Nash, Niecy 1970–
Niecy Nash 1970–
Actor, television host
Niecy Nash is an actress and television presenter who is best known for her role as Deputy Raineesha Williams in the Comedy Central series Reno 911!. Instantly recognizable by the flower she always wears in her hair, Nash also serves as the host of Clean House, a home-makeover series on the Style Network. Nash admits she has learned much about home organization from the show. “Clutter really is an outward expression of an inward thing,” she told Kimberly L. Jackson of the Newark Star-Ledger. “When you've got a lot of mayhem and foolishness going on inside, people can tell by the space you live in, or the desk you work on.”
Dreamed of Television Stardom
Nash was born Carol Denise Ensley in 1970 in Palmdale, California. She spent the first years of her life in St. Louis, Missouri. There she was cared for by her grandmother during the afternoons, and the pair watched The Young and the Restless and other daytime dramas. One day, the soap opera was preempted by a special, and Nash was fascinated by the appearance of Lola Falana, a glamorous singer-dancer who was a frequent guest on television dramas and celebrity talk shows of the era. “I told my grandmother that's what I want to do,” Nash recalled in an interview with Boston Herald writer Amy Amatangelo. “And she said, ‘What baby?’ I said, ‘Be on TV and be black and fabulous.’”
Nash's family returned to the Los Angeles area when she was eight years old, and as a young woman she went on to earn a degree from California State University's Dominguez Hills campus. In 1993 her family was devastated by the accidental shooting of her younger brother, Michael, in the hallway of Reseda High School in Los Angeles. During the difficult aftermath, Nash realized she had a gift for making others laugh. “My mother was in a shambles, obviously, and I would come home every day and try to cheer her up,” she told Amatangelo. “Eventually she came to expect it.” Nash now serves as the spokesperson for the advocacy group M.A.V.I.S. (Mothers Against Violence in Schools), an organization founded by her mother in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Nash began her entertainment career as a stand-up comedian while also auditioning for roles in movies and television. She made her film debut with a bit part in the 1995 comedy Boys on the Side, and went on to win roles in City of Angels, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and The Bernie Mac Show. In 2003 she won a memorable role in Comedy Central's new series Reno 911! The show was created as a parody of the long-running reality series Cops, and pretended to be a behind-the-scenes look at the sheriff's department in Reno, Nevada. Nash played Deputy Raineesha Williams, a character she named after her young daughter's best friend. Among the humorous characteristics Nash brought to the character is her frequent use of mace spray on suspects with the slightest provocation. In addition, Nash wore a prosthetic backside to add some visual humor to the role. Reno 911! quickly attracted a cult following on the cable network for its ability to poke fun at those on both sides of the law. Adding to its exuberance and outlandishness, much of the dialogue is unscripted and improvised by the actors on set. As described by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times, in one episode “the strapped Reno sheriff's department acquires a corporate sponsor in Hotties, a fast-food chain with busty waitresses. Required to drive pink cars, take delivery orders on their 911 line and incorporate a pitch for the chain into the Miranda rights, the officers are also treated to free chicken meals.”
Hosted Style Network Show
A year after Reno 911! premiered, Nash won a vastly different television job as the host of Clean House, a new show that debuted on the Style Network. In each episode, Nash follows a team of experts into homes that were in need of a clean-up crew and professional organizers, who then put the surfeit of possessions up for sale on the front lawn or in the garage. The sale proceeds are then used to fund some renovations, with matching dollars added by the show's producers. Not surprisingly, Clean House also developed a strong following, thanks in part to Nash's “no-nonsense approach, telling frat brothers whose filthy house is tackled in the season opener, ‘Your mama didn't raise you like this,’” noted Gail Pennington, critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Nash continued to appear in feature films, including 2005's Guess Who, a remake of a 1967 classic, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and in the film version of her hit Comedy Central series. The plot of Reno 911!: Miami, released in 2007, involves a work-related trip made by Williams and her colleagues to Florida for a national convention of law-enforcement professionals. When they miss one event, a bioterrorism alert erupts, which puts the convention site in lockdown, and leaves the entire city protected by the hapless Nevada cops. In promoting the movie, Nash and her costars gave interviews in character, such as one with Philadelphia Inquirer critic David Hiltbrand, in which “Raineesha Williams” reflected on her job, “I know I'm an example, but I tell people, ‘Use me as an example of what not to do.’ … I'm not a rap star. I don't play in the NBA. C'mon now. Don't look at me.” Her “colleagues” chimed in, with Deputy Travis Junior (Robert Ben Garant) asserting, “You're not supposed to do what we do. You're supposed to not do what we tell you not to do.” The hot-pants-wearing Lieutenant Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) agreed, saying “we're not your friends. People need to understand this. The police are not your friends. We're your boss. It's different.”
At a Glance …
Born Carol Denise Ensley, February 23, 1970, in Palmdale, CA; married Don Nash (a minister), 1991 (divorced, 2007); children: Dominic, Donielle, and Dia. Education: California State University, BA.
Career: Actor in film and television roles, Los Angeles, CA, 1995—.
Awards: Grand Center Visionary Award, St. Louis, MO, 2007.
Addresses: Agent—c/o E! Entertainment Television, Inc., 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Late in 2007 Nash announced that she would be starring in a new sitcom slated for the Fox network. The comedy would be set in an upscale Manhattan hotel, and Abraham Higginbotham, a writer for an earlier Fox series, the cult-favorite Arrested Development, would also be involved in the production. Until the new series debuted, however, Nash would be best known as Deputy Raineesha Williams and as the empathetic but forthright host of Clean House. She has said in interviews that one of her greatest fears is that the Clean House producers will one day turn the tables and show up at her door, camera crew and clean-out professionals in tow. In interviews she is often asked for advice on clearing a home of clutter, and asserted to Jackson in the Star-Ledger that “15 to 20 minutes a day to pick up behind yourself” is crucial. “That's how it gets out of control—when you take off your clothes and throw 'em down and the next thing you know the treadmill is substituting for the hamper. You have to give yourself a couple of minutes a day to stay on top of it.”
Boys on the Side, 1995.
Cookie's Fortune, 1999.
The Bachelor, 1999.
Malibu's Most Wanted, 2003.
Hair Show, 2004.
Code Name: The Cleaner, 2007.
Reno 911!: Miami, 2007.
Reno 911!, 2003—.
Clean House, 2004—.
Boston Herald, November 20, 2005, p. 49.
New York Times, October 12, 2003; March 31, 2007, p. B13.
Philadelphia Inquirer, February 22, 2007.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), May 26, 2007, p. 6.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 16, 2006, p. E1.
“Niecy Nash,” http://www.niecynash.com/ (accessed November 16, 2007).
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