The Southerner, former Mouseketeer and girl band member, and MTV top-rating show co-star is most excited for her role of a lifetime: mother to Hudson. Nikki Deloach is feeling everything but ‘awkward’ when it comes to raising and caring for her adorable, blond and blue-eyed darling
Nikki: Trench top by KAREN KANE, karenkane.com . Jeans by LEVI STRAUSS, levistrauss.com . Shoes by CHELSEA PARIS, chelseaparis.com . Necklace by LEENABELL, leenabell.com Hudson: Onesie by PAIGE LAUREN BABY, paigelaurenbaby.com . Hat (on the cover) by FORE!! AXEL AND HUDSON, foreaxelandhudson.com
It’s hard to ignore Nikki DeLoach as her character “Lacey” in MTV’s phenomenal teen dramedy, Awkward, not just because of the miracles brought on by her amazing push-up bras on the show, but more so because of her spot-on acting. Nikki plays a young mother to an only child on the show—she was a former popular girl who got pregnant in high school by the man she later on married. In the first season of the show, much is played up on the relationship of her character and of the lead’s (her daughter), Jenna (actress Ashley Rickards), because she wrote a horrible, anonymous note of advice from ‘a friend’ to her daughter about the latter’s seeming insignificance—the message may be summed up to one of the letter’s lines: “As you are now, you could disappear and no one would notice.” Their dynamic tugs on the heartstrings of many well-intentioned parents who tend to do more damage than good, unknowingly. We ask Nikki about how she’s similar to her character, how it was like feeling overtaken by her former Mouseketeers, leaving home at 12, being like a sister to Justin Timberlake, meeting husband, Ryan, and being mom to gorgeous little Hudson.
Kariz: You are great on the show, I just have to say. You made me believe that you are actually Lacey.
Nikki: That means so much to me! Thank you so much.
K: Absolutely great. So how was it like growing up in Georgia? I heard you are the eldest of three.
N: Yes, I am the eldest of three, and my sister and I were about 3 and 1/2 years apart, so it was really nice because I had a friend for life. I really couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing. We live on a farm and there’s so much space, and you could be out ‘til dark and our parents didn’t have to worry. All the kids around you could play with, and we’d play basketball everyday. I have a son now and he’s 7 months old, and I yearn to be able to give him something similar to what I had, but I don’t know if I can do that in Los Angeles.
K: You had the whole shebang, farm animals, everything? I love that.
N: Yeah, I rode horses. In the summers, we’d pick corn, green beans, and grow all of our vegetables for the year. All of our meat came from our animals on the farm.
K: You were organic from the get-go. How were your parents like?
N: I was organic from the start. My mother was a teacher but she also was a domestic instructor, a cheerleader sponsor. She always had a million balls in the air. She was very determined, an incredibly gifted educator. And now, she’s the superintendent of the school system. She was really hard on me, but what I now understand as an adult, especially as a mother, is that you want the absolute best for your kids.
N: As a child, I interpreted her behavior as I just wasn’t good enough and I could never be enough for her, or validated, or be accepted by her. Now, I understand that it was her teaching me self-discipline, and me understanding that I could do anything that I wanted to do in life. It didn’t matter if I was a girl or a boy, or how young or old. She also helped to instill in me a really strong work ethic. I look back and think, wow, I’m really grateful for her. Some people say you choose your parents, and my mom and I have gone through definitely a difficult journey in our lives trying to understand each other—my trying to understand her baggage and her life, and her trying to understand my own because I left home when I was 12 years old to go work, and I haven’t lived at home since then. This amazing thing happened on my way to giving birth to Hudson where at the time, I thought it was just a work thing. I was 2 weeks late, I’ve been having contractions and my mom said, “I’m hopping on a plane and you’re gonna give birth too, and I just don’t wanna miss it.” She hopped on a plane and sure enough, I did not give birth. It was a week that went by before I gave birth at the hospital. By then, I was already a week late and everyday we walked, talked, and ate. I never really had that time with her. I got to hear about how motherhood was for her at 21 years old when she first had a kid. We just healed our relationship in such a beautiful way, and I am so glad I chose her as my mother. My dad was always that rock, the one who took us to school every morning. He even tried to do my hair—but I can’t go to school with seven ponytails. (Laughs) He was also really hard on me in some way, and he was athletic. He coached me at basketball and softball. I was the firstborn, so I was the boy and the girl.
