From Earl to Eternity

Nadine Velazquez plays a maid on TV—but she gives viewers anything but clean thoughts.

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Nadine Velazquez has two pieces of excellent news from the set of her hit NBC comedy, My Name Is Earl. No.1: “I’m getting more screen time than ever.” No.2: “We’re seeing a lot more stripping this year.” Somebody rip that new Emmy out of Jaime Pressly’s mitts and hand it to Nadine.

Things are afoot in the world of white trash: Nadine’s character, Catalina, the superhot cleaning woman who assists the titular Earl in redeeming his degenerate past, finds herself sleeping with his best friend and, better still, stripping at a place called Club Chubby. She proves very popular with the joint’s clientele because, instead of dancing, she just jumps up and down. “That’s the hot move,” she says. “I love it. It’s supposed to be sexy, but it’s actually kind of weird.”

In real life it’s definitely not her preferred form of striptease. “I like to strip to Sinatra—that gets the mood going,” she says. “I incorporate it into my fantasy of being a burlesque dancer. I envision a smoky lounge and an orchestra, and I’m in fishnets and a little hat.” But in the end, Nadine says, wowing a guy doesn’t require many props. “The secret to a good striptease is just dim lights and a glass of wine.”

On the show Catalina’s adventures in stripping tend to be slightly less refined. “There’s an episode this season where I’m catfighting with another stripper—and the cops are just sitting back watching because they’re enjoying it,” she says. “We pulled hair, scratched, and bruised ourselves. I don’t get to do that stuff every day, so it was a blast. It reminded me of when I was in high school.”

Apparently, Nadine isn’t joking about high school brawls and her need to cause bodily harm. She shares this fond memory: “This girl stormed into my Spanish class and called me out. She said, ‘Nadine, you and me, bitch!’ So—this is so ghetto—I picked up my chair and was about to toss it at her, but our teacher came between us. It was hard-core. High school is like prison.” Ghetto or not, it was just that fearless take-no-prisoners spirit that led Nadine to acting in the first place.

At age 13 Nadine walked into a Chicago talent agency. “I wanted to know how to get on TV,” she says. The talent agent, on the other hand, wanted to know where the hell Nadine’s mom was. “I looked the agent up in the yellow pages. Then I took the bus over after school.”

The child-acting thing never fully panned out—something about the need for “parental permission”—but Nadine was hooked. Almost a decade later, she walked back into that same talent agency, and this time she left with a job…as an office assistant. Working in a casting office soon led to her first gig: A national commercial where she stood behind a cash register and uttered the immortal lines, “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?” “That was the biggest moment of my life,” she says. “I had a McDonald’s tie and visor on, and I looked like a boy. But I loved every minute of it.”

An even bigger break came when she snagged her Earl gig and the avalanche of accolades that came along with it. In 2005 Variety named Nadine one of “Ten Actors to Watch,” and USA Today went even further, dubbing her one of the “Five Rising Stars to Watch Closely.” (Man, those USA Today guys are creepy.) The huzzahs were followed shortly by a slew of overzealous (read: crazy) fans, including one who gave her a bottle of perfume called Nadine. “It was cool to see my name on the bottle, and I was grateful for the gift,” she says, “although it smelled like bourbon.” Up next for Nadine is the TV flick Husband for Hire, in which she plays a woman who has two days to find a husband in order to collect a $25 million inheritance. It’s on the Oxygen Channel, but fear not—Nadine assures us that it is “very sexy.” We’ll take her word for it.