Top Chef Host Padma Lakshmi Pays Tribute to Fatima Ali Following Her Death: 'Goodbye Lil’ Sis'
Lakshmi paid tribute to her friend in a sweet Instagram video posted on Friday evening
The emotional video, shared on Lakshmi’s Instagram, featured several photographs of the pair together, as well as a few solo shots of Ali. Along with a sentimental message and some words borrowed from Ali, the clip played to the tune of Carole King’s “So Far Away.”
“Goodbye lil’ sis,” wrote Lakshmi. “One of our brightest stars has fallen from the sky…. I have no words, but here are some of hers: ‘I dream of being better. I dream of being myself again, but I know I’ll never quite be the same, and that’s okay. I know I’ll be different, and, despite the worry that settles into me every time I wake up, I look forward to meeting that woman one day.’ #teamfati”
Earlier in the day, Lakshmi announced that she would be canceling her Facebook Live “due to personal reasons.”
The host has frequently been by Ali’s side since her diagnosis. In January 2018, Lakshmi visited Ali as she prepared to head into one of her first surgeries to remove a cancerous tumor.
A year later, after Ali updated her fans and revealed she was getting sicker, Lakshmi commented on the post that she planned to be there for her again. “I’m coming Boo!” she wrote. “Hold on tight.”
The 29-year-old was first diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2017.
She had undergone surgery to remove a tumor in her shoulder bone and had told PEOPLE she was “technically cancer-free” at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen last July. But in October, through an emotional essay for Bon Appetit, Ali revealed that her cancer was back “with a vengeance.”
She wrote that “the cancer cells my doctors believed had vanished are back with a vengeance in my left hip and femur bone.” She added that her oncologist told her she likely had “a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen.”
A representative for Bravo confirmed her passing to PEOPLE: “We are deeply saddened to share the news that Fatima Ali has lost her courageous battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time. People not only fell in love with her cooking, but fell in love with her personality and heart. We hope that the beautiful memories shared with her will provide comfort to everyone who knew and loved her.”
Since her passing, many former contestants from season 15 of the competition show have been posting on Instagram with photos and memories of their time with the chef.
Bruce Kalman shared a post on Instagram, writing: “It’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to Fatima Ali today, as she has lost her battle with cancer. I will miss you Fati, and you will be in my heart forever. I’ll always remember the great times we had, especially our interview during the tailgating episode discussing football, stadiums, and Taylor Swift. Much love, Bruce.”
Chef Brother Luck posted a photo of him and Ali embracing, saying he was “at loss right now of how much this sucks but grateful she’s no longer in pain.”
“God is gaining another angel today and heaven will be full of laughter upon her arrival,” he continued. “She was a queen who carried a heart of gold and my prayers go out to her family. I’m so grateful for the time spent with her and memories we shared. Please cherish the time you have with someone because tomorrow isn’t promised for anyone.”
“My dearest Fatima, this is how I will remember you til my time on earth is done. I will remember the hours on end we spent in the kid pool (the damn scratches) or the hot tub playing Never Have I Ever,” chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins wrote. “Hearing you talk about your mom with so much love and wishing my kids would speak the same of me one day. Falling asleep talking about life/boys/ dreams. Sweet dreams our Pakistaní princess, the pain is over.”
Fellow Top Chef contestant Chef Tu David Phu wrote: “I’m struggling to accept your passing. You had so much more to offer. However, there’s one thing I know for sure #god now has another #angel. You are truly an #inspiration. Your strength has taught me so much.”
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Last week, many of Ali’s Top Chef friends gathered in Los Angeles to show support during what were some of her final days.
After posing together in a group photo—which included Adrienne Cheatham, Tyler Anderson, Bruce Kalman, Tanya Holland, Claudette Wilkins, Carrie Baird, Rogelio Garcia, Chris Scott, Tu David Phu, Joe Sasto, and Melissa Perfit—many of the former contestants shared the image on Instagram and wrote messages of support to Ali.
“I wish they were under better circumstances that we were together but when one hurts we all hurt and we rally,” Wilkins wrote. “@cheffati is loved beyond belief and we will be here for her and each other.”