Why Mayim Bialik "Felt Ashamed" Over '90s "SNL" Sketch Parodying Her
She was 18 and starring on Blossom when the episode aired.
From 1990 to 1995, Mayim Bialik starred in the sitcom Blossom as a teenager who deals with typical adolescent issues while living with her dad and two older brothers. The show was a hit, which meant that it received attention outside of its fanbase, and in 1994, it was parodied on Saturday Night Live. In a new essay for Variety, Bialik opened up about seeing the sketch as a teenager and why one aspect of how she was portrayed made her feel ashamed and confused. Read on to see what the actor and Jeopardy! host had to say.
The SNL sketch pokes fun at Blossom's storylines.
The 1994 Saturday Night Live sketch mimics an episode of Blossom, from the intro with Bialik and her co-stars dancing to the theme song to the sort of storylines the show featured. In the sketch, Blossom talks to her friend Six about being worried about having sex with her boyfriend for the fourth time. She also has a conversation with her overly supportive father about carrying condoms and tampons in her purse.
In the sketch, Blossom is played by Melanie Hutsell, who starred on SNL from 1991 to 1994. Guest host Sara Gilbert plays Six, Kevin Nealon plays Blossom's dad, and Mike Myers plays Blossom's brother Joey.
One aspect of the sketch stood out to Bialik.
Hutsell not only dresses like Blossom in the sketch but also wears a large, prosthetic nose. This is what upset Bialik as a teen and has stuck with her for almost 30 years.
"The actress portraying me was dancing and mugging for the camera and she was hilarious," Bialik wrote in her essay for Variety. "But. She wore a prosthetic nose. In order to truly convey that she was 'Blossom,' she wore a fake, big nose. I don't know if it was significantly larger than my real nose and I don't care to remember. I remember that it struck me as odd. And it confused me. No one else on the show was parodied for their features."
Bialik pointed out that in the show's parody in Mad magazine—which came out not long before—"everyone is caricatured." But, in the SNL parody, she said, "[I]t was just me that was singled out. More specifically, it was my nose."
She felt ashamed.
Bialik wrote that she tried to stop thinking about the SNL sketch but knew classmates at her school would see it. At the time the sketch aired, she was 18.
"I never thought to talk about it and mostly I tried to forget it," Bialik wrote. "I hoped no one noticed. All of my friends at high school watched SNL. It wasn't subtle. They would all see it and I felt ashamed."
She said her nose kept her from "All-American" roles.
In the Variety essay, Bialik wrote that she began to understand other people's perception o her "undeniably Jewish" nose when she was in fourth grade. As a hopeful young actor, she wasn't initially cast in leading roles or in commercials "since what they wanted in commercials was 'All-American' kids." "I didn't capture that vision," she added.
Bialik's big break came when she played the younger version of Bette Midler's character in Beaches. After this, she was cast in Blossom, which premiered when she was 14.
For Variety, she recalled an early review of Blossom in which the critic said her face didn't make "sense" to him. "He said that my features did not seem to match one another," the 47-year-old wrote. "I was essentially being described as a Frankenstein of a teenager. At the time, I'm not going to tell you it didn't hurt."
She worried about the impact the sketch would have on young, Jewish fans.
Bialik said that Jewish viewers told her that they were grateful for the representation the family sitcom offered. "Girls all over the world used to tell me that they had never seen a Jewish girl like me on TV before they saw me on Blossom," she wrote. "Many said they knew I was Jewish and it made them proud to be. That was so touching to me, and it still is. I wonder how those girls felt when they saw an actress playing me with a comically prosthetic nose."
She went on to say that she's been remembering the response she got for her features in light of Bradley Cooper, who is not Jewish, playing Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming film Maestro. In the movie, which Cooper also directs, he wears a prosthetic nose. "I started scrutinizing the photos of Bradley and Leonard and wondering if it was necessary," Bialik wrote. "I don't know how I feel. I don't know if it matters how I feel. I assume it matters how his family feels. But maybe it doesn't?"
As reported by NBC News, Bernstein's children released a statement after the trailer for Maestro led to backlash. "It's true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose," the statement reads. "Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we're perfectly fine with that. We're also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well."
She's thankful social media wasn't around when she was a young star.
In a 2022 interview on the podcast Life Is Short, Bialik said that if social media was around when she was a teenager, she would have felt pressured to get a nose job.
"I probably would have asked for plastic surgery," she said (via Yahoo!). "A lot of girls would get a nose job at 16 in a lot of circles. I definitely wished I had a different face, which I think is also, a lot of kids go through that, boys and girls. I do think, if social media had existed, I don't know if that pressure would not have gotten to me in a way where I would have said, 'I can do it different. Look at this one who did it different. Look at that one.'"
Instead, she embraced her appearance.
In the Variety piece, Bialik wrote that she's "had many conversations with [herself] about [her] nose in the past 40 years." She added, "I have not always loved it, but I also have never wanted to change it."
"I have come to see my face as distinctly mine as given to me from G-d," Bialik concluded. "My genetic makeup is mine alone, and also, it is the combination of cultures shoved together after the Holocaust spilled so many of us out on the shores of Ellis Island. My nose is undeniably Jewish, and I am as well."
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