K: For 3 and 1/2 years, it was all you.
N: It was all me. But he just had this loving kindness that, to this day, when I would get in trouble, he would be the one to sit down with me and talk it through with me. I always felt his warmth, love, and support. Man, I can’t tell you what it’s like growing up with a father like that as a girl. You look at other men with such confidence, like, I don’t have to take something that I don’t deserve because I know what a real man is.
Weelie shoe in brown multi, $55, Weelie in Light Gray Multi, $53, both by UMI, umishoes.com Nikki: Dress by THREADS FOR THOUGHT, threadsforthought.com . Flipflops by HAVAIANAS, us.havaianas.com . Necklace by LEENABELL, leenabell.com Hudson: Hoodie, t-shirt, and sweatpants, all by GO GENTLY BABY, shop.gogentlybaby.com
K: Exactly. He set the bar high.
N: He woke up with us—all three kids—every night to give us our bottle, he changed the diapers, cooked, took us to school, took me to dance and voice lessons. He would drive 2 hours one way, 2 hours back, and get up at 5 AM to go to work. He was superdad. I warned my husband in the beginning, I said, “Listen—”
K: You got big shoes to fill.
N: Yeah, you got big shoes to fill because I had superdad, you know…
K: Your mom was 21 when she had you, and your father was how old?
N: My father was 24. I’m 34, and I just had my first kid. I know it was a different time, but to have your first kid at 21 years old? It’s something that’s so difficult for me to wrap my head around.
K: You said you left home at 12 to move to Orlando to work in the Mickey Mouse Club alongside some of the biggest names in today’s entertainment scene. How was that like?
N: It was a dream come true. Just to be able to be part of the show, and what the show represents is iconic. To be able to be part of its legacy is an honor and truly a blessing, and I could not have asked to have better castmates. The seven of us, we were family from day one—and to be surrounded by so much talent and everyday be inspired by them? Seeing Christina Aguilera at 12 years old sing—just blew my mind. It rocked my world, it was like there was some singing music box. A lot of us have come from these small towns where, from the time when we were kids, this is what we had wanted to do and it’s all we’ve dreamed of. It never ever seemed like a job—it was playtime and it was fun, and so just seeing yourself in someone else’s eyes and to finally go, “Oh, I understand you. I know who you are because I am you.” I felt like I had finally found this home—a home I never knew existed before—so it was really a wonderful time in my life, and to this day, some of the best years of my life.
K: Is it true that you still keep in touch with Justin Timberlake?
N: Yeah, I also touch base with T.J. Fantini, who’s another cast member. But Justin and I, from day one, we hit it off as friends and he’s a great guy. Let’s talk about how amazingly talented he is—he’a genius. But in terms of as a person, I loved his whole family.
K: You lived with them, right?
N: Actually, his mother wanted to put together a girl group when Justin was in ‘NSYNC, so we kinda put our heads together and ended up with five girls. She was like a second mom to me for a really long time—still is. She’ll still tell me you know—pardon my language—if my shit stinks. Or if I need to get it together, if I’m doing a really good job, and she’s proud of me. I appreciate that.
K: You have two mothers, that’s great. In line with the whole Mousketeer-ing, you mentioned in another interview that you felt somewhat bypassed that all of them were blowing up with their careers…
N: I felt left behind for sure, and a part of me felt that, well, this is it for me. It’s really weird when you grow up in this industry all your life, and you learn very quickly the culture of this industry that—
K: It’s very fleeting.
