Padma Lakshmi Reveals Her Biggest Beauty Regret From Her 20s (Exclusive)

'Enjoy your body.'

Padma Lakshmi is encouraging young women to ease their self-criticism, telling ET that she regrets how hard she was on herself in her 20s. 

"My biggest beauty regret is that I didn't appreciate myself when I was in my 20s," Lakshmi said at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Party on Thursday. "I was so hard on myself and I think a lot of us women are." 

Lakshmi added that she would tell her younger self to "enjoy your body." 

"It is not perfect and it will never be and that's OK," she continues. "Because perfect is not interesting and it's not beautiful either, to me."  

Lakshmi attended the celebration to mark her inclusion in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, an experience she told ET was "surreal." 

"I thought it would happen when I was modeling, but it didn't," she says. "It's kind of almost sweeter that it didn't, that it's now instead of when I was a model."

Lakshmi, 52, added that she feels better than ever now. "I feel much more confident and grounded now and so I think I'm also able to appreciate it," she says. "It's wonderful to be recognized at this age for more than just my looks and I think it's also a wonderful sign for other women." 

This year's cover features Martha StewartMegan Fox, Kim Petras and Brooks Nader.

"I mean, I think it's great," Lakshmi says of the cover girls. "You know, I have long admired Martha, so I'm happy to to follow her in the pages on this cover as well." 

Stewart told ET she was initially "kind of surprised" to land the cover. "I was just surprised because I've done so many other things, I didn't expect to be topping with this," she marveled.

Leading up to the shoot, Steward focused on a good diet and healthy living, things she prioritizes more and more with each year that passes.

"It's terrible!" she said of aging. "So we're not going there. We're not."

Another thing Stewart won't go there with? Plastic surgery. "For what?" she questioned in response to if she'd ever go under the knife. Instead, Stewart is living her life fully as herself, something she hopes to inspire others to do too.

"I think the world has embraced the fact that you can be whoever you are, whenever you want to be it," she said. "That's really what I think is helping. I think it's helping people. You put on a bathing suit and you feel good about it. [People are] trying a little harder to keep your good health, your good looks, your good skin, your good hair."