Nia Peeples was born in Hollywood, California, on December 10, 1961. Her family moved to West Covina, California, where she and her two sisters, Paula and Cynthia, grew up. At eight years old she began performing with her family, giving concerts for community groups and conventions and doing dances of different cultures, Polynesian, Spanish and Irish. She attended West Covina High School and was an "A" student and a member of the marching band, involved in cheerleading, tumbling, volleyball, student government, choral singing and singing for a rock 'n roll band. She starred in the school production of "South Pacific" as Bloody Mary. She got her first standing ovation for her performance.
She attended UCLA on a music scholarship, during which time she performed as Liberace's opening act in Las Vegas on weekends. She took one semester as a voice major, dropped out of UCLA and took three jobs in order to afford acting lessons. She studied singing with Gloria Rush and the Sanford Meisner acting technique at Playhouse West.
She accompanied a friend to a rehearsal one day and was spotted by the producers, who cast her in the play "Music Shop". This led to guest appearances in such TV series as Hardcastle and McCormick (1983) and T.J. Hooker (1982). Her first starring role came when she played a deaf girl opposite William Atherton in the HBO film A Single Light (1981). She auditioned for and won the part of Nicole Chapman in the series Fame (1982). Her hobbies include hiking, tandem surfing, rollerblading and skiing. She also does a lot of charity work. She is of Scottish/Filipino descent.