Photographer: Inda Reid; Hair: Kyle Hennessy
Nikki DeLoach has been working in entertainment for decades, but she doesn’t consider acting her life’s purpose.
Instead, her life is about helping others.
“When I take my last breath in this world, I want to know that I gave it all,” she tells Los Angeles Confidential. “I want to know that I tried to leave the world a better place.”
In addition to being a Hallmark star, DeLoach is a writer, producer, philanthropist and mom. She is the foundation board of trustees president for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is gearing up for Make March Matter. The initiative sees businesses throughout L.A. commit a percentage of profits from March to the hospital.
DeLoach points out that CHLA is a safety net hospital, meaning it won’t turn away families who don’t have insurance or can’t afford treatment. “No mother and father should ever have to have a standard of health care that is lower than what their child deserves because they can't afford it. They should never have to make that choice.”
She personally knows the importance of being able to solely focus on your child’s health. DeLoach’s connection to CHLA began right after she gave birth to her second son, who has already had three heart surgeries at 5 years old. In his very first days of life, CHLA provided him life-saving care.
In the same week DeLoach learned of her son’s heart condition (during which time she was pregnant), she also learned of her father’s diagnosis of Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia. He later passed at age 66.
“In my life, things that matter are the health and well being of my family,” she reflects. “Are we healthy? And I don't just mean physically. I mean mentally, emotionally, spiritually.”
DeLoach’s career kicked off as a kid when she was a member of The Mickey Mouse Club alongside Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake, who is still a close friend (He performed at the CHLA gala last year, helping them raise more than $5.5 million). Many remember her from MTV’s Awkward, which ran from 2011 to 2016, as the seemingly superficial, but ultimately caring (and hilarious) Lacey Hamilton, mom to Jenna (star Ashley Rickards).
Most recently, DeLoach starred in Hallmark’s Grilling Season: A Curious Caterer Mystery. A follow up to last year’s Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, the movie premiered Feb. 5 and found DeLoach’s Goldy Berry, a caterer, back in the throes of a murder after she throws a lavish barbecue event for childhood friend and realtor Susie Craig. When Craig is killed by a grill explosion after the event ends, Berry teams up again with detective Tom Schultz (Andrew Walker) to clear her name.
Since 2015, DeLoach has nurtured a presence on Hallmark by starring in countless movies like Cranberry Christmas, Sweet Autumn, Love Takes Flight, Christmas Land, The Perfect Catch, and 2018’s Reunited at Christmas, which she developed and executive produced. Her duties with the network expanded last year when she signed an exclusive, multi-picture overall deal.
“I love my job so much,” DeLoach says. “I cannot believe that I'm still getting to pay my bills doing what I love, the thing that I wanted to do when I was three years old.”
But even with a lifelong love for entertainment, her relationship with the industry has evolved.
“My career was my everything,” she explains. “For the longest time, it was my sole focus. It was an obsession— almost an unhealthy obsession, really, because I was seeking things inside of it. I was seeking self worth. I was seeking happiness. I had basically turned the industry into this thing that I thought if I experienced success, somehow I was going to finally be happy and finally have joy and finally feel self worth.”
Everything changed during the last decade when DeLoach’s son was born with a heart condition and she lost her father. “When you go through really hard things in your life, what you actually realize is that… happiness and so forth cannot be attained by any external forces. That is an inside job,” she says. “And your external forces are going to change. They just are. They're constantly shifting. They're constantly changing. And what you might want, might not be what you need in your life. And so I learned going through all these really hard things that it was an inside job and to surrender to whatever is present in my life.”
“One of the blessings of grief is clarity,” she also mentions.
Hallmark is a fitting place for DeLoach as she finds balance between her passion and purpose. Whether as star, writer or producer, she’s churning out projects that, as she explains, helps people see different points of view.
“I've always felt like we have this responsibility to take on stories that matter,” she says. “[At Hallmark,] we're telling stories about neurodiversity and [among] all of our Christmas movies this year, there was one about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. We're really trying to open people's hearts and open people's minds to show them that there are a multitude of ways to celebrate the holidays. There's a multitude of ways to love, a multitude of ways to move through the world. And that, really, at the end of the day, we're all just walking each other home.”
She notes how many consider Hallmark as “the channel of love,” but she thinks a more appropriate title is “the network of hope.” One example is her Chrismtas movie from last year, The Gift of Peach, in which DeLoach’s Traci grapples with her faith after her husband tragically dies.
“The reason that movie was so important is we're not given a roadmap for grief,” she says. “It is one of the most brutal, challenging, earth-shaking feelings you will ever have as a human being. And it's also the one thing no matter what we will all experience, unfortunately. We will all lose somebody that we love. And these movies, they offer a bit of a roadmap for hope that even if you lose someone that you love, you can learn to put one foot in front of the other and carry that loved one with you in all that you do in the world.”
DeLoach’s purposeful storytelling mission is unsurprising given she grew up “truly believing that we are all in this together.”
“This goes back to my faith,” she explains. “At a really young age, I fell in love with the story of Jesus, and with the way that Jesus walked the earth and was constantly going towards the need. And if you really study the Bible, without taking something and twisting it into a story that fits the way that you believe the world should be, you really look at it at its core—There's no separation for Jesus. Nobody was better than anyone else.”
Reflecting on the industry, DeLoach points out the irony between creatives’ duties to “have such an open heart and open space inside of us for ideas to be born and brought to life” and the industry’s tendency to operate on the idea that “it’s just business.” She thinks anyone who views talent as a commodity first and foremost is doing a disservice to both themselves and their peers. They’re “missing the point of all of this,” which— from interactions on set to the feelings audiences have while watching a movie— is human connection.
“You are not going to die and on your deathbed be like, ‘I signed this artist that then went and did this movie.’ People are going to remember you by the way you love them and the way they felt loved by you. Why aren't we doing that in our work?”
She has a solution.
“Be real,” DeLoach says. “Talk about real things. Try to present yourself in the most authentic way because if you were sitting at a lunch with an agent or a manager or a lawyer or producer or whatever, and you were just bringing your wholehearted realness and authenticity, it's telling them that they have permission to do the same.”
Photography by: Inda Reid