLE for this week’s issue (on stands Friday), the Top Chef host, 48, looks back on the New York Times op-ed she penned in September, when she revealed she was raped by her 23-year-old boyfriend when she was 16.
Recalling the moment as the last time she faced her fears, Lakshmi says she spoke out to set a better future for other women, like Krishna.
“I wanted to open up the discussion because I didn’t want this to ever happy to my daughter, or to anybody’s daughter,” she says. “Any colleague, any girlfriend … so many people who watch Top Chef are tweens and teenagers and young people. I just though, ‘Even if three fans of mine who see this read this and it helps them, it’s worth it.’ “
Lakshmi went public with her story amid the inquiry into Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was eventually confirmed despite her powerful testimony. At the time, President Donald Trump had grabbed headlines by asking on Twitter why Ford had waited decades before coming forward with her claims. The question prompted a sea of stars to share their stories under the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
“I know more people who’ve had some form of this happen to them that haven’t [spoken out], men and women!” Lakshmi says. “So I just felt, I have to speak the truth and say it out loud.”
- For more about Padma Lakshmi, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Lakshmi admits that in her rush to write the piece, she “didn’t really think about the implications it would have personally.”
“I did it so fast because I was so furious about what was going on,” she says. “Obviously it was the darkest, most personal secret that I was just ripping the Band-Aid off of.”
That doesn’t mean she has any regrets. “It felt good to do it and the feedback has been enormously positive,” the cookbook author adds. “I’m so glad that I was able to contribute to the conversation in some small way.”
Top Chef airs Thursdays (at 9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.
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