Padma Lakshmi: Why I Don’t Let My Daughter Dress Up as Princesses

11/13/2014 at 09:00 AM ET

Padma Lakshmi Frozen Disney on Ice
Cindy Ord/Getty

Padma Lakshmi‘s daughter Krishna is a huge Frozen fan — but you’ll never catch her dressed up as Elsa or Anna.

“She has an Elsa wig but she doesn’t have the costumes,” the Top Chef host told PEOPLE Tuesday at the opening night of Disney on Ice presents Frozen at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“I’m not big on merch,” Lakshmi, 44, explains.”I’m just not into her being a walking billboard for anything. So I try not to buy a lot of that stuff.”

One thing she doesn’t think twice about purchasing for her 4-year-old? A hearty stack of stories. “I’m happy to buy books,” she says. “I’ll buy all the books she wants.”

And although Disney duds aren’t a part of her costume collection, Krishna still has plenty of fun ensembles for playtime.

“She does have a lot of dress up outfits we keep in a box she can use to dress up — but I’m not a big fan of swag,” Lakshmi says.

“I want her to have toys that are going to help her build something or create something. She loves blocks. I’m happy for her to do that.”

She’s not into damsel in distress stories, either. “Those princess stories where the girl sits around waiting for a prince to come to kiss her … they don’t really do anything,” Lakshmi explains to reporters. “But [Frozen] I can really get behind. I like that an act of true love is a familial love or a sibling love.”

When it comes to motherly love, Lakshmi admits she is wistful when her daughter — whose father is Lakshmi’s ex, venture capitalist Adam Dell — isn’t around for the holidays. “She’s going to be with her dad this year for Thanksgiving,” she shares.

“We alternate the holidays so last year was my turn and this year is his turn and that’s great. I really don’t want to cook without her. It’s a little sad for me. Instead of being sad, I’m going to go to Paris and be very happy!”

She’s not sure where she will spend Thanksgiving in Paris, but could likely end up at Ralph’s — Ralph Lauren’s eponymous restaurant in his Paris store — where she celebrated the holiday two years ago.

The eatery, she says, “actually does a fantastic Thanksgiving. It’s so beautiful. It looks like a Disney storybook. It’s lit beautifully. I thought it would be all American tourists, but half the people there were French!”

Lakshmi quips, “So if you find yourself in Paris for Thanksgiving and you want to have Thanksgiving [dinner], go to the Ralph Lauren store!”

— K.C. Baker

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FILED UNDER: News , Padma Lakshmi , Parenting

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Showing 45 comments

Ala Lemon on

I get the “we’re not billboards” thing … but she sounds like my mother used to when I was a kid and trust me, not being able to play dress up was not fun.

mommytoane on

Dress up is imagination time. Imagination time is the BEST thing a kid can ever have. To lose your imagination is a terrible thing. Imagination helps kids play doctor, or construction worker. It helps kids to create a world of their making and not one of ours. It helps kids to be creative and make things different and new. The people who build huge buildings with unique designs have a huge imagination. Books are great, they are knowledge and they help with imagination, but play time is the real imagination time. Who cares if they dress up as princesses or doctors or construction workers, as long as they are having fun and using their imaginations thats all that matters. Kids arent little adults. Let them be kids.

Barb on

This woman is the freaking grinch that stole anything fun. Thankfully, she’s only torturing one child.

Ruth on

“And although Disney duds aren’t a part of her costume collection, Krishna still has plenty of fun ensembles for playtime.

“She does have a lot of dress up outfits we keep in a box she can use to dress up — but I’m not a big fan of swag,” Lakshmi says.”

Apparently, you all missed that quote. Krishna does have dress up clothes, probably old dresses and the like; just not the costumes sold in stores. I personally like how Padma is allowing her daughter not be commercialized.

Zilla on

Um Padma wants krishna to have different kind of fun play time!

Linny on

My five year old niece adores Frozen. She used bubble wrap to make her own Elsa hair. I’ve bought her the Elsa dress because I know she’ll love it because she loves to pretend she is Elsa. I see nothing wrong with buying the merch once in a while. Otherwise if you’re able you can make it yourself. My niece also has a handsewn princess dress to dress up in. And she recently got her own Elsa and Anna doll, however, they weren’t store bought I actually folded them out of craft paper (Disney has them free for download). I think it’s a great way to still give the kids what they want with a twist.

charlotte on

good for her!

