Niecy Nash has made audiences laugh with her performances in Reno 911!, Malibu’s Most Wanted and Scream Queens.
But behind the scenes, the actress, 47, admits that fighting for parts didn't always put a smile on her face.
"In the African-American community, sometimes it's about creating the role as opposed to waiting for somebody else to write it," Nash tells PEOPLE in the latest installment of its American Voices series.
So after she "stayed in the box" of taking predominantly comedic parts, Nash decided to make a conscious effort to bolster her resume: "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.' "
While that team supported her goal, not everyone Nash had surrounded herself with in show business had always been as encouraging. "I've had agents and managers tell me that I was too chubby, ask me if I can get my teeth fixed,” the mother of three reveals. "I'm like, 'No, I cant. No, I'm not going to lose weight ‘cause I’m about to have a couple more kids.’ "
Nash cites her portrayal of Nurse DiDi Ortley in HBO's Getting On as the pivotal moment in her career, one that also earned her two Emmy nominations in 2016.
And while the the Californian didn't take home the statues that year, Nash has learned an important lesson.
"In my imperfections, I am so perfect," she says. "And so are you."