Nikki DeLoach adores her work as an actress, writer, and producer, but her success is no longer her primary source of joy and purpose. The beloved Hallmark star recently opened up about how facing major health challenges in her family — namely her son’s life-saving heart surgeries and her father’s death in July 2021 — helped her shift her priorities and overcome an “unhealthy obsession” with her work. Here’s what you need to know:
Nikki DeLoach Says Family Hardships Helped Her Focus on What Truly Matters
DeLoach, whose latest Hallmark movie — “Curious Caterer: Grilling Season” — premiered on February 5, 2023, has opened up recently about her career trajectory, and how her focus on succeeding in the entertainment business once clouded her view of what’s most important in life.
“My career was my everything,” she told Los Angeles Confidential magazine this month. “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.”
At 14, DeLoach got her start in the industry on the “Mickey Mouse Club.” Many of her teen co-stars went on to become massively popular entertainers including Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake, who remains one of her close friends. She has said that experience, and then going on tour as a singer in the group Innosense, gave her a skewed sense of what was important.
“I still struggle with this, but when you’re raised as a child to believe that your value is dependent on if you’re working, if you’re succeeding, if you’re doing all of these things, when that’s not there, you feel worthless,” she told The Retaility in November 2022. “Also, there’s the trap of the ego of feeling like you are important because you have a hit show or a movie that just did well.”
Watching her former co-stars’ careers explode, from Timberlake’s success with N’Sync to Spears’ massive pop career, was tough for DeLoach.
In December, she told the “Jesus Calling” podcast, “I spent a lot of time looking up at God and being like, ‘Why not me? I work as hard as everyone else, I’m just as talented as everyone else. Why not me? Did You forget about me?’ And what I didn’t realize in those moments was I was actually very deeply being taken care of by God, because I just don’t know what that kind of fame would have done to me at such a young age. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it, to be honest.”
DeLoach says facing grave challenges with her loved ones helped her reset her priorities. In addition to her work in the entertainment industry, she’s also a doting mom to Hudson, 9, and Bennett, 5, whom she shares with husband Ryan Goodell. She is also the foundation board of trustees president for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which she grew passionate about supporting after the birth of Bennett, who has had three surgeries for a heart condition discovered while DeLoach was pregnant with him.
During the same week she learned of her future baby’s health challenges, unsure if he would survive, her dad was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia, and later died at age 66. Going through both scary diagnoses shifted DeLoach’s focus from success in her work to making the most of her time with family and helping them stay well physically, emotionally, and spiritually, she told Los Angeles Confidential.
“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,” she said. “That is an inside job. 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.”
Nikki DeLoach Says She Found ‘Clarity’ Through Her Grief
DeLoach says grief, as hard as it is to experience, has been a great teacher for her, telling Los Angeles Confidential that “one of the blessings of grief is clarity.”
“It is one of the most brutal, challenging, earth-shaking feelings you will ever have as a human being,” she said. “And it’s also the one thing no matter what we will all experience, unfortunately. We will all lose somebody that we love.”
DeLoach now aims to channel that into her work at Hallmark, like her December 2022 movie “The Gift of Peace,” which is about a woman who lost her husband and found new hope and perspective in a grief support group.
“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,” she said.
While filming “The Gift of Peace,” DeLoach was still deep in grief over her dad’s death and discovered others in the cast were also navigating their own grief. She told KRON’s Live in the Bay that opening up to each other in between takes, while also filming a movie on the subject, was transformative for her.
“Something lightened up inside of me,” she said. “I began to find some joy again. I began to laugh, I began to start celebrating life again. Like, little by little, I just started inching forward.”
Though DeLoach has overcome her “obsession” with success, she is still very motivated and fulfilled by the work she gets to do and hopes it contributes to her goal of making the world a better place.
“I love my job so much,” DeLoach told Los Angeles Confidential. “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.”