By Piya Sinha-Roy
September 17, 2018 at 08:31 PM EDT

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi talked about her experience of being separated from her parents as a child and why she’s supporting the American Civil Liberties Union to reunite separated immigrant families at the Emmy Awards on Monday.

“I think I’m very lucky to be standing here in a beautiful dress on TV,” Lakshmi, who accessorized with a blue ACLU ribbon, told PeopleTV’s Jeremy Parsons and Lola Ogunnaike on the red carpet.

“I was an immigrant, I was a little girl who was separated from my parents for two years, and I just feel if I have the good fortune to be here, then I should pay it forward or I should use what I’ve been given to greater good to pull other people up,” she added. “I think we have to do that as immigrants, but we also have to do that as women.”

Lakshmi wore the red J. Mendel dress for a second time (she first wore it to a Vogue event last October), and sported the blue ACLU ribbon on her hip. She said the organization was on the ground in Central America trying to reunite some 304 families that had been separated at the U.S. border under the Trump administration.

“While these dresses and everything are great, I’m trying to remember that there are people who have it a lot worse in the world,” Lakshmi said. She also imparted some words of wisdom to other children, especially immigrant children, who might be watching her tonight: “It’s takes you a lot longer than you think it’s going to take you to get where you want to go, but you can do it. That’s the beauty of America: that anything is possible.”

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