The Stunning Transformation Of Hallmark Star Lacey Chabert

Child actor Lacey Chabert is now a Hallmark movie maven, the kind of megastar who appeared in five movies for the channel in 2022 alone. She loves seeing the way people react to the cozy films she stars in, telling Vulture that she got to meet a number of her fans at a convention called Christmas Con. "It was an incredible experience to hug their necks, hear their stories, look people in the eyes and have them explain what the movies mean to their life," she said. She particularly liked hearing about people who watch the movies with their families, because that's what she does too.

However, Chabert's career hasn't always been such a family-friendly one. Over the years, she's been in a number of different productions and gone through a number of stages in her work, trying her hand at everything from soap operas to risqué photoshoots to performing on Broadway. And of course, there's "Mean Girls." "Look, I'm an actress, and I want to be as versatile as possible," she told the outlet. "But with Hallmark, I play characters that are more like who I am in real life than anywhere else. My values are my faith and my family, and I get to portray that."

Still, it's interesting to look back and see just how far Chabert has come. Read on for a look at the stunning transformation of Lacey Chabert, from her humble beginnings in Purvis, Mississippi, to the heights of the Hallmark Channel.

Lacey Chabert spent her childhood in the South

Lacey Chabert was born and raised in Purvis, Mississippi, and she still feels a connection to her Southern roots. "We lived next door to my grandmother and we'd walk over her house constantly," Chabert recalled to Southern Living. "One of my favorite childhood memories is baking with my grandmother in her kitchen." They baked coconut cakes and candy made of marshmallows, and one year, on Christmas morning, Chabert woke to something she'd never seen before. "[I]t had snowed all night, so everything was covered in this beautiful, white fluffy snow, and we went out to play in it," she said. "We were even more excited about the snow than opening our presents, which is saying a lot!"

Chabert went on to star in a number of Hallmark Christmas movies, so it's fitting that she was raised with a real sense of family and a love of the holidays. She was also a pageant girl as a kid, learning early that she liked to perform. "Here's the thing: It was the '80s, in the South. ... It was just kind of what everyone did," she told "Live With Kelly and Ryan" years later. "And it was really fun."

Soon, however, her family moved from Mississippi to Manhattan, relocating because her older sister was trying to break into entertainment. Chabert told Tinseltown Mom, "I auditioned for a commercial and got the commercial, and one thing led to another." Soon, her career took off.

She was a child star

Lacey Chabert's commercial gig led to something bigger: a role on Broadway as the young Cosette in "Les Misérables." Looking back, Chabert acknowledges that 7 feels young to be a professional. "I just loved it! I was just kind of born to do this, I think," she told "Live With Kelly and Ryan." She recalled understudying for the role of Gavroche, a young boy (she went on as Gavroche on her 10th birthday). "I think about moments like that now, if it happened to me ... I'd have a nervous breakdown," she joked. "But as a kid, you know, you just are less self-aware, and you just do it. Oh, I love the theater."

In addition to this, Chabert won a role on "All My Children." She played Bianca Montgomery, one of legendary daytime character Erica Kane's children. During that time, she made a friend who would go on to be even more famous off the show: Kelly Ripa. Reconnecting on "Live With Kelly and Ryan," Chabert recalled hanging out and laughing together in the green room. "You were like, the cool, funny one," Chabert told Ripa, "and I was like, 'Oh, I want to be just like her.'"

That said, Chabert was aware of the fact that her budding stardom could end at any time. As she told TV Tango, "I knew it could all change after I grew up, which was something I really couldn't avoid."

Party of Five came calling

Despite her childhood worries, Lacey Chabert's career didn't end. In fact, it just kept moving up. In 1994, she was cast on "Party of Five," a Fox show about five siblings who lose their parents in a car accident. Chabert played budding violinist Claudia, the second-youngest sibling in a television family that also included Scott Wolf, Matthew Fox, and Neve Campbell. "I grew up on the show," she told "Live with Kelly and Ryan" years later. "It's like my family. I look back at that time in my life and I realize: So much of who I am is a reflection of the people that were surrounding me then."

