What You Don't Know About Niecy Nash

This feature contains references to domestic abuse, depression, and gun violence.

Having landed her first on-screen role in 1995, Niecy Nash quickly established herself as a unique comedic talent. Since then, the busy actor and host has stacked up an impressive list of film and TV credits. In 2003, Nash made a splash as Deputy Raineesha Williams on eight seasons of Comedy Central's "Cops" parody, "Reno 911!" By 2022, she was headlining "The Rookie: Feds," a spinoff of the hit series, "The Rookie."

However, it was arguably her role on HBO's "Getting On," that changed everything. As Nurse Didi Ortley on the comedy series, Nash received two consecutive Emmy nominations in 2015 and 2016, showing she could tackle a more serious subject matter and performance. The following year, Nash took the lead as shady nail artist Desna Sims on "Claws," and once again showcased her dramatic skills in the TNT dark comedy. 

In 2019, the actor was nominated for a third Emmy for her role on the Netflix series, "When They See Us." The actor received widespread praise for her portrayal of Delores Wise, the mother of one of the young men in the Central Park Five case, with ET stating, "Nash delivered one of [our] standout performances of the season." On the personal side, Nash's path to success didn't come easy. Often played out in the spotlight, her private life hasn't always been a walk in the park, either. Fortunately for us, Nash isn't one to keep things bottled up. And we have all the inside scoop.

Two tragic events rocked her early years

Niecy Nash is a native of Palmdale, California, who was raised in South Central Los Angeles, according to InStyle. By the age of five, she knew that a life in the limelight was her destiny, telling NPR that she was inspired while watching television with her grandmother. After seeing Lola Falana on screen, she recalled,  "I was like, oh, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to be Black, fabulous, and on TV."

At 15, Nash witnessed the unthinkable — her mother being shot by an abusive boyfriend with a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun. "Easter Sunday morning, shot her down like a dog in the street," she recalled at a 2010 fundraiser for victims of domestic violence in Southern California, per WABC-TV. Her mom, Margaret Ensley, survived the incident, but about seven years later, tragedy struck the family a second time.

Per NPR, Nash's younger brother Michael Ensley was shot and killed on his high school campus, after being caught up in a love triangle. At that point, Margaret went into a bad bout of depression. "My mother said, 'I give up," the actor told People in 2010, but her daughter wasn't about to let that happen. Instead, Nash would sit at her mother's bed every day and crack jokes to lift her spirit. She explained, "That's when I realized comedy was a gift."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

She nearly blew one of her first auditions

Niecy Nash's first credited acting gig dates back to the 1995 film, "Boys on the Side"  in which she played "Woman at Diner." The actor was clearly very green at the time, judging by her response to being told that director Herbert Ross would get back to her about whether she'd won the role. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune in 2015, Nash laughingly recalled her annoyance at having to wait for an answer after her audition  — especially when she'd made it clear how badly she needed the gig. "I pointed to [the casting director] and said, 'I called him and said I'm broke, I got a baby and I need a job ... So what do you mean tell me later? When is later?"

When she was shown the door, she called them all rude, and vowed to report each of them to their bosses for mistreating her. Much to her surprise, she booked the job a week later. The actor tried to make amends, saying, "The amount of embarrassed I was when I showed up: 'Hello, everyone! I just want to say I'm sorry!' I just didn't know what I didn't know."

Sharing advice to young actors with Salon, Nash revealed her determination to get booked for roles — including showing up to auditions with three children in tow. "The three words that I've lived by in my career are 'no matter what' ... because there's always going to be an obstacle."

Niecy Nash faked her way onto Reno 911!

For eight seasons of the show, Niecy Nash starred as Deputy Raineesha Williams on "Reno 911!" Beginning in 2003, the cult comedy became her breakout role and remains one of her favorite acting jobs. However, in an interview with NPR, she revealed she wasn't fully qualified for the job with producers wanting stars with a background in sketch comedy or improv. "I lied my way into the audition. I said I knew how to do something before I got there, and then I called somebody and said, 'What do I have to do?'" she admitted. 

Nash went in believing she could pull it off, and apparently, she picked things up fast. To create her character, producers asked her what she wanted. "And I said, baby hair and a big booty? And the only reason I said that was because I wanted her body type to look like the women who raised me," she said, adding that she hoped those women would see themselves reflected on TV. 

Some people objected to the actor's prosthetic junk in the trunk, believing Nash was forced to wear it. However, she insisted to NPR that it was her own choice to do so. As she told Essence, other women felt inspired by Raineesha's proud embrace of her body. Nash seemed to love it too. "Frankly, I thought my fake butt looked cute, but I don't think a lot of people know that it isn't real," she explained.

She had to fight for dramatic roles

While Niecy Nash first became known for her comedic skills, over time she capably transitioned into a celebrated dramatic actor too. Speaking to People for its 2017 American Voices series (via Time), she recalled how she voiced her shifting career goals. "I called all my management and team together because I said, 'I've changed. Things have changed and this is how I see myself. And these are the types of roles that I want to go out for,"

Her people were on board, but Hollywood took a while to accept Nash as a serious actor. "Sometimes people do not see you the way you see yourself," she told Newsweek in 2021. "I think the industry was clear, like you have a lane. You do comedy, we get it." Her efforts paid off with roles that mixed comedy and drama such as "Claws" and "Getting On," the latter of which earned her two consecutive Emmy nominations for her work.