L on

I can’t stand this woman…….

Barbara on

Hopefully she can play dress up at her dads house.

AmandaC on

I’m glad the kids father gets to see her now. He fought so hard to have a relationship with his daughter and she was so bitter about it.

Bee on

“Those princess stories where the girl sits around waiting for a prince to come to kiss her … they don’t really do anything” — Yes they do. They teach little girls to long for a rescuer and “true love.” Even as a kid, I didn’t like movies like The Little Mermaid for those reasons. Good for her for speaking her mind.

Anonymous on

Ruth- Thank you! I don’t know why so many people are missing that (and sadly, not everyone even took the time to read your comment, as evidenced by the “hopefully she can play dress-up at her dad’s house!” comment).

Linny- I couldn’t agree with you more! Growing up, I never once had a store-bought costume or other dress-up ensemble. Sewing happens to be one of my mother’s favorite things to do, and she never saw the point of buying her children cheap, flimsy costumes when she could make much better quality ones herself. She also gave me some of her old clothes to use for dress-up, and the rest I put together on my own (with everything from my father’s cast-off sweaters to bandanas to paper masks!).

And guess what? I never could understand why anyone would want a store-bought costume! Bottomline: Sometimes homemade really is best! 🙂

Margaret on

Stupid- misguided energy. My daughter was a princess every Halloween by her choice. Now year 8 has moved on. Quietly took her princesses off her wall on her own and has new interests. Her love of princesses is a precious memory for me. And if you’re a grounded person like me you can turn every moment into a teachable moment. ‘Honey, How could Cinderella have stood up for herself?’ ‘Honey, this was written in the olden days. Today women can be ……..’

Andrea on

Let her have an imagination for crying out loud. These parents who try to force their kids to be uber intellectual from the get go irritate me bc they don’t let their kids be kids. They’ll learn all that other stuff as they go, but let them play and role play for crying out loud…

LA on

Sometimes you just have to let kids……be kids and have fun.

It’s only a temporary phase and it passes almost as soon as it comes.

Dressing up is all part of childhood. We are all entitled to our own opinions though and the way we choose to each raise our children.

My two now adult children now tell me that they had the BEST childhood ever and “thank you”….No matter how much I hear it, it always makes my heart be warmed and the smile is hard to leave my face. I sure miss those two “adult babies” of mine. Kids grow up so so fast. Enjoy them while they are little !!

fer on

She says very plainly that her daughter plays dress up. Sad that reading comprehension is such a challenge for so many people….

amy on

Oh, get over yourself.

ljm on

She reminds me of my mother. We also got to play dress up with old dresses and jewelry but nothing too commercialized.
Love Padma on TS. She is very even tempered and the kindest of the judges. Her daughter is lucky to have her as a mommy.

Anonymous on

This woman should just let her child play dress up and be a kid.I feel sorry for her little girl.

Viva Las Vegas on

Wow, she seems like she’d be a lot of fun to be around….

paddyjr on

Actually, Padma does dress her child up as a princess on occasion (at least as a warrior princess)

Kimberly on

It’s her child and her choice. Why do women have to bash the choices they make for their children. I remember being at Disney World and the poor little girls were wearing princess costumes and all dolled up and they just looked miserable with the soaring temps. I don’t have any girls but I know I wouldn’t want that for my little girl if I did have one. I certainly don’t think her little girl is going to be deprived if she doesn’t get to dress up as a Disney princess! I certainly agree too that books are always a great gift for your child.

Robyn on

I’m so sick of this ultra-feminist way of thinking. I loved Princesses when I was a kid and never felt pressured to like them. It was make believe just like little boys pretending to be action heroes etc. Is it wrong for little boys to pretend they have super powers? We all no that’s not realistic! I have no problem with my daughter loving so called ‘boy’ or girl’ things, but she happens to love Princesses too. Should I restrict her from dressing up as a Princess? In my opinion, that’s not healthy either.

