From the southern streets of Georgia to the red carpets of Hollywood, Nikki DeLoach’s early pageantry days was the unintended gig that led to her showbiz career. Although beauty pageants were far from her heart’s desire, she found her passion within the talent portion of the competitions, where she could showcase her singing and dancing skills. Eventually, one of those wins led to the break of a lifetime when she was asked to audition for the beloved television show The Mickey Mouse Club. “…They call them cattle calls, where… thousands of people show up. But I did end up getting it, so if I wouldn’t have started in pageants and my mom and grandma wouldn’t have put me in them, then I would have never ended up on the Mickey Mouse Club,” DeLoach tells Tinseltown Mom.
The storyteller was 12 when she secured that iconic role, however, as a toddler, she already had dreams of grandeur. “At three years old I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and that sounds crazy, but it’s true… I told my mother at three years old what I was going to do… Before I even got an audition for the Mickey Mouse Club my mother said I was sitting in front of the TV watching the show and I pointed to it and I said, ‘I’m going to be on that.’” The talented artist performed alongside other famous Mouseketeers like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Ryan Gosling, before it was cancelled two seasons later. “It was a dream come true because all of a sudden I’m around all these other kids who wanted to do what I wanted to do, who was into what I was into.” DeLoach reflects.
After The Mickey Mouse Club ended, DeLoach began working in Hollywood and was increasingly building her acting career when she was approached with another opportunity. “When I was around 17, Lynn Harless, who is Justin’s mom… she wanted to create a girls’ group that was just like NSYNC, singing and dancing, the whole thing, so she called me and said, ‘… I want to do this with you and Britney at the helm and then we’ll have an audition for the other three girls.’ Although the group, Innosense, were very close, even with a rotating door of members, it was the criminal activity of former music mogul Lou Pearlman that prompted her exit. She was fortunate enough to transition back into acting with relative ease after completing 2 years of community college. “…I got my first audition… it was 5 days after my contract had officially ended with Lou… I went on the audition. I booked it and then two days later I was in Hawaii filming the pilot for North Shore.”
DeLoach continued her steady climb in television, eventually securing the role of Lacey Hamilton on MTV’s hit teen comedy-drama Awkward, where she became a mom for the first time. “We finished that season when I was 7 ½ months pregnant… I was able to work throughout my pregnancy and I had a show to come back to after I had Hudson, which was such a blessing because so many women in this industry struggle with, ‘When do I do this?’ ‘When do I get pregnant?’ and they put if off for such a long time because you know you’re going to be taken out of the game in some way, shape or another. It’s so hard because you fight for something… you work so hard for it and then you get momentum and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m at the age where I need to have the baby, but am I going to take myself out?’ It’s a really hard choice for women and it’s such a struggle…”
The mom of two boys, 4 and 8, has also been vocal about her struggles with suicidal postpartum anxiety after having her oldest son. “Those were dark times. They were really tough because I went back to work pretty soon after having Hudson and that was the tough part of it, I will say. I needed that time to be home and I think that this is a bigger discussion for women in the United States of America in terms of maternity leave and how much time we give women… We’re responsible for keeping life going and giving life and all of these things, yet we are not offered the support that we really need after we have the baby, to be able get back on our feet. I was fine for the first couple of months and then I had this really big turn once I started to go back to work. …I had postpartum anxiety… All day long, the anxiety of being away from the baby; the anxiety of being with the baby but feeling so anxious about every single thing and not being able to connect with your baby because you are so riddled with anxiety and fear. And then I just spiraled; I couldn’t talk to anybody about it because I felt so much shame around it… Every single day I was just thinking of ways to kill myself, to be honest. If I could just drive my car off the freeway or sink into a bathtub of water…”
Over time, and with the right help, DeLoach found healing, and it was after that when another blessing came her way by the name of Hallmark. “I can thank my grandmother for that… My grandma had become really obsessed with Hallmark Christmas movies. Awkward was a little racy and she didn’t always love the content. She would watch it for me… So, she called me to say, ‘I want you to do a Hallmark Christmas movie. I want you to do something wholesome. I want you to do something that I would love to watch… So, my agent called Hallmark… And I did my first one and it was called Christmas Land… And I will tell you, I come from a very small town, where everybody knows everybody… I went home for Christmas that year… And we were in church the night before Christmas Eve service and the pastor was like, ‘We all have to get out of here, because Nikki’s Hallmark Christmas movie is on, and we all have to get home to catch it.’ So, I wake up the next day, and the feedback that I got from these beloved humans, who’ve known me since I was born… the joy that came out of them from seeing me do this, and I was like, ‘Wait, there’s something here. What is it about these movies that are making people feel this way?’ … I had never gotten this reaction from people before and I was like, ‘This is something that I want to be a part of.’”
When DeLoach got back to LA, she sat down with her management team and was clear on her intentions. She wanted to produce and star in Hallmark movies. “This is before Hallmark was big… and became the Hallmark that everyone knows and talks about today, and they were like, ‘Wait a second, you want to come off of this hit show and do Hallmark movies?’ and I said, ‘Yes, that’s what I want to do.’” So, her Hallmark journey began, now with more than 10 movies under her belt. When DeLoach became pregnant with her second son, Bennett, whom she learned had numerous heart defects, and had to have multiple surgeries, she couldn’t audition or entertain the idea of being on a show for several years. The actress credits God for orchestrating the opportunity with Hallmark, because it gave her the flexibility needed to balance work and family. “Hallmark allowed me the chance to pop off and go work for like three weeks somewhere, make money for my family, keep my health insurance and also really become a producer in the process and a writer, because I now write for them… and It allowed me the space to be able do that while also going through this really extremely tough time with my child. That was all God, and I’m so grateful that I made that pivot in my life.”
The actress was even able to keep her mental health in check after her second pregnancy using unconventional methods to regulate her hormones. “Because I had done so much work around postpartum and had been in groups and talked to women, one common denominator that existed for all of them that saved their lives on their second pregnancy, was eating their placentia, and some women look at me like I have lost my mind but let me tell you, it saved my life and especially going into baby #2 where my baby was going to have, not just one heart surgery, but three in the first two years of his life…”
She’s struggled with bouts of mental illness; was challenged while watching her son face extreme health trials and grieved the lose of her father in 2021 from a rare form of Dementia, but through it all DeLoach remains grounded and steadfast in her Christian faith. “I always say that maybe God knew that I was one of those people who would talk about whatever it was that I’d experienced. So maybe He just gave me the things, the hard things to go thorough… We have a tendency to go into that place of… ‘This is so unfair.’ We become victims of our circumstance and that’s a very human thing… The truth of the matter is… illness can happen to anyone, and hard things happens to everyone… Life was never promised that it would be easy. In fact, life for the most part, especially when you become an adult, it’s hard, it’s really hard… Allow the moments of happiness and joy, take it, seize it because it’s going to get you through that next hard thing that you’re going to have to do. That’s life. It’s life.”
Keep an eye out for Nikki DeLoach as she’s got more projects in the works and more stories to share.