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At the end of the day, I want to make sure that I love myself no matter what I look like,” the TV host, entrepreneur and mom tells PEOPLE of modeling her new lingerie line with Bare Necessities

<p>Courtesy Bare Necessities</p> Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities Courtesy Bare Necessities
Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities

Padma Lakshmi began a journey to self-acceptance with her body when she started modeling in her 20s.

“I had a very strong dose of it because, sure, I had stretch marks, and I had other things like mosquito bites, but I also had this big scar on my arm. I felt like that was an albatross around my neck,” the former Top Chef host, 53, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“At a very young age, I learned how arbitrary beauty standards are,” she adds.

So when, in her 50s, the entrepreneur, activist and mom got the opportunity to model her own lingerie, loungewear and swimsuit line for Bare Necessities, she approached the entire process with a new degree of self-assurance. For starters, she didn’t want the photos to be retouched.

“I told them, ‘Don’t take out my scar, and don’t take out my inoculation mark, and do not take out the stretch marks on my thigh and bottom,’ because I have them,” she says.

<p>Courtesy Bare Necessities</p> Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities
Courtesy Bare Necessities

Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities

“Obviously I want to look as good as I can,” admits Lakshmi, who “toned up,” got lymphatic drainage massages, drank plenty of water and nourished her body with healthy meals ahead of the photo shoot.

But her decision to not have the images photoshopped to an extreme comes from a place of wanting to harbor body positivity and confidence for her daughter, Krishna, 14, and other young girls.

“I try to tell my daughter that pretty is skin-deep,” Lakshmi says. “If you can bring something to the table that has nothing to do with what you look like, or hopefully build on it something meaningful for others, then you’re ahead of the game.”

<p>Courtesy Bare Necessities</p> Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities
Courtesy Bare Necessities

Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities

Lakshmi continued to keep it real behind the scenes of her sexy shoot.

When she began teasing the launch on May 20 (the 19-piece capsule officially drops on June 6), she posted unfiltered candid Instagram photos of her posing in the racy pieces, which range from lacy bodysuits to a James Bond-level rash guard zip-up swimsuit.

In one video, she even shows herself in a hot pink bra and lace underwear while her “personal pit crew” gets to “lubing” her body (a.k.a. moisturizing her skin for a glow).

<p>Courtesy Bare Necessities</p> Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities
Courtesy Bare Necessities

Padma Lakshmi for Bare Necessities

“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that I love myself no matter what I look like,” Lakshmi tells PEOPLE. Of modeling in her 50s she adds: “It feels like a nice reinforcement when confronted with all of the other aspects of aging that women go through in our society.”

“I feel more confident today than I did when I actually looked perkier, tighter, smaller, in my 20s,” Lakshmi says with a laugh. “So, I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

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