Gigi on

Will she encourage her daughter to grow up and use and mislead a man in order to get a child? Then fight in court to try and prevent him from having a relationship with his child? Gee, I don’t think she should really be commenting on anything of a morale or character nature

seabot on

It drives me nuts when parents only allow kids stuff that the parents are into, instead of the kids. Kids are not extensions of ourselves, they’re their own individuals.

seabot on

I don’t think people missed that she allows some dress up. But she clearly only allows dress up that fits HER imagination (or lack thereof), not her daughter’s.

Kelli on

@Kimberly- It’s funny that you brought up WDW. I was there a few weeks ago when hell couldn’t have been any hotter, and I’ve never seen so many crying, sad faces in my life. Those poor little girls in their long, scratchy dresses, heels, and sometimes long wigs was mind-boggling to me. I actually think it was more for the parents than the kids. I recall turning to my mother and saying, “Thank you for not dressing me up like that when I was a kid.”

Kali on

I can’t understand what’s there to criticize, her child seems to have a happy childhood. So what her mother doesn’t want her to dress up as a Disney princess or be a walking commercial, how does that kill her imaginAtion? There are many millions of people all over the world who don’t subscribe to that very North American princess upbringing for there daughters and those girls don’t have less of an imagination or a worst childhood than the girls that do. Daughter sounds well adjusted to me, lay off the woman and the perfectly normal way she’s raising her child. It’s different from yours it doesn’t make it wrong

Tazmin on

She sounds like a very good mother. She also lets the child dress up but she just doesn’t want her in outfits that could be used to promote something. Books are also wonderful. I hope parents have the smarts enough to have their children read books rather than playing games on a tablet where they learn nothing.

Lauren on

lots of cranky angry women on this board…yikes.

Katie on

For someone who’s not into “merch”, she sure drops Ralph Lauren’s name enough. Sounds like her kid is better off with Dad for the holidays. She’s a looney tune.

mimi on

Something about this woman grates on my f nerves and it just got worse with thia ridiculous article

ZZ on

She is ridiculous.

Ellie on

Funny how Padma comes across as an icy ‘princess’ on TC. Maybe if she loosened up a little she’d be willing to let her child have some fun.

Meredith on

“Merch”? Are we twelve? Also it’s real nice she’s letting her daughter spend a holiday with her dad since a) Padma didn’t even know who the dad was because she was double dipping so much and b) she still fought to keep her child’s father away from her even after the paternity test.

sam on

Typical celebrity with a low IQ. She’s so dumb. She goes from saying she doesn’t buy into the Disney merchandise stuff but that she will spend Thanksgiving Paris in a place that’s really awesome because it looks like a Disney storybook.

ImALadyToo on

Oh, for crying out loud. I dressed up as a princess every Halloween. It encourages imagination, one of the same things that books can do.

Amy on

She’s not big on “merch”? Doesn’t she sell cookware, jewellery, etc? Seems hypocritical.

Marie on

Thank goodness my parents didn’t have a broom up their a$$. I wasn’t really into the Disney Princess thing, but I’m pretty sure a lot of girls who played house, or anything game similar didn’t grow up with emotional issues.

Ellie on

Gag! No princess dresses to play dress up? This lady needs to get over herself.

Anonymous on

Padma needs to get over herself.

Anonymous on

really she is not into “merch”. Isn’t her whole career based on “merching” herself.? she sounds pompous. she is a child let her have her fantasies. just because our prince did not rescue you does not mean she can have her prince. you sound bitter. seriously your life and jet setting off to Paris for thanksgiving is grounded and is a more appropriate role model for your daughter thn role palying as a princess a costume she can take off and put away Get hold of yourself

Teknosbeka on

So she doesn’t let her daughter dress like a Disney princess, but wants her own holiday to look like something out of a Disney story?

Amanda on

You know when my daughter’s were little I felt the same way. I wouldn’t buy the gaudy shirts with their favorite princesses on them, ect….and now that they are 8 and 10 I regret that. They are only little so long, consumerism is what it is, let your kids wear what THEY want to wear

kp on

Odd that she would make such a snarky remark about Americans, when no one would know who she was without them. Or have they started filming Top Chef in another country?