Mayim Bialik started her acting career as the star of '90s hit show Blossom. Then, in a notable move for a successful Hollywood actress, she went to UCLA to get a PhD in neuroscience. These days, in a natural evolution of her career, she plays a scientist on the popular CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. She talks to BuzzFeed Shift about what Hollywood can learn from the science community, child reality stars, and more.
You're a part of the science and academic community, as well as in the Hollywood entertainment industry. How have the experiences differed?
You know, there’s actually a lot of similarities between the two, but I guess the biggest difference is I don’t have to have nice hair and makeup when I’m teaching or when I’m in academia. So the world is very different as an actor, but I think that’s also part of what’s fun about playing a female scientist on TV.
If you could give your tweenage self some guidance, what would you say?
I'd say that life gets better when you're a nerd. It's really hard to be a nerd in junior high and high school and to feel like no one else is like you. It definitely gets better when you're an adult, either because you stop caring that people don't like you, or you do find more people who are like you.
You've made it known that you're not particularly interested in fashion or style trends. How do you feel about the standards that Hollywood sets for women?
I think they're ridiculous. Back in the Blossom days [1991 - 1995], it was much less prominent. More of the pressure for fashion and for thinness started with adult actors, but I think now you see it with younger and younger actresses. LA is a very isolated bubble of this country and of this world, but there's a tremendous amount of attention to what goes on in Hollywood, especially fashion-wise and body-wise. I like to refer to myself as the fattest woman in Hollywood, because I feel like I am.
They say there aren't many great roles for women over 40 in Hollywood. Do you agree, and as you approach that age, is that becoming a concern?
It's definitely true that the standards for women in terms of media don't match the female experience outside of the media, meaning many of us think we're very worthy and attractive past 40 but the industry may think otherwise. But that's the entertainment industry and our culture's sense of entertainment. As long as that is the demand, there will be a supply for it.
I guess I can always fall back on my PhD in neuroscience.
You're a big advocate of attachment parenting, which emphasizes physical closeness to children through things like extended breastfeeding and carrying them in slings. How do you find the time to handle this very involved kind of parenting and do you have advice for parents who do work full time, but want to take on this parenting style?
Attachment parenting actually has nothing to do with whether you work or whether you’re home or not. It’s not an at-home parenting kind of method. Some of the basic tenets of attachment parenting are an emphasis on education about natural birth, about breastfeeding, about not hitting your children. Those are three things you can do whether you work or not, honestly. When doctors coined the term “attachment parenting,” it was never meant to reflect a lifestyle for people who are wealthy, or who stay at home. So there’s plenty of things people can and do do, including [[wearing your child WHAT?]], safely bed-sharing or co-sleeping with your children — that’s something a lot of working parents find very helpful in their parenting, as a bonding opportunity. So it really has nothing to do with whether you work or not, but obviously every family has to do what works for them and what’s economically reasonable as well, and I think most attachment parents know that.
As both a parent and a former child star, what do you think when you see such young girls on Toddlers and Tiaras or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?
I started acting at 11, which even though it's very young, a lot of the child actors that people think of started when they were two or three, or around the age of some of those Toddlers and Tiaras kids. My general feeling is that if people stop watching those shows, then people will stop making them.
What's wrong with the way science is being taught to kids across America?
Oh, gosh, that’s a really big problem! There are many ways to answer that — it’s not taught soon enough and in the right way, it’s not taught with enough practicality, with enough real-life examples, and it’s not taught creatively enough. And girls are not encouraged as much as they should be.
What can Hollywood learn from the science community and vice versa?
Gosh, well Hollywood could learn to place less emphasis on appearances. That would be nice and convenient for all. In terms of what science can learn from Hollywood, I have no idea.