N: And you are validated by how famous or what your last project was, or what your next project is. All of these friends of mine had gone on to become some of the biggest stars in the world. (Laughs) I think that only exacerbated the feeling that I’m not really good enough and I’m not worthy—and that they have what it takes and I don’t and somebody sees something special in them, and they don’t see it in me. It took me a really long time to understand that my journey is just as precious and special. I am so grateful for those times when I felt like a failure, and everything felt hard and I had to start all over again, and again, and again, because I’m so thankful for work. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m in Awkward that I’m not grateful to be able to be a part of it. I also now understand that I can stand on my own two feet and this business will never validate me—it never will be what truly brings me joy. It may bring me happiness, but joy, that feeling, that thing that exists inside of you no matter what the exterior circumstances are—this business will never bring me that.
K: It must have just been so hard at that stage, as a teenager, with all those hormones, those crazy feelings.
N: Yeah, it was awful. I remember being in L.A. with my Nana, and sometimes just locking myself in the bathroom and sitting in the tub—no water, no nothing, just with my clothes on and crying and feeling like, what am I gonna do? What am I doing wrong? And I had to pay my rent and get a job if I wanna keep doing what I love, so it was really hard.
K: Did you ever go through schooling, up to college, or you went a different route?
N: I did, actually. College was very important to me—my mom was an educator. Somebody asked me the other day when I feel the sexiest, and for me, it was when I feel educated. I went to the University of Nebraska, which has an on-location program. I had a tutor, essentially a point person, and they would send all my tests and materials through him. He would send them back to school, and I actually graduated two years early, with all straight A’s. I had a graduation ceremony with Lance Bass from ‘NSYNC, it was just the two of us. It was really special because you miss a lot of normalcy growing up in this business and it was just a sliver of a ‘normal’ that we got to have the cap and the gown. Our families and friends were there.
K: Smallest graduating class ever.
N: I know, and it was so great and after that, I went into the music business until I moved out to L.A. at 22. We were signed to Lou Pearlman, who also launched ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, and he’s now in jail because of his really unfortunate business practices. ‘NSYNC left him, a lot of groups left him, and record companies didn’t wanna deal with him and essentially, our group lost our recording contract from RCA. Lou said, “I’ll release you, just sign this agreement. You can make me a fifth member of your band–” which is what he had done with all the other people, “I’ll continue to help you.” At that point in time I was like, “Over my dead body.” Either way, I was done with him. I was in such a dark place at that point, so disillusioned that I just decided, if I get don’t get out of here, I’m gonna die here spiritually. So I moved out to L.A. with my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband.
K: That’s so sweet.
N: I had over a year and a half left in my recording contract and I decided to go to community college, put my feet on the ground, and figure my shit out. I was kinda spinning, and I went to Santa Monica Community College, and I got the first two years of my college degree under my belt. It was the greatest thing in the world that I could’ve done. I mean, talk about bringing your confidence back.
N: It just made me feel like there’s a lot more going on in this world than the music group, this thing, you know. I was so engrossed in sociology and psychology. About 5 days after my music contract officially ended, I went on my first real audition since I’ve been out there for a network pilot. I was like, “Listen this is my first audition, really back in the game after my contract ended.” And 2 days later, I was in Hawaii filming a pilot.
K: Wow. (Laughs)
N: Yeah, you just need to take the time and the universe will be there whenever you get back on your feet.
K: Did you have any ‘awkward’ college experiences?
N: Being recognized. (Laughs) Going to community college, and being broke as a joke. Not being able to afford groceries and being this 23-year old in community college, and then getting noticed like, “Were you in that group, Innosense? I think I saw you in Vegas,” or “Weren’t you in the Mickey Mouse Club?” Things like that. And they would be like, “What are you doing here?”
K: We were told by your publicist that you are one of the kindest people she knows. I see it. How do you stay humble in this industry, as you’re in a hit show and all that? Do you think it has a lot to do with what you went through?
