Those involved in the casting for Hairspray have acknowledged that she was not the best singer and dancer to audition for the lead role of Tracy. Still, the casting crew really admired Nikki's spirit and self-confidence, specifically while she was dancing. Nikki herself has often said that she was never afraid to "shake what my mama gave me". This is one of the big reasons why she landed the part.
In 2008, Nikki admitted that she dreamed of working with Adam Sandler someday.
Nikki's first Lifetime movie is Queen Sized.
Nikki has joked that when her parents used to mention the importance of college to her, Nikki would say that she wanted to attend the University of Hairspray. This was, of course, before she landed the role in the movie, and playing Tracy was her lifelong dream.
Her astrological sign is Scorpio.
Nikki says that her very favorite performance in the film Hairspray belonged to Allison Janney, who played Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes)'s wacky, over-the-top-religious mother. "She is so talented," says Nikki.
Many of Nikki's Hairspray co-stars, including Zac Efron and John Travolta, have raved that although Nikki had absolutely no Hollywood experience before landing her role in the movie, she had a remarkable amount of poise and courage in the limelight. "This is a girl who's been waiting her entire life for this," Efron said, and Travolta once joked that it was almost as if Nikki was stepping back into Hollywood after being a famous star in a previous life--that was how hard it was to believe that she was brand-new to the business.
Nikki has fond memories of the school scenes in her 2007 film Hairspray, because Nikki herself had a rough time in school (she says she was teased a lot about her weight), but being on the set and in the Hairspray school helped her feel like she finally found a place that she truly belonged, with the co-stars who became her friends.
In the DVD audio commentary for Hairspray, Nikki revealed that her younger brother Joey's favorite part of the movie takes place at the beginning, when Nikki's character Tracy jumps in front of the truck and waves her arms wildly for it to stop and give her a ride. Nikki says that Joey loves to pinch her self-described "chubby arms," so he got a kick out of watching her wave them in the air in this scene.
In a 2007 issue of People Magazine, Nikki credited the three Santa Clause movies (starring Tim Allen) as her favorite holiday films. She says she watches them every year to get into the Christmas spirit.
Nikki said in an interview on Shootout, in July 2007, that her favorite film of all time is Mary Poppins.
On June 7, 2006 at 10:30pm, Nikki's "life changed forever" - that was when she learned that she got the part in Hairspray. The producers of the film videotaped the moment when she found out via a message on a computer.
Nikki lists Hairspray co-star Queen Latifah as one of her idols.
Nikki says that she wanted to play Tracy Turnblad when she saw Hairspray on Broadway on her 15th birthday.
After seeing Hairspray on Broadway, a year later Nikki auditioned for the production but was turned down because she was too young.
Nikki has a little brother named Joey.
Nikki's mother is Catholic and her father is Jewish. Nikki was raised in her mother's faith.
Nikki attended the Hairspray premiere in New York City.
Nikki says her Hairspray character Tracy, is very similar to her. One of the film producers agreed, saying that it was one of the very rare cases where "the actor and the character seem to be one."
Hairspray is Nikki's first starring role in a feature film.
Nikki was always a talented and willing singer, but she didn't become truly serious about it until she saw the Broadway version of Hairspray at the age of 15. "It was like, Cha-Ching! I'm gonna do this, or I'm gonna die," Nikki recalls of the experience.
When Nikki landed a role in 2007's Hairspray, film director Adam Shankman told her the good news as she was working a shift at Coldstone Creamery. "I couldn't pick myself off the floor. I had no idea what hit me!" Nikki has said about the moment she found out.
Nikki's mother Karen is an elementary school teacher aide, and her father Carl works in water pollution control.
John Travolta, Nikki's co-star in Hairspray, has compared Nikki to Barbara Streisand and Liza Minnelli. "She's awesome," Travolta has raved.
Nikki has indicated that she has a great relationship with actor Zac Efron, one of her co-stars in Hairspray. Both stars have sung each other's praises in previous interviews; Zac says that Nikki has more poise than he ever did when she walked across the red carpet for the first time, and Nikki says that Zac is a genuinely sweet guy who deserves every fan he has.
