From Blossom to Amy but Still Always Mayim

September 23rd, 2012

Michael Yarish/Cbs

Mayim Bialik, as Amy Farrah Fowler, with Jim Parsons in “The Big Bang Theory.”

IT is 9:30 on a weekday morning, and the scene inside the one-bedroom house in Los Angeles’s Studio City neighborhood feels like an advertisement for the neo-hippie home-schooling life.

The two boys are still in pajamas. The family bed, adjoining mattresses where the two sleep with their parents, has been hastily made. The mother, who has finished cooking a dish of vegan macaroni and cheese, summons her 6-year-old for a piano lesson, padding across the room in sock-monkey slippers.

Then the scene changes. The father heads to the beach with the boys. The mother, who has traded the slippers for four-and-a-half-inch gold heels, stands in the living room in a floor-length Bordeaux gown, as a well-tanned stylist looks on approvingly.

Stylist: “Perfect. Now I just need to get you a nail color.”

Mother: “No, I need to get the vegan nail polish.”

(Mother gives brief tutorial on a dye, found in some cosmetics, made from crushed bugs. Stylist freezes, aghast.)

The mother in question: Mayim Bialik, 36, star of the 1990s TV show “Blossom,” who will wear the Bordeaux gown on Sunday at the Emmy ceremony, as a nominee for best supporting actress for her role as the hilariously deadpan neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler in the comedy series “The Big Bang Theory.”

If Ms. Bialik has the distinction of being a celebrated child star who slipped off the radar, led a successful civilian life, then re-emerged years later in not only what appears to be prime mental health but a well-received role in a leading sitcom, it’s not her only distinction. Even in a world where it’s become common for celebrities to be not just performers but politicians, business owners, international humanitarian workers and conspicuously attentive parents, Mayim Bialik’s collection of choices is unusual.

Ms. Bialik is a proponent of attachment parenting, the intensive, much-debated child-rearing approach that involves co-sleeping (hence the family bed), natural childbirth and nursing-on-demand. She’s also the author of a recently published book on the topic, “Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way,” and just announced that she is writing a vegan cookbook. In addition to playing a scientist on TV, Ms. Bialik also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from U.C.L.A.

“We’ll ask her questions like, ‘If you’re going to dissect brains, how do they come packaged?’ ” said Bill Prady, a creator and executive producer of “The Big Bang Theory.” (Answer: in containers resembling large plastic trash cans.)

Ms. Bialik is also an observant Jew (she calls herself “aspiring modern Orthodox”). On Facebook and her blog on the Jewish parenting Web site Kveller, Ms. Bialik has been unusually open about her life, her choices and her imperfect attempts to reconcile the conflicts that crop up around them.

Last fall, she wrote about how she went to work on the Jewish holiday Sukkot, when Orthodox Jews do not work or drive. She hired a driver for the holiday, refrained from using her computer or cellphone, and dressed up to make the day feel special.

The Emmy gown was specifically, and painstakingly, selected to cover Ms. Bialik’s arms and much of her chest, conforming to the religious modesty guidelines she has embraced. Last year, she wrote in her blog about the arduous quest for a suitable dress, which she called “Operation Hot and Holy.”

It succeeded only after Ms. Bialik, frustrated with her stylist (“It was not a meeting of the minds,” she said), bought her own dress online. This year her new stylist, Alison M. Kahn, chose the gown, by the designer Pamella Roland. (“I don’t know who she is,” Ms. Bialik said in August, “but I don’t know who anyone is.”)

Even so, stylist and client had a back-and-forth about the contours of the neckline, with Ms. Bialik acknowledging that she “rather subjectively decided” that the original version was too “plungy.”

“It became about it being plunging, which to me is just one of those distinctions of modesty that I’ve decided to stay on the other side of,” she said. A compromise was reached. Plenty of women consider themselves modern Orthodox without adhering to the standards of modesty that Ms. Bialik sets for herself, making the choice particularly intriguing for someone whose career entails magazine features and red carpets.

It is “a religious and philosophical principle that not everyone owns the best part of me, that I own the best part of me,” she said. “Because I grew up in the public eye, that really spoke to me.”

During its run from 1991 to 1995, Blossom, if not Mayim Bialik, was a household name, at least among girls who considered themselves offbeat and smart and perhaps had not made the cheerleading team.

Post-Blossom, the high-caliber movie roles that might have kept Ms. Bialik in the industry eluded her. “The world then was not friendly toward sitcom actors,” she said.

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