N: It’s so nice that you said that, first of all, just so sweet. I will thank her. It has everything to do with what I went through. My mother would tell me everyday, “Pretty is as pretty does.” I grew up knowing that it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside that matters. I’ve made so many mistakes and done things that I was like, “Oh, Nikki why did you do or say that?” But you rebound from those and you say, “I’m gonna do better next time.” I could’ve gone the other way, been that jaded person that’s like, “Hey, now it’s my turn…” Everyday you wake up with a choice. I’ve been with my husband for 14 years, and people ask how that happened.
K: Especially in your industry.
N: I wake up next to him every day. I look at him and I say, “I choose you, you’re my guy.”
K: Very powerful words.
N: You could choose happiness, you could choose to be jaded, or grateful. I just wanna be a person who lives my life with a lot of joy, and I can’t do that if I wake up everyday and choose anger, resentment, or frustration.
K: You’re so blessed. Now you have a baby boy—so much things going on for you. Let’s talk about Awkward for a bit. Can you describe your character in three words? And how you got the role in the first place.
N: Well-intentioned…I’m trying to figure out a word for lack of a skill set? (Laughs)
K: (Laughs) Sometimes inappropriate. So funny.
N: Well-intentioned, bright, and shiny.
K: (Laughs) She is!
N: They had been looking for an actress for this role for quite some time, and as what usually happens in the business, they go through all the names first and then they go through all the people that are at the top agencies. CAA, UCA—and then they start reaching out to everyone else.
K: I love how you put that.
N: I was not in one of those agencies, but I had this really “go get ‘em” agent and he just kept pushing me to read the pilot, and go in on the audition. I kept saying to him, “Joey, I’ve gone in on auditions for mothers all season long, and I keep getting told I’m too young.” And then to play a mom of a freshman? Like, this is a no. No, no, no.
K: Not gonna happen.
N: Then he called back and he was like, they realized they’ve seen you before, they know how young you are. So I read the pilot, and it was literally the best pilot I have read in years. It was such a different voice.
K: It’s so well-written.
N: It had this perfect mixture of humor and heart, and I just thought, I just want 5 minutes in a room to play this person because there was something inside of me that can bring Lacey to life because she’s so different from me. If I can bring her to life, I can do anything. I just loved her, and I guess a lot of other actors saw her as being this really cold, kind of bitchy mom. She had a kid at 16 years old, what do you expect? The creator, Lauren Iungerich, just looked at me and was like, “Oh my God, you’re her.” I tested for it and eventually, I got it.
K: In the first season, Lacey wrote this awful and heartbreaking letter to Jenna about coming out of her shell. Would you ever do the same to your son, Hudson, if you felt like he was not adapting?
N: Here’s the thing about motherhood: I think there are things you think you’ll never do, and there are things you think you always do. I’ve learned to never say never, and never say always. Except with Hudson, because I will always love him, but I think that the reason that Lacey and her relationship with Jenna is so compelling is because it’s so universal. We heighten the situation because it’s comedy and it’s TV, but every mother knows what it feels like to do something with the best of intentions and have it go horribly awry, interpreted by your child in such a different way than what you thought it would be. I would like to think that by the time Hudson is a freshman in high school and he’s going through something like this, I will be really quick to handle it, instead of giving him a confrontation. I’m sure that I will muck it up some other way, and I’ll have to ask for forgiveness.
K: After that letter, your husband on the show almost left you for good. In real life, if your spouse had committed something so hurtful to your kid, do you think you’d leave or stick it out?
N: There’s another thing where you say never and always. You never know in life and I’ve never been that person who, when people ask me about my marriage, it’s like, “Oh yeah, we’re gonna be together for the rest of our lives.” I sure hope so. He is the best. I wouldn’t know what to do without him. But you never know what life is gonna give you. In terms of him doing something that hurt Hudson, that definitely would have to be dependent on the situation.
K: Let’s talk about your husband, Ryan. Is it true that he was formerly from the band Take Five before he became an entertainment lawyer?