Cold Stone Creamery--the place that Nikki worked at a year before landing her role in the 2007 film Hairspray--recently introduced a new flavor in Nikki's honor. It is called Color Me Cotton Candy.
Nikki attended the 2006 MTV Movie Awards.
The first song she ever sang was Stop! In The Name of Love by The Supremes.
Nikki attended Great Neck's South Senior High School in New York.
Nikki has been singing since the age of three and had voice lessons since the age of eight.
In high school her credits include Madame Thernardier in Les Misérables, Mrs. Lovette in Sweeney Todd, Lilli Venessi/Katerine in Kiss Me, Kate, and Carmen in Carmen.
Nikki says winning the role in Hairspray was "a dream come true."
Nikki's favorite Hairspray song to sing is "Good Morning Baltimore."
While filming Hairspray, Nikki says she missed her 2-year-old pug Rocky the most.
A year before winning the role of Tracy Turnbald in the 2007 movie, Hairspray, Nikki worked as an ice cream scooper at Cold Stone Creamery.
As of 2007, Nikki is 4 feet, 10 inches.
Nikki: I was an ice-cream scooper at a Coldstone Creamery in Rhode Island. We make it all by hand. Whatever is your fantasy at Coldstone, we make it come true...well, you know what I mean!
Nikki: I grew up in Great Neck, and I've been singing since the age of three, and I was kind of the go-to girl in Great Neck, if you will, for singing at weddings and funerals...you know, whatever I could help the community out with!
Nikki: (about working with such big-name stars in "Hairspray") Well, of course I was excited. I was nervous, but more than anything, they did a nationwide search for my character, so they saw a lot of girls, so I wanted to prove to them that they had picked the right girl, There was no time for me to be starstruck or crazy nervous, so I just went out there and treated them like normal people. But I mean, they were still Christopher Walken and Queen Latifah!
Nikki: (about fame) I feel like I'm kind of watching myself do it from across the street. It's a very surreal experience, but it's wonderful. I'm just honored that I'm getting to make movies and that I'm a working actress--that's all that is important to me. The fame is fun, but at the end of the day the fact that I'm working and supporting myself and hopefully my family someday, that's all that matters to me.
Nikki: I don't easily give out these numbers, but I can tell you that I'm not a size 0, I'm not a size 6, and I'm not even a size 10. As for being typecast, that can only happen if you allow yourself to be. The reality is, if I can speak out for [plus-size women] and be part of their community, then I'm proud of it. It doesn't matter what role I play, as long as it means something to me, and as long as I feel it can mean something to the audience.
Nikki: (about seeing "Hairspray" on Broadway) It was the first time I really connected on a whole other level with another person. I thought: "That's me! She understands me." And I knew that I wanted to play her. Can I just tell you, I was so happy to get this part that I would have done anything they asked. I would have bathed in the cockroaches; it wouldn't have mattered!
Nikki: I can't even begin to tell you the feeling of playing a character who is so close to my heart. I mean, I feel like Tracy Turnblad is one of my best friends! It was just an amazing experience.
Nikki: (about Brittany Snow, who played the snotty Amber von Tussel in "Hairspray") It's so funny, because we played absolute arch enemies in the film, but off camera, Brit and I were two of the closest. We still are. She is the most kindhearted girl.
Nikki: (about "Hairspray" co-star Amanda Bynes) We had so much fun playing best friends. We would just walk around the streets, holding hands, and what's so funny is that now, off camera.......we're just like Penny and Tracy. We text message each other a lot, we call a lot, we hang out when we can, and she's just a lot of fun. I think we're friends for life.
Nikki: I've learned to stay true to myself, keep my head on straight, and take things one day at a time. Everybody is like, "What are you doing next? What are you doing next?" Well, I ask myself that question every day when I wake up. You can't forget to live in the moment a little, and enjoy whatever comes to you.
