words | Gerry Strauss photography | James Banasiak @janasiak

words | Gerry Strauss

photography | James Banasiak @janasiak

Between the TV stardom, the PHD in neuroscience and the ever-mature demeanor that helped her navigate her fame, You might think that growing up was easy for Mayim Bialik. You'd be wrong. In fact, her new book - "Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular" - is largely a collection of lessons that she had to learn throughout her teenage years and beyond... just like the rest of us. Now at a place in her life where women of all ages tend to view her as a role model, Mayim felt the time was right to share everything she's learned with the newer generations who look to follow her lead. She was eager to chat with us about the book and how it might be a perfect fit for Luca readers.

 

Luca: Let's get to the obvious question: why did you decide to write this book?

Mayim Bialik: Besides being Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, which is how a lot of people know me, I actually have a PhD in neuroscience, which I got right when I was about to have my second child. I'm actually trained as a scientist and taught neuroscience for five years before returning to acting. The fact that I play a scientist on television and am one in real life is interesting, but it's also pretty meaningful for me personally.

The fact is, I've been approached by a lot of different companies to put my face on a science book for girls, and it didn't feel right to generically slap my face on a "science book." When Penguin approached me, they actually were interested in the way that I talk about my character on The Big Bang Theory, and in particular the way that I present notions of being a late bloomer, which I talk a lot about... how Amy's a late bloomer and I was a late bloomer.

That was the basis for starting the conversation about what would it be like to write a book about growing up female and touch on a lot of the aspects that many of us don't hear about. I never had books like this, and so the idea was basically to take the entire female experience from what makes us female all the way up to why and how are we social creatures, how do we learn, how do we cope when things are difficult, and how do we make a meaningful life for ourselves.  

That's really the way the book is structured. Every chapter has a little bit of science, a little bit of anecdote, and a lot about the social aspects of being female. The book was reviewed by a pediatrician, by an OBGYN, by a school counselor, and by another neuroscientist. We wanted it to be accurate and also interesting and fun, but also we wanted things such as what does it mean to be transgender, what's it like dealing with depression, what about eating disorders, how does the media show women and what does that mean for us? We didn't want to pick one thing about being female. I really wrote a book about what I see as all of our experience as females from how babies are made to how we make a difference

Luca: You've certainly hit on an interesting point because One of the biggest challenges that we all face growing up is the constant questioning of "do I know everything I'm supposed to know?" This is kind of a handbook... almost a security blanket for those who might not necessarily be learning things at the same time as others. 

photo CBS 'The Big Bang Theory' | Getty Images Mayim with co-star, Jim Parsons on set as 'Sheldon and Amy'

photo CBS 'The Big Bang Theory' | Getty Images

Mayim with co-star, Jim Parsons on set as 'Sheldon and Amy'

Mayim Bialik: Right, and the fact is, it's a broad age range to write a book for. My audience is sort of in the 11 to 18 year old range, and the fact is, 11 year olds are very different than they were when I was 11. We really had to say, "What is it like to be 11 now versus what it was like when I was 11?" The things that young women have to deal with are so different now... social media and sexting and dating in a world where the notion of courtship is so different from what it used to be.

Luca: Everyone needs someone to look up to, and they don't all have access to a Mayim Bialik. Do you think that it's important for women and people in general to work harder to be there for each other?

Mayim Bialik: Yeah, for sure. Instead of role models, I think it's important for young women in particular to have some sort of mentor or someone that they can look up to who has a life that is interesting to them and ask them, "How did you get that life? How did you get there?" Meaning, if you're interested in being a veterinarian, to find ways to come in contact with people who are veterinarians and say, "What was your life like? What did you do to get here?" No matter what your interest is in. I think that's one thing, but I also think that with so much emphasis on celebrities and especially with social media showing us everything all the time of what every public person is doing, I think it's even more important to find the importance in friendships and in other females in particular. That girl power is very important and I think can combat against a lot of the negativity that comes as we get older as women from the media in many cases.

I didn't want to write a book sounding like a scolding aunt, and I really wanted it to be scientifically appropriate, sociologically appropriate, but also really relevant. My editor and I said, "There are websites that talk about these things, but a comprehensive book about being female that includes gender identity, eating disorders, mental health..." We think it's a very special book.

