You know traditional Judaism has entered a new milieu when tzniut ends up on TLC. Mayim Bialik starred in NBC’s “Blossom” from 1990 to 1994. More recently, she appeared on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Saving Grace” and, this fall, will have a recurring role on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” At the new Tablet magazine, Mayim dished about her recent appearance on “What Not To Wear.”

Copyright 2009 Mayim Bialik / Photographer

Copyright 2009 Mayim Bialik / Photographer

Earlier this year, producers from the TLC make-over show “What Not to Wear” chose me to “fix.” It was eight months after I had given birth to my second son (my first was three years old ), and I had just completed a doctorate in neuroscience.

I had been wearing slouchy clothes since long before I had kids. I favored men’s oversized garments that hung loosely from my body and had never much cared for fashion or trends. For the most part, I spent little to no time on my appearance. From the time I was 19 until I turned 32, I devoted my time to studying, writing a thesis, and starting a family. But the acting itch never completely abated and I had decided to pursue it again rather than stay in academia. The actor’s life I want to pursue gives me more time to raise my children, rather than hand them over to a nanny. Getting a makeover seemed like a great opportunity to put together a new look that I could use on future auditions.

The WNTW producers asked if I have any clothing restrictions. Deep breath. “I don’t wear pants,” I told them. “I prefer skirts.” You see, I am what I guess you’d call a Conservadox Jew. I started embracing certain aspects of Jewish modesty, or tzniut, before my second son was born, and although I know many Orthodox women who don’t observe tzniut, the boundaries and framework of privacy it provides appealed to me.

I was raised in a traditional Reform household, the grand-daughter of poor Orthodox immigrants from Eastern Europe. For them, success in America came at the seemingly small price of relative assimilation. Growing up, I lived a pretty normal life; I had my own prime-time network TV show from the ages of 14 to 19, which meant my physical appearance and clothing choices were dissected on a weekly basis in gossip magazines and on television. I was pretty impervious to media critiques of my style. I had no real sense of my own physicality and took for granted the feminist idea that I should be able to walk around naked without harassment. But I soon learned that not everyone was a feminist. (more)

Mayim Bialik starred in NBC’s Blossom from 1990 to 1994. More recently she has appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Saving Grace and, this fall, will have a recurring role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Cross posted from TolerantNation

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Lisa Klug

Wordie. Foodie. Jewie. Nerdie. Ashkefardic keyboard addict. Visit me at lisaklug.com, on my travels and in the pages of my books, "Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe," and "Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe."

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