Nikki: Christopher Walken and I had this instant connection, almost indescribable. It was so apparent. We just got along really well and had the best time playing father and daughter. I've seen him in a lot of movies, where he's played characters that are the total opposite of Wilbur--mean guys with a rougher edge, so to see him act with compassion and caring was just unbelievable. Just walking him work, I know that experience will help me.
Nikki: (about being in the movie "Hairspray") It was incredible. Every day, I would come to the set and go, "There is no way I am really here, guys! Did I really get this part? Am I really here?" Then one day, the director looked at me and said, "I just want you to know, we're punking you. It's probably the most expensive Punk'd in the history of Punk'd. I was like, "Wait. Are you serious?"
Nikki: (about Queen Latifah) That's my girl! She's been an idol of mine growing up, because she was always a beautiful woman, proud of who she was, embraced who she was, shared it with the world and didn't apologize for it. So, for me, to work with one of my idols was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and now to know her for the person she is, the incredible human being, is really the most rewarding thing.
Nikki: Even before Hairspray, I knew I was not a dancer. So all the dancing you see in the movie, I just shook what my mama gave me!
Nikki: My high school experience was a great one. That's when I got into theater and I started performing. It was a great experience for me. Middle school and elementary school, however......not so much. I was teased a lot. I had a lot of Ambers in my life, so I know what it's like. When Tracy is made fun of by Amber and Wilma in the movie, I knew what it was like. It was easy for me to tap into those emotions.
Nikki: This has been a dream come true. I saw Hairspray on Broadway when I was fifteen years old and fell in love with it. You know, unfortunately, Broadway is just in New York, so unless you come to New York or live in New York, you [won't] get the experience of Hairspray on Broadway. But this is a movie that is going everywhere, so I'm so excited to bring Tracy to life and bring her views to little kids, and show them different is okay, and uniqueness is beautiful.
Nikki: I'm thrilled beyond belief to be a different in this buisness. I pray that there will be more roles for bigger girls. I pray that the role of the love interest, the beautiful, sexy girl, will be played by a plus-size woman.
Nikki: I grew up singing since the age of three. Vocally trained since the age of eight. Fascinated by Mary Poppins and all those other musical movies and really knew that I wanted to be a performer.
Nikki (about her her kiss with Zac Efron in Hairspray): I was superexcited that my first screen kiss was with someone so incredibly talented and kind-hearted.
Nikki: I wasn't a dancer before Hairspray. I'd never taken any professional training or any classes, so when it came about, it was basically Adam Shankman, our director, who taught me everything I needed to know.
Nikki: (about the kids in school who teased her for being heavy) They didn't like that somebody was different and okay with being different. I would just smile in their faces. If that made them feel better about themselves, then I'll be the brunt of their jokes, because I'm totally okay with who I am.
Nikki: (about her love life) It's more about my career right now. I think, "Wow, a year ago, I was scooping ice cream, and now I'm standing next to John Travolta in matching pink dresses." I'm ready for whatever comes.
Nikki: (about her plus-size figure) If I wake up tomorrow and feel like losing 10 pounds, I will. If I don't, I don't. It's about living life and being happy with who you are.
Nikki: (about learning to dance in Hairspray) I've been to Broadway shows and I would watch the dancers and I would say to myself, 'Oh, my gosh! I would love to be able to dance like that!' I came in a singer and actress and they taught me a brand-new skill. That's really exciting to me, because dance is an amazing expression to life.
Nikki: Wear what makes you feel beautiful! To each their and just honestly, whatever makes you feel pretty, just rock it out and totally wear it.
Nikki: Be proud of who you are! Your dreams can come true!
Nikki: (on Hairspray on Broadway) When I went to the tryouts they said, 'You're too young right now.\' It crushed me. I wanted it more than anything.
Nikki: Like Tracy Turnblad, I'm a heavyset girl trying to follow my dream.
Nikki: I always knew that singing was what I wanted to do. When I was a kid, I'd get up after Christmas dinner and perform for the whole family.
Nikki: I always say Zac Efron deserves every fan because he's such a great guy. He's gorgeous inside and out. I adore him.
Nikki: Be who you are no matter what the size, what shape, what race, what nationality.