Nash received a third Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Delores Wise in "When They See Us." The actor told The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actress Roundtable in 2019, that playing a woman who was deeply enveloped in pain was a welcome change from the one-note stereotypes she might have been offered before. "I don't want to be a sassy black mama. I don't want to be a sassy black neighbor. I don't want to be a sassy black friend," she said. "There's so many more notes to be played."

Nash speaks out about body positivity

Niecy Nash has experienced her share of body shaming in the business. In 2019, she admitted she might have been her worst enemy, and she took to social media to make amends. "I bought a new swimsuit and tried it on, then proceeded to drag myself — pointing out every 'flaw,' every bump, lump, scar, ripple and stretch mark," she wrote on Instagram.

After the "Mrs. America" actor realized what she'd done, she thought about how her friends Kellee Stewart and "Peacemaker" actor Danielle Brooks might handle it. "I changed my conversation with myself," she said. "These hips caught two husbands (and a few boo's) my thighs touch but I gained weight having good food with great people." In the post, she celebrated her three beautiful children and accepted the fact that stretch marks come with the territory.

Nash included various photos of herself in the bathing suit and said she's working hard to be less critical of herself. "Loving your body can be a rollercoaster ride ESPECIALLY WITHOUT A FILTER! but ... with all that said I [propose] to be kinder to myself today then [sic] I was yesterday," she wrote. Later that year, she told The Hollywood Reporter, that although producers initially dismissed her as the chubby girl, she's making out just fine. "Here I am, now playing a lead and a sex symbol who is having sex for her own pleasure on 'Claws.' All different body types can be badass."

Her marriage to Jay Tucker was a 'gorgeous ride'

Per ET, Niecy Nash has been married three times. In 1994, she first walked down the aisle with Don Nash, an ordained minister. They divorced in 2007, and share three children together. On a 2021 episode of "Red Table Talk," she admitted to settling down for the wrong reasons. "When I married my first husband I was looking for a savior," she said. "I had experienced a lot of childhood trauma."

In 2007, the actor then announced her engagement to Jay Tucker, an electric engineer, telling ET at the time (via CBS News), "I cannot believe that God has been this kind that he would gift me this man." In 2011, the former "Clean House" host tied the knot with Tucker in a star-studded Malibu reception televised on TLC, per People

Their relationship seemed to be picture perfect, with the pair appearing together in public and looking loved up on the red carpet. However, according to a 2019 report from the Daily Mail, cracks started to show in the marriage while Nash was starring on "Claws." A month later, TMZ reported that Nash had filed for divorce after the couple had been separated for a few months. In a joint post on Instagram, they shared, "Our union was such a gorgeous ride. And as we go our separate ways now, we feel fortunate for the love we share — present tense." So, what really broke this marriage apart?

Their marriage wasn't as perfect as it seemed

According to the Daily Mailtensions between Niecy Nash and Jay Tucker reportedly flared up as she was spending most of her time on location shooting "Claws" in New Orleans. A source familiar with the couple claimed to the outlet that Tucker was uncomfortable with his wife's graphic sex scenes on the show. He was also alleged to have been peeved by the apparent physical makeover she received prior to filming. When he was a no-show for the 2019 Emmy Awards when Nash was nominated for "When They See Us," it was a sign things had gone south.

At the 2020 Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards (via People), Nash opened up in a tearful speech about her difficult decision to end her eight-year marriage, and said, "The untethering from my family's beliefs, the internet's expectations, and my marriage ending caused me so much pain." She recalled asking her family, "But what about my happiness?"

When the couple announced their split on Instagram, they wrote, "Our truth is that in this season of our lives, we are better friends than partners in marriage." And the pair have worked hard to remain close even after the breakup. At the 2019 Glamour Women of the Year Awards, ET's Rachel Smith asked the star how they do it. "For us, it's easy, because we love each other," Nash said. "The love has just taken on a different form, but [he's] always gonna be my friend. Always."

Niecy Nash made herstory with Jessica Betts

In 2020, Niecy Nash surprised fans on Instagram when she posted photos from her wedding to musician Jessica Betts. According to People, the two women were friends for several years, but after Nash's divorce, it became something more. On "Red Table Talk," Nash gushed of their romantic connection, "I met the most beautiful soul I had ever met in my entire life." Although she'd never dated a woman before, the actor admitted things felt right with Betts. "It was the first time in my life I had ever felt fully seen," she said. "And it changed me."

Nash made history after the nuptials, posing with Betts as the first same-sex couple to be featured on the cover of Essence. In another cover story, The Advocate dubbed the couple's high-profile romance, "The Great Queer Love Story of 2021," with the "Scream Queens" alum explaining that she felt the need to take control of her narrative, rather than have others tell it for her. 