Pre-Order Now - Book Release - MAY 2017

Pre-Order Now - Book Release - MAY 2017

Luca: It comes across as an informational handbook as opposed to being something that's preachy or really even giving any strong advice one way or the other, but it's really about laying all of the cards on the table.

Mayim Bialik: Yeah, and you have to write so that everyone feels included. That's why there is a section on late bloomers, which basically says, "If this chapter didn't make sense to you, don't worry. It'll all be fine eventually."

Luca: Putting a book out there like this unquestionably invites fans to look at you as somewhat of a role model, a label that you've probably dealt with since you yourself were a teen starring in "Blossom". Is that something that has come comfortably to you, or has that evolved as you've grown up? 

Mayim Bialik: I think that's actually something I choose to be very open about in the book, both in the chapters on dating and sex and also in the chapters about things that are hard in life. This has never been a very comfortable place for me to be, being a public person. It doesn't mean I'm not grateful for the opportunities or that I don't love my life and my job, because I do, but the fact is for many of us, what everyone else seems to be comfortable with does not always resonate with every individual person. I really wanted to also have this book be really inclusive and address all aspects of the female experience, and also let us learn from one another. There are pros and cons to all sorts of different behavior.

Luca: Like our magazine, your book encourages young women to embrace the world and all it has to offer... to develop interests and give back to others whenever possible. Why do you think it's important for everyone to embrace that vision as early as they can?

Mayim Bialik: I think that for a long time historically, women have not been represented the same way as men for a lot of reasons. This is one way that we can get a head start on having equal voices and equal opinions about things no matter what your opinions are. There's actually a chapter dedicated to what do you want your life to be like, and what are the things you can do very young, to try and find your passion and pursue it. Obviously grownups know that those things help with social development. They help develop a lot of really important skills, and honestly in a lot of cases they keep you out of what we would call trouble. Generally speaking, it's very important to find things that are interesting to you and the earlier the better.

Luca: Like our magazine, a unique sense of style has played a huge part in your most well-known roles. How important is it for one to develop their own sense of fashion?

Mayim Bialik: Gosh. I think expressing your individuality through fashion is very important. It's something that even I as an adult tend to embrace. Being comfortable in what you're wearing is incredibly important, and I know that a lot of fashions these days are geared often towards a particular body type, and I know that for me, as a not-typical body type, I often try and fit into the clothes that everybody else seems to be wearing, and it often doesn't make me feel comfortable when I'm worried about "is my stomach sticking out, does my butt look too big, do my breasts look long?" In general, I seek to try and find clothes that I physically feel comfortable in and a lot of times there aren't choices.

It's actually something we talk about in the book, but there are a lot of young girls who are now trying to find options that are more comfortable for them. All that stuff's going to vary by what your parents are comfortable with, and what community you come from, if you come from a religious background that has rules about clothes, it all varies so much. I definitely think that being comfortable is really what makes you feel confident.

Luca: Okay. Technology is obviously one of the biggest things that's changed since your teenage years... the accessibility of information. Do you think that teens today are well-equipped to learn how to develop healthy lifestyle habits, or is there actually too much info to filter through?

Mayim Bialik: I think that this is a great example of where technology and the internet and that accessibility of information is really a double edge sword. In some ways it makes the world so much more convenient and informative and things are able to happen with such efficiency, but yeah, there's also a danger not only for the information that we can get, but to the overflow of our brains to constantly being on a phone. That's something that even though I'm a grownup, I started to try and build in times when I force myself to not be in touch with technology, because sometimes it's more the habits of constantly wanting to be connected more than the information that can be dangerous.

Luca: Everyone needs someone to look up to, and they don't all have access to a Mayim Bialik. Do you think that it's important for women and people in general to work harder to be there for each other?

Image courtesy of CBS

Image courtesy of CBS

Mayim Bialik: Yeah, for sure. Instead of role models, I think it's important for young women in particular to have some sort of mentor or someone that they can look up to who has a life that is interesting to them and ask them, "How did you get that life? How did you get there?" Meaning, if you're interested in being a veterinarian, to find ways to come in contact with people who are veterinarians and say, "What was your life like? What did you do to get here?" No matter what your interest is in. I think that's one thing, but I also think that with so much emphasis on celebrities and especially with social media showing us everything all the time of what every public person is doing, I think it's even more important to find the importance in friendships and in other females in particular. That girl power is very important and I think can combat against a lot of the negativity that comes as we get older as women from the media in many cases.

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