Born right under Hollywood’s nose, some might say it was destiny for Nia Peeples to have an accomplished career as a performer. Fans could find her in a myriad of places on television, in music videos, and on the radio over the years.
Background Info and Early Life
The 5’2” actress was born Virenia Gwendolyn Peeples on December 10, 1961, in Hollywood, CA, raised in West Covina, and is the daughter of Elizabeth, a flamenco dancer, and Robert, an artist.
Her parents handed down quite a diverse ethnic background to their daughter.
Peeples’ maternal grandparents were Filipino immigrants, and while her father is from Mississippi, he is of Native American, Scottish, Italian and Irish descent. Her mother is of Filipino, Spanish, and German descent. Nia has talked about how proud her parents were of bringing a melting pot culture under one roof.
As a young girl, Peeples described herself as painfully shy, and talked about the efforts her parents went through to get her to open up.
Her father was instrumental is getting her involved with the middle school choir, which is where the start of her passion for music would begin.
Peeples would find her voice and more confidence in high school, and she participated in several afterschool activities. She liked to keep busy, and work with others when there was defined common end goal.
Peeples attended West Covina High School, where she was involved in the marching band, student government, cheerleading, and volleyball. In high school, she received a standing ovation for her performance of Bloody Mary in South Pacific.
While attending UCLA on a music scholarship, the actress performed on the weekend as Liberace’s opening act in Las Vegas. Peeples dropped out of UCLA after one semester and picked up several jobs to pay for acting lessons.
She also mentions that her mother was a flamenco dancer and would often incorporate her 3 daughters into a floor show:
"We started performing very young. My mother was a flamenco dancer when she was young, and as a family sort of project, my parents decided that they would take the three girls or three daughters in the family and create a floor show.
And my mother would do flamenco dance. And we learned all these other dances and we would do them at things like universities when they were welcoming their international students. So we started performing very young."
The Los Angeles native would get her music career started through a group called The Young Americans, which gave talented youth performers an opportunity to showcase their ability.
Peeples’ singing group would travel and perform ahead of Liberace’s acts, which was an experience she would never forget. She credits Liberace’s class, kindness and patience as reasons for her eventual success.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Peeples released a couple of songs that would be pretty popular. Her 1988 song “Trouble” was very well regarded in the nightclub community, as it reached number one in that genre, and number 35 overall on Billboard’s Hot 100.
She followed that up with “Street Of Dreams” in 1991, which would ascend to number 12 overall on Billboard’s list. She would also appear in Prince’s music video for his song “Raspberry Beret.”
Growing up in Hollywood, Peeples was never too far from the entertainment world. In fact, as a four year-old, she had a brief appearance in Days of Our Lives.
It would be a preview of things to come for her, as she would go on to appear in 81 different shows and movies in her life. Not surprisingly, a couple of her early roles blended the music and cinematic world, giving her the best of both. She played Darcie on The Music Shoppe in 1981 while she was still a college student at UCLA.
From 1983-1986, she would appear in 58 episodes of Fame as Nicole Chapman/Mariana Gimblestein. The show had a fun premise, as high school students dreamt big and worked hard to become performers.
Peeples would talk about the connection she felt to the show, and the fans’ admiration for the characters who tried to overcome obstacles to realize their aspirations.
In addition to thriving in her comfort zone with music-related roles, Peeples also made a name for herself in the soap opera world.
She would end up appearing in a few episodes of General Hospital in 1983, playing the role of Carla Escobar. That was only the tip of the iceberg, as over 20 years later, she would become a fixture on The Young And The Restless. Peeples was cast as Karen Taylor/Karen Winters, who appeared in 132 episodes from 2007-2009.
Peeples also starred in the 1987 movie North Shore. In 1989 she would star in the TV drama film Nasty Boys, along with Benjamin Bratt. In 1991, she had a half-hour variety show called The Party Machine With Nia Peeples that aired after the Arsenio Hall Show.
She would also have notable roles on programs like Courthouse, Walker Texas Ranger and Pretty Little Liars in her life.
Pretty Little Liars was one of her longest-running roles, and she played Pam Fields from 2000-2017. The role allowed younger audiences to get to know Peeples, who was mainly a face from the 80s.
In 2013, she appeared on the reality show Celebrity Wife Swap and switched places with the pop singer Tiffany.
What is she doing now?
Nia Peeples is still extremely active in the acting world at age 60. She’s currently involved in a few post-production projects for Dante’s Hell, Dante’s Purgatory and Dante’s Paradise. She is also working on a project called Miracle Underground, which is in pre-production.
In 2017, Peeples wrote the book “The Little Apple Tree,” which is about a boy who wants to be farmer, but doesn’t initially have the conviction to pursue his dreams. She wrote the book to help adults and children understand a more profound sense of love, authenticity, and dignity.
She has begun writing her second book, “Confessions of a Serial Monogamist.”
Peeples said, “After 30 years in the entertainment industry, I left everything behind and went on “walk about” to listen more deeply to the callings of my heart.”
In addition, Peeples operates Element of Life, which is a course that is designed to help people improve their lifestyle and emotional health. According to her website, Elements of Life ‘is designed to be a beacon of encouragement, guiding you along the path to living your most honest and empowered life.’
At one point, Peeples was living in a double-wide trailer in Malibu with plenty of upgrades. She appeared on Oprah: Where Are They Now? in 2015 and told the talk show host, “The thing that surprised me the most about how I responded to moving into such a small place is not that I love it; the thing that surprised me was that we would always have people in your house, and I loved being that person who could supply that.”
In 2021 Nia gave a TED talk on empowerment
Peeples is active on social media and often posts to her nearly 200K followers on Instagram, where she says she is “living out loud, with a radical heart.”
Peeples has been married four times, with her most recent married to Sam George. The couple married in 2004, but Peeples filed for divorce in August 2015, citing irreconcilable differences, and the pair never had children.
Her previous husbands were:
Guy Ecker (1984 – 1986)
Howard Hewett (1989 – 1993)
Lauro Chartrand (1997 – 2004)
When she divorced George, Peeples sold everything and decided to realign with her greater purpose.
Peeples is currently not married, but it is unknown whether she is dating anyone.
Nia Peeples has two children from her marriages to Chartrand-DelValle and Hewett.
Her son Christopher Hewett has launched himself into a music career, as his work as a musical composer has been featured on a few documentaries and TV shorts.
On the other hand, her daughter Sienna Noelle has found herself in the acting world, appearing in three projects in 2019.
In February 2022, Peeples became a grandmother when her son Christopher welcomed a baby boy.
Is Nia Peeples related to Mario Van Peebles?
Nia Peeples is unrelated to Mario Van Peeples, despite similar names.
Does Nia Peeples really know martial arts?
Nia Peeples has a 4th-degree black belt in Wushu and Oki Ryu Kempo and trained under Bruce Fontaine. Bruce founded Fontaine’s Martial Arts, a Texas chain of martial arts studios. Peeples has been practicing martial arts for over 20 years now.