COVER STORY: MAYIM BIALIK

By Teryl Warren

 

Photos Courtesy of Mayim Bialik

We’ve all heard the horror stories: the drug overdoses, the dramatic public meltdowns, the careers that were cut short once puberty set in. The harsh realities of life as a former child star typically lead to crash-and-burn endings – which is what makes the story of actress and Ph.D. Mayim Bialik all the more inspiring.

Even without the benefit of formal training, the actress got her first role at the tender age of 12, went on to warm audiences’ hearts as Bette Midler’s young character in the tearjerker Beaches and shot to household name-fame as the titular character on the 1990 sitcom “Blossom.”

A true triple-threat, Mayim, acted, sang and danced her way into living rooms for five seasons. And while the show was still on the air, Bialik was accepted by Harvard and Yale before ultimately choosing to attend UCLA – where she would go on to earn her Bachelor, Master’s and Ph.D. in Neuroscience.

The petite actress, author and mother of two has recently come full-circle, career-wise.  The self-described “nerd” has been delighting audiences as “Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler” on the hit sitcom “Big Bang Theory” since 2009.

To what does Mayim attribute her strong sense of normalcy in a decidedly un-normal world like show biz? Without hesitation, she credits the firm foundation her family established for her, her Jewish heritage and her faith for helping her navigate the sometimes murky waters of Hollywood.

“My parents are both schoolteachers and I’m from an immigrant family so I had to go to college,” she laughed. “I ultimately took 12 years off from acting to go to college and have a family.”

Photos Courtesy of Mayim Bialik

As a self-described “aspiring Modern Orthodox” Mayim is part of a growing movement within Orthodox Judaism that seeks to fuse traditional Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law with the secular modern world.

“I traveled to Israel for the first time when I was 16, and I’ve gone about every other year since then,” she said. “On my first trip, I had such an American experience. I listened to U2’s “Rattle and Hum the whole time, so that was my soundtrack for Israel.”

But despite the Western influences she may have brought with her, even that first trip to the Holy Land inspired a deep sense of connection to her Jewish roots – one that would lead her to learn proper Hebrew grammar at UCLA, where she also studied Yiddish for a year.

“Israel keeps me sane. In this bubble of LA, it’s easy to feel like this is all there is. Being able to see that the world is much bigger than LA keeps me sane.”

Mayim confides that it is sometimes difficult to balance her religious practices with Hollywood’s red carpet fashion trends and frenetic pace.

“I haven’t worn pants outside the house in 5 years. My skirt hemlines have to fall to the knee when I’m standing. It can be a little tricky at times, but I’m fortunate in that my character on “Big Bang Theory” pretty much always  dresses the same  - modestly and with no ridiculous cleavage, she told us. “The notion of routine, for instance, keeping the Sabbath, also keeps me sane.  For 25 hours every week, I shut everything down – no laptop, no phone. I get to own myself for one whole day.”

While at UCLA, Mayim became very active in raising awareness about Zionism, and she continues to do a lot of public speaking to both Jewish and academic organizations.  One question that regularly arises in both circles, she says, is how she maintains balance in her life – particularly between her religious faith and her studies in neuroscience.

“I’ve never felt a conflict between science and religion. I meet people all the time who believe in both God and science.  Everything I’ve learned [in both school and religion] reaffirms that I don’t know how everything works – but thank God someone does.”

To keep up with all of Mayim’s upcoming appearances, speaking engagements  and more, please visit: www.mayimbialik.net

 

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