On "Red Table Talk," Nash elaborated that her relationship with Betts wasn't her coming out story, "A lot of people have said ... 'Niecy Nash has finally come out,' and I said, 'Come out of where?' I wasn't in anywhere. I wasn't living a sexually repressed life." In an Instagram comment (via The Jasmine Brand), the star showed no concern for those who didn't support her marriage, writing, "If I lost a fan because of who I love, then that wasn't a real fan."

When They See Us was a powerful challenge

When Niecy Nash learned that Ava DuVernay was making a series about the Central Park Five case, she reached out to the "Selma" director to let her know she wanted in. "I said, 'I have to be a part of this story. I'll audition. I'll play anyone," Nash told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. As it turns out, DuVernay already had her in mind for the role of Delores Wise, the mother of Korey Wise, one of the boys wrongly convicted in the case.

Taking on the intensity of the "When They See Us" role was something Nash had never experienced before, and she had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Delores. "Even after all this time, she's still in a lot of pain, " the actor shared with ET about the mother whose teenager spent over 10 years in adult prison. What the actor didn't foresee was the challenge of playing a living person.

"You're not playing a character you can create and you can inform," she said. "You're playing someone who already exists and has their experience. And now you come along and try to embody that." Nash, who received an Emmy nomination for her performance, was elated after she got the seal of approval and a big hug from Korey Wise on set. "He said, 'You're my mom. You did an amazing job,'" she recalled. "That's what I'm the most proud of."

Niecy Nash speaks out against gun violence

In 2022, following the tragedy of the Uvalde school shooting, Niecy Nash opened up about her own devastating loss. After the tragedy on May 24, in which a lone gunman shot and killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the actor wrote an emotional post on Instagram, sharing her shock and heartache. It came from a personal place. "I'm so sad," she wrote. "My brother was killed on his high school campus. It hits different cuz school is a place you should feel safe. I don't wish it on anyone." In tribute, the post also included photos of some of the victims of the shooting. 

Back in 2018, on the heels of a previous school shooting, she also posted about her brother's death. A few days after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Nash posted on Twitter, "25 yrs ago today, my only brother, Michael Ensley was killed on his high school campus by kid with a gun. It's 2018 and the death toll is rising while our spirits are still breaking. You don't hear the pain." After Michael's death, Nash's mother Margaret founded MAVIS (Mothers Against Violence in Schools), an advocacy organization to promote nonviolence and to help parents and schools with violence prevention. The actor helped her mother run the organization and served as its spokesperson for years, according to The Advocate.

She manifested an impressive life for herself

Niecy Nash may be one of the hardest-working women in show business. In 2019, during an appearance at a West Hollywood photo studio, the actor addressed being described that way. "People say that and sometimes it's facetiously," she told the Los Angeles Times with a laugh. "But in my mind? That's a fact." As Nash told Newsweek, she has been working steadily since booking "Reno 911!" in 2003 and is continuing to reap the rewards.

According to  Celebrity Net Worth, the actor, host, and producer has an estimated net worth of $4 million dollars. Alongside scoring major acting hits with shows like "Claws," "Scream Queens," "Reno 911!," and "Never Have I Ever," she has also hosted reality and game shows like "Clean House," "Don't Forget the Lyrics," and "The Masked Singer." 

In 2018, she paid over $2 million for a gorgeous Mediterranean-style home in the exclusive Bell Canyon area, outside of Los Angeles, per Architectural Digest. Considering the fact that her neighbors could be Chrissy Mets or Alyssa Milano, she seems to be doing quite well in that department. By all accounts, she'd planned it that way. "I always believed I would be successful," she told Newsweek in 2021. "I always saw the vision. I knew what the color of my life was. How it manifests, that's unknown, but my job is to do the work and always be of service on the path."

Niecy Nash continues to rise

As of 2022, Niecy Nash seemed to be as busy as ever. In April that year, she joined Nathan Fillion on the set of "The Rookie," for a special two-hour episode launching a spinoff of the ABC series. On "The Rookie: Feds," Nash starred as Simone Clark, the oldest rookie in the FBI Academy. Although she was back in blue, she told ET that her "Reno 911!" role didn't prepare her for the spinoff show. "When I used to play a cop on 'Reno 911!' it was like Keystone Cops," Nash recalled. "And the more mistakes you made, the better." After receiving some serious training on law enforcement tactics, Fillion said, "She nailed it." 

Other 2022 titles for the star included the Netflix Original film, "Beauty," in which Nash starred alongside Giancarlo Esposito as the parents of a young singer searching for her true identity. The actor also reunited with "Scream Queens" creator Ryan Murphy for a lead role in the limited series, "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story," in which Evan Peters starred as the notorious serial killer. 

That same year, Niecy Nash and her life partner Jessica Betts also found the time to become business partners, launching an apparel and accessories line, per Black Enterprise. Betts of Both Worlds features a variety of crop tops, tee shirts and hoodies that celebrate Black queerness. It looks like Nash, now officially Mrs. Carol Denise Betts, is living her "Betts" life. For this multi-talented performer, we suspect the future is looking even better.