Back in 2012, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi appeared on stage at a black-tie amfAR charity benefit to auction off a prize — a framed black-and-white photograph of a young, shirtless Richard Gere.
Before forking over the $20,000 piece of eye candy, the stunning former supermodel charmed the crowd by planting a sexy smooch on the print.
Surprise! Two years later, Padma’s schoolgirl crush on the 64-year-old actor has been realized — and now she gets to kiss the real thing.
The drop-dead gorgeous stars have been quietly dating since early this year, and so far, it’s been a recipe for success.
“They’ve found that they have so much in common,” a longtime friend of Richard tells Closer. “They’re getting to know each other more deeply and exploring what there is between them.”
There’s certainly no lack of conversation topics to be found for the fledgling couple. They're both devoted single parents — his son, Homer, is 14; Padma's daughter, Krishna, is 4 — and major gourmands. “The best thing you can do for someone is make them a plate of food,” says Padma.
The two also share a passion for philanthropy, fundraising and spirituality. India-born Padma is Hindu, while Richard is famously Buddhist. “Padma and Richard meditate daily, practice yoga and are very disciplined,” says a friend of Padma's.
Then there’s the physical chemistry. Padma has a soft spot for older, successful men — she was once married to author Salman Rushdie, 23 years her senior — while Richard has a weakness for leggy beauties like former Bond girl Carey Lowell (who he's currently separated from) and first wife, Cindy Crawford.
Still, the pair are taking it slow. "This is all new and exciting for Richard and Padma," says the pal. "But they're not announcing this relationship to the world before it's really had a chance to begin."
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