N: That is very true. I was lucky. I got the musician spirit.
K: So how did you two meet, and was it love at first sight? (Laughs)
N: (Laughs) I was in a place where I definitely was not looking for a boyfriend or a relationship. I got out of a long-term relationship—
K: This was with JC Chasez right? For five years?
N: Yes. I was not looking for anything serious whatsoever, and I could tell Ryan was the guy you settle down with. He’s the guy you get serious with. There was this part of me that was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to pursue this and see where this goes because he’s so kind and such a good person.” I promised myself I would only look for the nicest guy from there on—the ones that know how to treat a girl. And he was that guy.
K: You both had your musical careers at that time, right?
N: Yeah, we were so young and he was on tour, and I was on tour—I was having so much fun being a girl with other girls. I just did not want anything serious at all, so it wasn’t love at first sight because I was being crowded by—
K: All the noise.
N: All the noise, and my own personal needs that I wanted at that time in my life. We dated and about 4 months into it, he was just kinda like, “Listen, why don’t you go do your thing and if we are ready to pursue this in a more serious way, then give me a call.” He did that very adult thing—and he’s a year younger than me so I was like—
N: Here is a 19-year old kid that’s doing this adult responsible thing. So I went away and months went on and the more I thought about it, I felt like, “What am I doing?”
K: You met him through friends?
N: I met him when he was in the group Take Five. He was also signed to Lou Pearlman, so he lived in Orlando and you know when you’re down there, we all interacted.
K: How long were you together before he proposed, and how did he pop the question?
N: (Laughs) We were together for 10 years. We had a really good friend who was kinda like a mom to both of us. She has known me for a very long time and she said to Ryan, “Right now you can’t really push Nikki. You need to try to be her friend and hang out with her. If you push her, she’s gonna run away.” He just said, “Well, what if I just came over and brought over some Chinese food?” We just sat, had a drink, and chilled. I was like, I think that sounds doable. So he brought over Chinese food, a bottle of wine, and one rose. We ate, talked for hours, and when he proposed, he had the same red roses and there were candles all around the apartment. I was like, “What is going on?” That’s not what we discussed—
K: (Laughs) That’s not what was discussed in the package.
N: Exactly! I knew something was up, it was just too romantic. I was thinking, “What is going on?” And he was saying, “Nothing, I just want to have a nice, romantic dinner.” We finished our dinner, and he didn’t eat a thing because he was so nervous. Finally at the end of it, he gave me this fortune cookie, and it said—
K: Here’s your future.
N: Yeah, “Will you marry me?”
K: That is so sweet.
N: And he then pulled the ring out.
K: That is the sweetest. Fast forward to your pregnancy. Were there any difficulties, funny experiences, odd cravings?
N: I was sick for the first 5 months—all day. In the first trimester, you’re just so exhausted. That first wave of tiredness hits you, and it’s like I’ve never felt tired like that before. I was really sick, and also I was working on Awkward and my husband and I decided not to tell anyone until almost my 5th month. So for those first 3 months, I was on set working sick as a dog, and going back to my trailer. There were moments in the middle of the scene where I was like, this is disgusting, but I would puke in my mouth.
K: (Laughs) I think we’ve all done that.
N: I got to figure out how to swallow it before I say my next line.
K: That’s hilarious. And how do you stay a hot momma? You are so fit and you just gave birth. It’s not fair.
N: I was very, very, very lucky with this. I’m a horrible eater—I’ll eat a kale salad if it’s in front of me and if it’s easy to get to, but if it’s not, I’m gonna get something that’s easy and it might be chicken nuggets. I have to work on that because I want my son to have healthy eating habits. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was very much in shape before I got pregnant. As soon as I felt good enough to be upright, I put him in the stroller and started walking around. If I can get home and there’s an hour of daylight I put him in the stroller and go for a walk, and we just stroll. It’s good for the mind and body.
K: Most memorable experiences so far with Hudson. Everyday, right?
