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Niecy Nash

Dish Magazine spoke with Niecy Nash when she was in the middle of an incredibly normal task: running her daily errands. She is a fulltime mother, actress, comedian, and diva who has made a name for herself on The Style Network’s Clean House, but some may know her better as Raineesha from Reno 911! Although these characters couldn’t be any more different, they are both 100% Niecy Nash. 


For those of you who know the Clean House Niecy Nash, you’ve surely noticed the flower that is always in her hair.  This is no last minute accessory. She knew exactly what she was doing when she got in front of the camera with that flower. “It started off as branding,” she said. “I am the only woman of color doing that genre of show. When I started out, I was the only one.” She wanted to set herself apart, and she knew that a certain dialogue would occur, a dialogue that would go a little something like this—“‘Well, did you see the home makeover show with the black girl on it?’—‘Which black girl?’—‘The one with the flower in her hair’ … But,” she explained, “I became drunk-in-love with it, and if I go out without it, my fans let me have it, so now I’m kind of forced to keep it.” 


Nash knew she wanted to be an actress at a young age. “I decided to become an actress at five years old because I saw the most gorgeous actress I’d ever seen in my life. I saw Lola Falana on television, and she was the most glamorous thing I’d ever seen. And that’s what I told my grandmother I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be black, fabulous, and on TV.” 


Her start in acting was a little rockier than just deciding to be famous, however. Not until her brother died did she tap into her comedy to help her mother overcome the grief. “I did not want to see my mother broken. The thing of it is, when someone is dealing with a tragedy, the only thing you can bring is the best parts of yourself. Whatever that is that you feel you can bring to give them some sort of comfort. And money wasn’t going to fix it. And enough time had not passed to fix it. And the best parts of me at that time were the fact that I was funny, and that was my gift. It wasn’t something I wanted to do as a profession, be funny. I wanted to be a serious actress. But after this particular tragedy, I realized that comedy was a gift, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, I need to spread this around. And if this can help my mother, there are some other people out there who need it too.’” 


She got her first paying gig after she herself had become a mother. “When I decided I was ready to go to work as an actress, I called a casting director up. I had never been on television a day in my life. And I said, ‘My name is Niecy Nash. I’m funny. I’m broke. I’ve got a baby.’ And he said, ‘Meet me down here at 3 o’clock.’ I said, ‘I’m on my way.’” And she booked that movie. “It was Boys on the Side. I had a scene with Whoopi Goldberg who at the time was the highest paid actress, black or white. They flew me to New York on a first class ticket, and this was somebody who didn’t have an agent or a manager. I had nothing, but to hear a ‘No’ was not an option.” That’s because Nash lives by three words: “No matter what.” By those words, she has become a self-made woman, making sure that she fulfills every one of her life’s goals. “You have to make them happen no matter what it takes, no matter what the costs, no matter what the time invested, no matter what. I’ve always been the type of person who, once I say I want to do something, that becomes my plan A. My plan B becomes to make that plan A work out.” 


She has lived by these words since before her career began, and her determination has gotten her through some tough times. Being a single mother is not an easy life, especially when it’s only one of several jobs. She has three kids, all of whom are almost grown up, and she said, “It’s awful, absolutely awful. I try to stay on top of them because you have to keep it together. My son is Dominic and he is 17, and he says he wants to be an actor. My daughter Danielle is 14, and she says she wants to be a singer. My daughter Dia is nine, and she wants to be everything, an actress, a gymnast, everything. I want them to do whatever it is they want to do. I’m not going to put my children heavily into the business this young. Child stars usually don’t fare too well. And the business isn’t going anywhere.” Unlike some stars, Nash knows how to separate her personal life from her professional life, just like she knows how to split her personality between herself as a host on Clean House and Raineesha as a character on Reno 911! 


Nash stays plenty busy bringing her unique take on life and her individuality to television. If you have only seen Reno, then you might assume that Nash is a real character, charismatically speaking, but if you also watch Clean House you will be amazed at how well she is able to channel Raineesha’s energy. Be assured, Niecy is the real Nash. “Raineesha is a character. Clean House is not a character. You can’t be a character and yourself at the same time,” she explained. She doesn’t have a preference when it comes to playing a character on Reno 911! or just being herself on Clean House. “I prefer work,” she said. “It doesn’t even matter to me. I have three children that got to eat. So whatever pays the bills, that’s what we’re gonna do.” If you’ve seen Clean House, you know how dirty some of the houses can be, so when Nash walks into one of these disgusting places, her happy attitude and bright wardrobe and make-up create quite the contrast. “Hosting is you being yourself,” she said. “So you are yourself in that place. It just happens to be a natural contrast. What you see me wear and how you see me look is how I would look on any day.” 


