If you are old enough to have read Sassy, you know who Mayim Bialik is. She was the star of a sitcom called "Blossom," where she played a sweet and quirky teenager. In real life, she was a devoted Sassy reader. We put Mayim on the November ’92 cover of Sassy, an American flag wrapped turban style around her head. (It was the Election Issue! Get it?)
I went to LA to interview Mayim in the classroom on the lot where the show was shot. Then we headed out to dinner at Spago with her charming parents. Mayim became a friend of the magazine, stopping by the offices if she was in town. We all loved her.
After earning a Ph.D. and having two babies, Mayim got back into acting and now is on "The Big Bang Theory." Her book on attachment parenting comes out in March, and you can read her unique views online, where she writes thoughtfully on many feminist issues. She recently took some time to reminisce about her stint as a Sassy cover girl.
Christina: I read the Sassy cover story again for the first time in so many years. Have you looked at it?
Mayim: No, not lately!
Christina: When I first saw the headline (“Mayim Bialik is not a dag”), I thought, I hope the rest of the story is better than this! Luckily, it was better than the headline. What do you remember about the shoot and the interview?
Mayim: I think the overall experience of getting to be in your favorite magazine when you are a teenager was outrageous. Sassy really was the magazine that spoke to me. My experience was very conflicted. I did and do live in a culture that does not have a lot of females like I am, and here was a magazine that was that. So it was extremely meaningful for that magazine to exist at all, and to be interviewed for it was beyond what I could have believed.
I think part of the reason I loved Sassy specifically was because of the way you dealt with celebrities. A young actor showed up late for an interview, and I don’t know if you were the writer, but it was reported! What a jerk!
Christina: It must have been Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp showed up sooo late. We like waited five hours at a studio that we were paying for.
Mayim: I think that’s what stuck with me. A good magazine would tell you the truth about the celebrity that they are interviewing. I didn’t know any magazine that did that, and I still don’t. If you open any magazine, every celebrity interview is so fantastic, every person is so perfect, and generous and magnanimous and sweet. And I remember being nervous about being interviewed ,because I knew that you guys would be able to depict the true me, and when you’re a teenager you don’t even understand what that means. Maybe I didn’t know who I was, and you guys would figure it out and splay it across the pages of my favorite magazine.
Christina: I wrote that you left me no choice but to write a positive article.
Mayim: I think I remember that! And that felt like, not the coolest kid in high school liking me, it felt like the kid that I wanted to be like in high school liked me.
Christina: You also wore a dress that you had made from a Sassy article.
Mayim: That was one of my favorite parts of the magazine, what was it called?
Christina: Making It, or Make it.
Mayim: The dress that I made was literally one of my favorite items. I have many pictures of me in that dress. I tried to make other things as well, but that was my most successful and really one of my proudest moments.
Christina: You also talked to me about how you had been “linked” to Neil Patrick Harris, but you guys were “just friends.”
Mayim: That’s right! Look at us now…
Christina: Something that I was totally shocked about when I was reading the article was that you had dinner with Stephen Dorff on your 15th birthday at Spago.
Mayim: I don’t even remember that. I remember he was at my Sweet Sixteen, as was Neil and Johnny Galecki. I haven’t seen Stephen Dorff, since then. But I’m actually really happy for him that he’s working again. Did you want me to speak about the actual photo shoot?
Christina: Oh yeah, about the American flag wrapped around your head.
Mayim: It’s kind of funny, because I loved the photo shoot. I loved the filter that was used and it was the 90s, it was progressive. Now you see it all the time. But I loved the photo shoot. I wore a couple of my favorite vintage dresses. But I remember being, honestly, disappointed, because I wanted one of the retro pictures to be on the cover. I wanted one of the glam ones where we darkened my beauty marks.
I liked the American Flag photo, but I always felt like I was squinting instead of just like smiling. I knew that it was a big deal to have an election issue, and now I am an adult and can see how important it was having it be election-focused, especially for that demographic.
Christina: It’s so cute, though. So in the article you said when you were an adult, your first car was going to be a big black vintage car.
Mayim: Yes, and my parents would not let me, and I went on strike. For a year I wouldn’t buy a car. It’s such a high-class LA teenager problem. My parents wanted me to get a BMW or a Mercedes, these cars that were super-hip, wealthy ritzy cars. And I held firm. I did not want it.
And about a year later my manager at the time was like “I think you need to get a Saab.” It had funny angles and it was an odd car and that was the car for me. I really loved my Saab. It had a moon roof and it was black. Now I drive a Volvo. I still fantasize about having a vintage rambler, but now I am such a green, environmentally oriented person.
Christina: When did you become a vegan? You were not a vegan then, were you?
Mayim: No, you probably saw the last of meat eating. I stopped eating most meat when I was about 18. I was still eating dairy and eggs. Then, when I had my first son six years ago, he was allergic to dairy in my breast milk. That started the elimination of dairy and eggs. And honestly it feels like a real actualization of the way I wanted to be. I remember feeling guilt feelings around food. I always thought I would make a better adult than kid or teenager, and it turned out to be true. What felt weird and angst-y as a teenager feels kind of empowering and gratifying as an adult, whether its eating or clothing choices and being a feminist or whatever.
Christina: You were an amazing teenager, Mayim, you really were.
Mayim: Yeah, but it wasn’t comfortable to be that kind of teenager. I don’t know.
Christina: I don’t think any teenager is really completely comfortable.
Mayim: It’s true. But I think that Sassy tried to make people feel less alone, that there was a world waiting where there were other women who were interested in things besides what we were told to be interested in.