Life & Culture

Mayim Bialik's advice for spectacular girls

The Big Bang Theory star has a new book out for teenage girls. She talked to the JC about parenting, batmitzvahs and that Sodastream ad.


Actress and scientist Mayim Bialik, best known as geeky Amy in The Big Bang Theory, has a new book out. Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular (Philomel Books, £13.99) is a guide to growing up for teenage girls, drawing on Bialik’s PhD in neuroscience.

Why did you write the book? Why not write a book for boys as you have two sons? Is this the book you wish you’d read when you were young?

Well, as a woman who was once a girl, I always craved a book to explain life to me the way I have been able to explain it in this book. So this is the book I wish I had had as a girl!

In the book you say you weren’t a “girly girl” and you don’t like make-up. Is that a problem in our celebrity and looks obsessed world, particularly for someone like you, in the public eye?

I don’t see it as a problem; I leave it to my publicist to tell me when and how I get “gussied up” but in my life, it makes for a very easy inexpensive lifestyle. I am super low maintenance!

You say in the book that you pray when stressed. Do you go to a particular synagogue or say a particular prayer? Why does that calm you down and is it something you’d recommend?

I like the psalms, of course. And I like the rhythms of the prayer service so I get comfort from that. And God understands all prayer in every language; the prayer of the heart is a constant friend of mine.

You’re well known for being an actor who also studied neuroscience. Doesn’t acting seem a bit superfluous once you’ve become an actual neuroscientist? Or is acting a way to blow off steam?

Ha! I am a scientist no matter what I do for a living; the same way I am a mom no matter what. It is not as intellectually fulfilling a lifestyle to be an actor; that’s true. But the work I do on and on my YouTube channel has really satisfied my intellectual deep side and that’s a big reason why I spend so much time doing it.

Who on The Big Bang Theory is the funniest?

Personally, Simon Helberg (who plays Howard) makes me laugh the most. He is an incredible mimic and his brain is so sharp. I tell him all the time I am his biggest fan.

What are your feelings about renewing your contract for The Big Bang Theory? How would you like to see Amy develop? Could there be a spin-off series?

I am grateful to have a job for two years! I trust our writers completely as I always have to take Amy where they want her to go. I have always wanted an “ugly duckling” episode so maybe that will happen this year. I don’t have spin-off ideas; I’m just happy to do my job as is.

Why did you do the Sodastream ad? Was it to show solidarity for Israel?

SodaStream contacted me and said they wanted to set a commercial about the environment in a museum which already sounded like fun since as a geek, I am a museum person! I have known about SodaStream from my Israeli family and friends for years and I grew up having “seltzer” delivered to my house in crates. As for the script, the idea is creating a fictional species that became extinct due to their single-use plastic bottle habit. As a species, we have evolved so much, but much as we know plastic bottles pollute our environment and kill marine life, we continue to use them. Single-use plastic bottles should be a thing of the past and belong in a museum.

I have proudly declared that I am a Zionist who supports the right of my homeland to defend herself. I travel to Israel frequently to see my family and I teach my children that Zionists go to Israel. My family and many friends have served in the IDF and I support their right to exist as soldiers in a complicated situation. I am also a lover of peace and don’t feel conflict being a liberal Zionist even if I don’t always agree with certain things Israel does. Not for one second have I worried about backlash. As a scientist, I dissect everything and weigh things seriously before committing to them, especially in regard to my relationship with Israel and its citizens. SodaStream has always focused on fighting for fairness. SodaStream recently struggled to secure working permits for its Palestinian workers in an effort to bridge religious and political conflicts and improve lives where they can. 
This is admirable and while it may not solve the entire Middle East situation, it is a gesture of solidarity and respect that is needed in so many places in this world.

SodaStream is about diversity, coexistence and peace. As so many people in Israel know, people from different religions, ethnicities and nationalities can work together in peace and harmony despite what the media wants us to believe. 
Individuals and corporations can show that we are stronger together: women, men, children, lovers of peace, and lovers of freedom and justice.

How do you feel about the political situation in the US at the moment?

Pretty frustrated. No matter what your politics are in particular, we have a president behaving in ways that are unprofessional, unbecoming, and embarrassing. It scares me.

What’s your advice for Jewish parents of girls?

Draw on the strength of the men and women who came before us to repair the world and walk in the image of God. How’s that!?

What do you think is the best way to mark a batmitzvah? How did you celebrate yours?

Wow. Mine was very modest; my grandparents were orthodox so we did a party in the synagogue following the morning services. I was raised Reform so that was hard for them, but I read from the Torah and led the entire service as my synagogue had bnei mitzvah kids do. It was very meaningful for me. I loved every second of it.

I think the best way to celebrate is without a lavish party personally; I think learning text and having a tzedakah project or an art project and a party with friends can be meaningful. I tend to be a modest person in these areas and I think a lot of the emphasis on big parties is not always helpful for maturation and being entered into the adult covenant of the Jewish people.

You recently strained your vocal cords…what was it like, not having a voice? How did you recover?

It’s been hard. I was on vocal rest for about a month and am starting the rehab process which is very slow and sometimes painful. I basically had to shut down any speech to start healing. And lots of sleep!

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