N: Everyday, and I have this specific one when he was just born. He has colic and when you are on a 3 to 6 week baby bender where the baby with colic cries all day long, you’re beyond yourself. It was in the middle of the night and I was breastfeeding him, and I was just sobbing. I was so tired and overwhelmed. After I finished feeding him, I was holding him for a second upright, for at least 20 to 30 minutes afterwards. He just grinned from ear to ear, it was the first time he smiled. I just remembered my heart melting, and at that moment I didn’t remember the last 3 weeks and how tired and overwhelmed I was. I went on that high through the next couple of weeks.
K: Did you plan to have a baby? What was your reaction when you found out you were expecting?
N: It’s so strange, the whole journey, because I was always kind of on the fence about having babies. And then my sister had her babies and I fell in love with my nieces, and it of course softened me to the idea. All of a sudden, one day I was like, I’m ready for a baby. I could feel this little spirit wanting to be born. It sounds so weird, but I could feel his energy. I knew it was a boy, I knew he wanted to be born in January. I said to my husband, let’s start trying in January. Of course the practical me said, listen, it could take a while. A lot of my friends are having a hard time, but I think we should start trying. I’m old enough, and right out of the gate, I got pregnant. I mean the very first time.
K: He’s really for you. He was heaven sent.
N: Exactly, I knew that I could feel it and he was ready but I didn’t know it would be the first time, and, so when I took that pregnancy test I really wasn’t that shocked. Now, my husband was so shocked. He kind of just gave me a little pat on the back and went and crawled into bed. I sat on the couch and got angry, like, that’s it? I go and sit in the back and say, “I just told you that I’m pregnant.” And he was like, “I know babe, I know.”
K: That’s a lot to take in.
N: Yeah, and he was shocked actually for the next 5 months, I would say. And then about month 6 he really started coming around. (Laughs)
K: It’s so funny how men react so differently. I know it’s very early but what scares you the most about having a son? Like, the bullying, fighting…
N: I would say not being able to understand his journey at times. Being a woman you’ll know if your daughter is having boy trouble having her period, or is insecure or whatever it maybe—I can lock into that because I know where she’s coming from.
K: It’s just different with a boy.
N: I wanna feel locked in to that. I know I won’t be able to in the way that my husband will. But I want to be able to kind of lock into that with him and really, really be able to understand him. And I also think sometimes boys could be so daring and wild, and sometimes not think about the consequences of their actions. That also scares me.
K: What’s in your mommy purse/diaper bag that you can’t leave home without?
N: Diapers, wipes, Aden + Anais swaddle blanket…they have so many uses. 10 extra bibs because I can’t stand a dirty bib, an extra outfit for accidents, Hyland’s teething tablets, Wubbanub pacifier, Sophie the Giraffe [teething toy], sunscreen, baby food, and a bottle.
K: How do you manage your schedule with a baby in tow?
N: First, I could not do it without my nanny, Mimi. She is my everything. We work really long hours on the show. I don’t think I would be able to function without knowing that my child is in the best hands possible. Even still, I have meltdowns when I can’t make it home in time to put him to bed. Organization and thinking ahead is also critical. I set alarms on my phone to remind me to do anything and everything—from picking up diapers to rescheduling his pediatrician appointment. At the end of the day, I remind myself that I did my best. You never cross everything off your list and some area of your life always gets neglected. Usually, it’s the gym for me—but if I spend that extra hour with my baby rather than at the gym, I am a much happier human. He is my priority, not my abs.
K: Virtues you will instill in Hudson.
N: I am a big believer in kindness. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. I also love a person with manners. Others high on the list are generosity, humility, confidence, commitment, gratitude, forgiveness, and of course love…of yourself and others.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADAM AND SYLVIA HENDERSHOTT
INTERVIEW BY KARIZ TANYA FAVIS
MAKEUP BY AKEMI YAGI
HAIR BY JOVAN TOWNSEND