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Style Session: Mayim Bialik

You might remember her as the titular teenage star of '90s hit sitcom Blossom, but almost two decades later, Mayim Bialik is back in the spotlight in more ways than one. In addition to being recently nominated for an Emmy for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS show The Big Bang Theory, Mayim writes a blog about Judaism, is the spokesperson for a green parenting organization, and just like her super-smart character, received a Ph. D. in Neuroscience from UCLA. But while there's no denying that she has both brains and beauty, a few years back Mayim's fashion sense was not quite on the same page... so much so that she was ambushed by TLC's What Not To Wear and given an impromptu wardrobe makeover!

We asked the multi-talented actress how she manages to stay fashionable and modest on the red carpet as an observant Jewish woman, the craziest outfit she's seen at Comic Com, and if those famous Blossom hats are coming back into style any time soon.

Lucky: Congrats on your Emmy nomination! Where were you when you found out?

Mayim Bialik: I was at my best friend’s in Atlanta, we were getting ready to take all of our four boys to LEGOland Discovery and I was making my younger son cereal. I was just getting off of a phone interview about breastfeeding awareness, like that’s how much I wasn't expecting this. It was kind of crazy, obviously the kids didn’t really care, they just wanted breakfast and LEGOland! I was saying to my publicist, “No, no, this is not happening!” I had to make a ton of phone calls, and my friend has her newborn and her three year old, and she was taking care of my two kids while I was running out making phone calls. And then I turned off my phone and went to LEGOland.

Your character Amy on The Big Bang Theory has a degree in neuroscience just like you, and she has this sort of geek chic fashion sense going on. Do you see yourself in her style?

I think she’s more “geek” than “geek chic”! Even in my schlumpiest days, I never would have mixed plaids and stripes like she does. Also, they pad me pretty well to make me a couple of sizes bigger than I am. You know, scientists don’t have to be frumpy, but I think it's because they really want Amy’s physicality to not at all be a part of her relationship with Sheldon and I think that’s kind of sweet, like he really does fall for her because she’s the closest thing to him intellectually. I think that’s really kind of neat to play a female character whose appearance isn't a big part of her character, and as a woman in Hollywood it’s very unusual to get to play that kind of character.

Do you go for guys like Sheldon in real life?

I’m usually more of a Leonard type than a Sheldon type, so a little more peppy quirky rather than plain quirky, but I always tended to love pale n' sickly when I was young; I loved tall, lanky, pale, sickly guys. Sort of a punk rock type.

You recently were at Comic Con to promote The Big Bang Theory. How was that?

Comic Con was intense, I’m a comic book person, but my desire to be there unfortunately gets kind of trumped by the stuff I do because I’m there. We gave away a trip to space to a fan; that happened at the panel. So we literally are sending a fan into space, she’s going to be training and preparing, it’s a company that sends tourists into space for an hour basically, there and back. So that’s kind of cool. Last year I saw a Chewbacca bikini. This year I saw a lot more variety of Big Bang Theory T-shirts being paraded by us on people, some of them licensed by Warner Brothers, some of them not, but all of them cute.

I know a while back when you were on Blossom, your character had some pretty interesting style going on. Those awesome hats were like their own character! Did you get to keep any of them?

Nope, Disney owned everything including all of my underwear. Yep, all of my fancy, beautiful, expensive bras that the wardrobe department gave me had to be turned in at the end of five years. Jenna von Oÿ, who played Six, kept some of them cause some of them were her personal ones. Actually, her character wore them more than I did, but a lot of the publicity photos had me in that hat, and that’s kind of why it became the iconic image. My style off the show was very different: lots of men’s Levis and black T-shirts and flannel shirts. I wore Doc Martens pretty much every day of my entire life from the time I was like 14 to 18. I was pretty goth, I was very…black. Buckles and chains, things like that.

It seems like '90s fashion is coming back in some ways, do you think we'll start seeing some Blossom-inspired looks on the street?

I have seen a photoshoot or two with that, it’s unbelievable to me the things that are back, but I definitely have seen those sort of floral dresses coming back, though I have yet to see them with Doc Martens which is something we pretty consistently did. I've seen those little clippie-dos on the back of dresses, vests over dresses, which happened once; I don’t think it needs to happen again, but apparently it does. It’s kind of bizarre to me, all of this fashion stuff. But I think a lot of what Sherry Thompson, who was the stylist for Blossom, was trying to mix a lot of ethnic fabrics into things, and if you go back, you’ll see that was a lot of what she was doing, which for the time was unusual, especially for young girls. It’s something you might see in fashion magazines or something, but she really did incorporate a lot of ethnic prints and stuff into “normal” outfits, and I’ve definitely seen that coming back. My husband and I were in New York a couple of times in June and we saw a woman in a heavy chintz long-sleeved shoulder-padded shirt, with high-waisted pleated short-shorts and little jazz booties. It’s amazing what some fashion looks like. She looked good, but I would never think of it.

You were on What Not To Wear a few years ago and they helped you find a new style. Do you think that's going to help you find something to wear for the Emmys?

The best thing I learned from that experience, and I say this sincerely, is to not trust myself to get dressed. It actually was a very personally helpful thing for my career as well: it’s important to look competitive and Stacy and Clinton told me to look as skinny as possible all of the time for my job and for the publicity stuff that I do. But in real life, I still favor wearing all black, and I literally wear like three different outfits in rotation unless I have to do something fancy. I have a stylist, her name is Alison Kahn, and she really understands me and how hard it is to strap on that SPANX and heels and get out there. Also, I’m a modest dresser; I’m a Jewish woman and I’ve found a stylist who really respects that and honors it, and finds creative ways to let me still look hip and current and competitive on the carpet without feeling like I’m wearing a flannel nightgown. So we’ve already started taking bids from designers who want to design a modest dress for me which is incredible. A lot of women have told me that it really makes them happy to see people who dress more modestly on the red carpet so I’m happy to represent those women as much as I can.

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