Even at the time, the young Chabert knew that the show was something special. She told "Access Hollywood" in 1996 that it had changed her life, noting that strangers  recognized her from the show while out in public. Still, though, she was measured about it. "It hasn't, at the same time," she added. "You know, I'm just a normal person."  

Rewatching that interview, Chabert reflected to the outlet that the character helped her grow up. "I also had a lot of my first firsts ... First kiss, first bra, I mean, all the things. All the things that happen to girls, Claudia went through. And a lot of times, I had yet to go through it in real life."

Lacey Chabert had an animated alter ego

In addition to her starring role on "Party of Five," the '90s brought a young Lacey Chabert another opportunity that would cement her as a millennial icon. She was the voice of Eliza Thornberry, a precocious little girl with the ability to talk to animals on Nickelodeon's hit cartoon "The Wild Thornberrys." She was around Eliza's age when she got the gig, but she kept at it for a number of years, making Eliza an outlet for Chabert to hold on to her childhood just a little bit longer. "It's fun to act like a 12-year-old, and I really enjoy the fact that kids enjoy the show so much," she told The Chicago Tribune when she was 20 and the show got a theatrically released film. "When you do [Eliza's] voice for kids, their eyes just get as wide as saucers."

Chabert has done a lot of voice acting over the years, including on shows like "Family Guy," "Transformers: Rescue Bots," and "Phineas and Ferb." She told Entertainment Weekly that she appreciated the freedom in role choice that voiceover work gave her. "I like that in voice acting you can play different characters than you can when you're on camera and you're limited by your physical being," she said. These jobs offer Chabert another kind of freedom as well: "The upside is you don't have to have hair and makeup. You can go in your sweats if you want — that's always a plus!"

She is well known for her role in Mean Girls

In 2004, Lacey Chabert secured perhaps her most iconic role to date. She played Gretchen Wieners in "Mean Girls," the girl whose hair is full of secrets and whose father, famously, invented toaster strudels. Gone was the child who played Claudia on "Party of Five" — Chabert was now tackling the grown-up roles she once feared wouldn't come her way.

Chabert later recalled how the character's style helped her get into the role, telling PopSugar that it took a long time each day to get Gretchen's hair right. "At the time, I had very straight hair — I was obsessed with flat-ironing it as pin straight as possible. So this was really fun for me because it was a real departure from how I wore my hair in real life," she recalled.

Even though the movie came out a while ago, Chabert still hears references to it nearly every day. She told Entertainment Weekly that she was once at the pharmacy picking up medication. "[T]he pharmacist just looked at me and goes, 'You don't look like you feel very fetch today,'" she recalled. Chabert herself frequently references the movie on her social media, talking about how she feels about the movie's legacy nearly 20 years after it debuted. On Instagram in 2023, she wrote, "I'm forever thankful to have been a part of this special movie. The friendships that were formed because of it still bring so much joy to my life."

Lacey Chabert made her Hallmark debut in 2010

2010 brought Lacey Chabert a new opportunity that would signal a huge career shift just several years later: She starred in her first film for Hallmark. Though Christmas films would come to define the channel's output, Chabert's first movie for Hallmark was a regular, non-holiday romance called "Elevator Girl." The movie stars Chabert as a young woman who gets stuck in an elevator with a lawyer (fellow child star Ryan Merriman), and of course, they fall in love.

Chabert told Hallmark Channel in a behind-the-scenes interview that she was glad to see the script was "clean ... sophisticated and interesting," something that she could recommend to her grandmother and her nephews. "I think that there's not enough, you know, family-friendly programming on," she said. "To be able to just sit in front of the TV and watch something with your family and know it's gonna be clean and also entertaining and not condescending or, you know, child-like."

It seems that Chabert was aware that "Elevator Girl" represented a possible turning point in her career now that Hallmark had come calling. She told TV Tango, "I'm not sure of the path I'll be going on from here, but my goal is to take more control of what's ahead for me now that I'm an adult." She added, "I really want to be more collaborative and creative in making my own opportunities."

