Actress and game show host Mayim Bialik reflects on how her profile has played a prominent role in her life and career.
More specifically, the Big Bang Theory alum recalled an old SNL sketch that mocked her for having a “distinctly Jewish” nose, in an essay for Variety’s Anti-Semitism and Hollywood Package.
The 1994 sketch was a parody of Blossom, an NBC sitcom that Bialik starred in, starting when she was just 14 years old.
While the parody focused on mocking the show’s tendency to be sweet and sentimental storylines, as well as Joey Lawrence’s catchphrase, “Whoa!” it also emphasized that Bialik was indeed Jewish.
“The actress who portrayed me danced and mugged for the camera and she was hilarious,” Bialik wrote, referring to former SNL cast member Melanie Hutsell. ‘But. She wore a prosthetic nose. To really show that she was Blossom, she wore a fake big nose.”
Mayim Bialik, 47, in an essay for Variety, recalled an old Saturday Night Live sketch from 1994 in which she was mocked for having an “unmistakably Jewish” nose.
Initially, Bialik, now 47, writes in the essay about the progression of her appearance, and how it eventually became a talking point in her life.
‘I got into it around fourth grade. Before then I had more of a small button nose. Cute,” she shared before adding, “But from the age of 10, the pointy chin I’ve had since I could crawl was accompanied by what I consider to be a prominent, somewhat regal nose in the style of what has been called a ‘Roman’ nose .’
She started acting professionally during her high school years. As a form of encouragement, her parents compared her appearance to two major stars who also happened to be Jewish: Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler, who were known to have prominent noses but still persevered in major careers.
By the time Blossom premiered on NBC in 1990, criticism began to become increasingly harsh.
An early review from “a leading publication described the lack of ‘sense’ my face made to him.” she said, adding that the shape of her face confused this critic.
“He said my facial features didn’t seem to match,” she said of the review.
Bialik knew about the significance of the Saturday Night Live parody, so she was very excited to see how she would be portrayed.
But after watching the SNL skit with Hutsell, Bialik recalled being “confused” because the prosthetic she was wearing seemed “weird” to her.
“No one else on the show was parodied because of their characteristics,” Bialik noted. “I never thought about talking about it and I mostly tried to forget about it.”
Painful performance: “The actress who portrayed me danced and mugged for the camera and she was hilarious,” Bialik said of former SNL cast member Melanie Hutsell. ‘But. She wore a prosthetic nose. To really show that she was Blossom, she wore a fake big nose.
While reflecting on her Blossom days for the essay, the actress revealed that she wondered how her fans who looked like her felt “when they saw an actress playing me with a comically prosthetic nose”
She went on to admit that she hoped no one noticed the skit, but eventually all her friends in high school saw it and “she felt embarrassed.”
Bialik recalled how MAD magazine did its parodies, explaining how “everyone is caricatured,” but when it came to her SNL parody, she felt “singled out” because of her nose.
It turns out that the unpleasant memory of the SNL skit was triggered when Bialik saw the reaction actor Bradley Cooper got when he was accused of wearing “Jewface” because of the prosthetic nose he wore while playing legendary composer Leonard Bernstein in Maestro.
“And I started scrutinizing the photos of Bradley and Leonard and wondering if it was necessary,” the San Diego native admitted. ‘I do not know how I feel.’
But Bialik does seem concerned about how young girls who looked up to her when she starred in Blossom feel about being criticized for “traits I inherited from my mixed Eastern European-Ashkenazi past.”
The catalyst: It turns out the unpleasant memory of the SNL skit was triggered when Bialik saw the reaction actor Bradley Cooper got when he was accused of wearing “Jewface” because of the prosthetic nose he wore while playing the legendary composer Leonard Bernstein in Maestro
“Girls all over the world told me they had never seen a Jewish girl like me on TV before they saw me on Blossom,” the actress explained. ‘Many said they knew I was Jewish and were proud of it. That was so moving to me, and it still is.”
She added, “I wonder how those girls felt when they saw an actress playing me with a comical prosthetic nose.”
During the essay, Bialik was open and honest about the fact that she didn’t always like her nose, but admitted that she “never wanted to change it.”
“I have come to see my face as distinctly my own, as if it were given to me by God,” she wrote. “My genetic makeup is mine alone, and it is also the combination of cultures that were pushed together after the Holocaust transported so many of us to the shores of Ellis Island. My nose is unmistakably Jewish, and so am I. Is it my nose? Maybe. But I don’t need to know, because we will always be one and the same.’
In addition to her five-season series Blossom (1990-1995), Bialik is also known as neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory (2009-2019), and as the host of the popular game show Jeopardy! (2021-present).