Nash also talked about Reno, and she explained where her character Raineesha came from. “We all got to create our characters on Reno, so Raineesha is a combination of a lot of people in my family who have known me and raised me. She’s a combination of my mother, my auntie, and me. Once you create the character, you’re married to it. That’s who she is. She’s a combination of all of these women, so once you figure out and lock in on how you want that character to be, that’s what you play throughout the life of the series.” Nash’s family is still important to her, and she often features her mother on Clean House. “She comes out quite a bit. She has the time in her schedule. When she’s not trying to help me baby-sit my kids, she’ll come to a yard sale or two. My fans know my mother because her episode was a highly rated episode when I did her makeover. As you can imagine, it’s always easier dealing with people you don’t know.” 


Nash said the network created Clean House, and when they asked her to star in it, “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. When I first heard about it, the working title was Household Colonic. I said, ‘Are you married to the name?’ They said, ‘No.’ And I thought, ‘Fantastic, let’s go to work.’” And now, after seven seasons, Nash is a veteran and is hardly ever surprised at how bad a house looks when she first walks in. “After 100 episodes, there’s very little that surprises me or that I’m taken aback by. The house that I did in 2008 was filthy beyond anything I had seen up to that point.” 


Nash believes that there is more to a dirty person’s house than the surface grime alone might reveal. “I think clutter is an outward expression of an inward thing,” she said. “There’s a number of reasons why people do it, or don’t do it, most of which have to do with some emotional issue. Some of it’s sentimental. Some of it’s codependency. It happens for a number of reasons. There are so many reasons that someone can give for keeping things that you do not use and have no need for. It’s a learned behavior.  The other extension of that would be people who are so desperate, they call you for help, and they fight you tooth and nail. I don’t know, some families think it’s a glorified maid service that I’m running, but they quickly find out that’s not the case.” 


Nash has had to get rid of her own belongings, too, over the course of the show. “I think it was our family piano. I gave away my wedding dress and my prom dress.” She describes her house as “neat as a pin,” but she didn’t learn to be clean on the show, and she’s not a naturally tidy person. “It’s because I live in fear that one day Clean House is going to knock on the door for a surprise visit.” If Clean House ever did knock on her door, she would take a step back and coolly say, “Come on in.” That’s because Niecy Nash has nothing to hide. She’s the hot and cool queen of clean, and she’s going to be sticking around for quite a while. 


Apparently, the execs think she’s doing a great job because Clean House is in its seventh season and Reno 911! is in its sixth season. Some might think that Nash’s success comes from her being a talented black actress, as opposed to a white actress, but she disagrees. “The exact opposite is true. You have white women who have not worked as long or have worked on shows that are not as popular as the shows I’ve been on who garner much more attention because they’re white. When the majority of people control what goes on television don’t look like you, they’re more invested in telling stories that they can relate to. And with that said, the things that you do on television may fall under their radar if they’re really not present to it. You finally are acknowledged and get that recognition that what you’re doing really is outstanding,” she said. 


“I want to bring some projects to life,” she said, looking to her bright future. “I have a feature film I want to do. I’m not finished in scripted television. Some things I want to do there; some things I want to do behind the scenes. Executive produce some things, give other people a shot. I’ve given other people the opportunity to work with me, but specifically something altogether different, a scripted sitcom or doing a feature film with a major studio.” 


She is also appearing in three features this year. “In Not Easily Broken, I play the best friend of the lead, who is Taraji Henson, and I encourage her through her troubled marriage—they didn’t quite break up; they separated—but encourage her through her troubled marriage. And there’s The Proposal with Sandra Bullock, and I play a woman who convinces Sandra to continue to date a guy she fell in love with. And then there is G-Force, a Jerry Bruckheimer film, live action and animation. It was fantastic to shoot, my character is Rosalita. She was a half-Spanish speaking woman who ran a pet store. It’s all a show that revolves around pets that have got out and escaped into the city.” 


When we asked if she wanted to tell us anything else about herself, she said, “That’s one of the first rules of being a celebrity: volunteer nothing, admit nothing.” But then she smiled and said, “I’m just kidding. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I could say there are some challenges being single after being married for 16 years. You know, just getting back out there. It’s interesting. It started off rocky, but it’s going well. I’m just alone and gorgeous in San Fernando Valley.” 


You can catch Niecy Nash in Reno 911! on Comedy Central (weekdays, times vary) and in Clean House on the Style Network (Wednesdays at 10 et/pt) / Issue 96 - September 2865
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