She appeared on the cover of Maxim

In 2013, Lacey Chabert appeared on the cover of Maxim magazine. The headline proclaimed that she was "Sexier Than Ever!" and the lingerie shoot inside seeming designed to back that up. Maxim seemed interested in the fact that she was a child star who was now all grown up and asked how she'd managed to avoid the scandals that typically befall people in her situation. (Remember: It was late 2013, so we were months away from Lindsay Lohan's attempted comeback via an Oprah-produced reality show.) "Look, life is tough, and growing up in this business is especially tough. So I really can't take any credit other than saying I grew up in a really protective family," Chabert said. "Also, I want a long-lasting career, so you're not gonna find me doing anything scandalous anytime soon."

Maxim pushed back against that, pointing out that appearing on a magazine in lingerie could be considered scandalous. In order to prepare, Chabert said, she focused on her fitness. "I got the big call from Maxim and then immediately ... ran to the gym," she related. "When you're gonna be on the cover of Maxim in your underwear, you work out and try to eat healthy."

Chabert also tried to prove that she knows how to have a good time. "I'm a nice girl next door, but I love a good weekend in Vegas," she insisted. "Blackjack, roulette, four-card poker, slots ... all of it." 

The rom-com star found her own romance

Though she's prolific onscreen and provides her fans with many chances to watch her act, Lacey Chabert tends to keep her personal life private. In 2013, she married longtime boyfriend David Nehdar. The "Wedding Veil" star didn't talk much about her late-December wedding at first, only announcing it on Twitter after the fact. "I'm starting off 2014 as a Mrs!" she wrote in early January 2014. "Over the holidays, my best friend & love of my life ... we became husband & wife!" The Hallmark Channel replied with well-wishes, telling its star, "CONGRATULATIONS to you & your husband!"

Chabert finally opened up about her wedding about six months later to People. It seems that just about everything that can go wrong, did. "The caterer quit two days before, my sisters' dresses didn't arrive, and one of my shoes broke — crazy stuff like that," she said. Still, it seems that all of the mishaps only added to the charm of the big day. "It was just nuts, but it was perfect at the same time," she gushed.

Unlike many stars who have their weddings covered by People, Chabert didn't provide photos. She still doesn't post images of her husband online and tends to walk red carpets solo. "He's not in the business, and we like our privacy, and I just think relationships are hard enough without the opinion of strangers," she explained. "So we try to keep it as personal and private as possible."

Lacey Chabert became a mother

Though Lacey Chabert tends to keep her family life close to the chest, she shared some important news with her Twitter followers in early 2016. "I'm pregnant!!!!" she wrote alongside an adorable photo of her dog, Kitty. "My husband and I are thrilled & so thankful." She remained just as willing to share her motherhood journey throughout her pregnancy, including a maternity photoshoot in her daughter's new nursery for People. "Having a baby is a dream come true for us, so we are so happy to be able to give her this beautiful room to grow up in!" Chabert told the magazine. "She is so excited to be having a baby girl and the furthest thing from her mind was gender neutral," room designer Vanessa Antonelli explained. "So I created a feminine and sweet space that exudes warmth and a lot of love."

Chabert blogged for People throughout her pregnancy, and as her due date approached, she wrote, "These past nine months have flown by and yet they've also felt like an eternity. ... In some moments I feel completely ready and in others, I panic that we have forgotten to take care of something before her arrival."

That September, she announced the birth of her daughter, Julia Mimi Bella, on Instagram. "Julia, you are my heart's deepest dream come true," she wrote. "I love you more than I could ever say."

She is also a producer

Lacey Chabert grew up in front of the camera, but as she's become more involved in the Hallmark Channel family, the "Not Another Teen Movie" star has stepped behind the camera as well. Beginning in 2018, Chabert began executive-producing each Hallmark movie she starred in. "[Hallmark is] a very unique place in our business where it's female-driven stories and we have the opportunity as actors to put on different hats and be a producer," she told Forbes. "Having been in this business almost my whole life, it's been a goal that has been realized to be on the other side of the storytelling. I've learned so much and I've been able to apply my 30+ years in this business to these movies."

In an interview with Vulture, Chabert explained that she's interested in producing and has helped develop the stories of her films, though she doesn't know that she will ever actually write a script herself. "[D]irecting is something I would love to do at some point in my career," she explained. "I enjoy shadowing directors and watching the process. You're involved in every decision that's being made."

Lacey Chabert supports Step Up

Throughout her career, Lacey Chabert has been a supporter of Step Up, a charity that provides mentorship opportunities for young girls. "Step Up is a mentorship nonprofit providing the structure for girls (and those who identify with girlhood) to define their ideal destination and get there — wherever that destination may be," the organization's website explains. 

On the red carpet in 2017, Chabert explained that her work with the charity felt even more important now that she's a mother. "I want to set an example for her of what it means to, you know, believe in yourself," she said. The following year, at the charity's Inspiration Awards ceremony, the "Love, Romance & Chocolate" star expanded on her thoughts about the organization. "I really, genuinely believe in the work that they do," she said, noting that she's experienced Step Up's positive effect firsthand. "These girls are so awesome, and they are our future. ... [L]et's equip them to dream big and help them on their journey to accomplishing those dreams!"

She also stars in Hallmark's Crossword Mysteries movies

2019 marked an important year in Lacey Chabert's reign at the Hallmark Channel. In addition to the numerous romances and Christmas movies she stars in each year at the network, her "Crossword Mysteries" series launched. In these movies, Chabert plays Tess Harper, a woman who creates crosswords for a newspaper and winds up having to solve murder mysteries on the side. The movies have titles like "Riddle Me Dead" and "Abracadaver," and Chabert insisted to Soap Opera Digest that fans will find they're not just carbon copies of one another. "I was really proud of the first movie and I feel like we focused more on the mystery," she said, noting that her character gets drawn into her cases in different ways each time.

Her co-star is Brennan Elliott, an actor with whom Chabert starred in several movies in the "All of My Heart" series. He's her love interest in those movies, but here, they're work partners. The actors filmed the first "Crossword Mysteries" movie shortly after "All of My Heart: The Wedding," and Chabert told the outlet that it took some time to find their new characters' relationship. Still, she loves working with Elliott and said that the experience made them closer than ever. "[H]e's a wonderful guy, he's a wonderful actor, our families are friends," she revealed. "He's become a dear friend and he's a great scene partner. I love collaborating with him."

Lacey Chabert is also a clothing designer

When Lacey Chabert was younger, she was always interested in clothes. "Growing up, my sisters and I would personalize our clothes," she told InStyle. "We'd iron on patches and alter them to the way that we wanted them to be, and we'd sketch out designs for fun." Though she got into acting rather than fashion design, Chabert always had her eye on someday launching her own clothing line.

That dream finally became a reality in 2022, when the "Haul out the Holly" star launched a line with the Home Shopping Network, selling everything from pajamas and tops to pants and polo dresses. She revealed in a "Behind the Brand" featurette for the network that she was a fan of buying through HSN, making it the perfect home for her clothing collection. As for her brand's ethos, she said, "I would describe the Lacey Chabert Collection as cozy and comfortable. I want women to feel cute and effortless."

The clothes had a personal connection for Chabert, too. Ever since her daughter was younger, she would always want to wear whatever her mother was wearing. Chabert designed "Matching Moments" for those occasions, matching sets of loungewear for adults and children. "We love having those Matching Moments," she said. "It's just really special."

She defended Hallmark amid scandal

When Lacey Chabert's fellow Hallmark queen Candace Cameron Bure publicly left the network to join Great American Family instead, she caused controversy by disparaging her former holiday movie home. When The Wall Street Journal asked her if GAF would ever make a Christmas movie about a same-sex relationship, she replied, "I think that Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core."

Speaking with Vulture, Chabert was asked about her former colleague's remarks. At first, she tried to dodge the question. "I wish everybody the best," she claimed. "I really can't comment on it further other than I care about everybody involved." After being pushed, she elaborated on her feelings on the subject. "I'll never abandon what Hallmark means for me, which is that everything is centered around the heart," she said. "I don't think there are any plans for that to change anytime soon."

The year before Bure's controversial comments, Chabert spoke with Insider about Hallmark's push for diversity, and her remarks give us a clue about how she might really feel about Bure's statement. As she told the outlet, "I'm really proud of all of the work I've gotten to do with [Hallmark]." Chabert said she was glad the network was expanding their scope to be more inclusive. She explained, "I think that Hallmark has done a wonderful job of telling stories that everyone can relate to. And I think they continue to try harder and strive to do that even more."