Broadway's Nikki M. James Embraced Her Curls After Having a Daughter: 'I Want Her to Be Her True Self' (Exclusive)

The actress welcomed her first child with husband Derek Oosterman in 2022

<p>Dominik Bindl/Getty Images</p> Nikki M. James

Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

Nikki M. James

Nikki M. James is opening up about how motherhood has inspired a more relaxed approach to her haircare routine.

The Broadway star, 43, revealed in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE that since welcoming her first child, a daughter, with husband Derek Oosterman in 2022, she has ditched daily blowouts and is now sporting her natural curls.

"I started wearing my hair curly because I'm running out of time," she says, referring to juggling her busy career and family life. "It seems silly, but I had been blow-drying my hair my whole life. It was my style, and I love the way it looks since I could change it easily."

As much as she enjoyed the versatility of having straight hair, James says she wants to set an example for her young daughter.

"I thought, 'Oh, my daughter is going to have her hair, and I want her to feel like she can be her true self, and I should find out who I am,' " explains James, who is nominated for a 2024 Tony Award for her performance in Suffs. "So I'm on this curly hair journey. So that's one way that motherhood has changed me."

<p>Nikki M. James/Instagram</p> Nikki M. James and her daughter

Nikki M. James/Instagram

Nikki M. James and her daughter

Related: 2024 Tony Awards: Sarah Paulson, Jeremy Strong, Rachel McAdams and More Nab Nominations — See the Full List

James has also found that being a mom has shifted her priorities in other ways, particularly when it comes to her work.

"[Motherhood has] also, I think, really changed and brought into very sharp focus the kind of things that are worth leaving [my daughter] for and the weight that it places on my husband and my family and my friends to help me do this, and so it's got to be worth it," she says of potential roles and career opportunities.

"And [Suffs creator] Shaina [Taub] wrote a song called 'Worth It.' And let me tell you, when I heard it the first time, I was a hysterical mess," she continues. "So that's one of the ways it's changed me. I think my work, what I choose to do and how I choose to do it will change from here on out for sure."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

James also reflected on how becoming a mother for the first time has helped her connect more deeply with her character in Suffs, Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.

"She's so fierce. And so unflinching. And so brave, in the face of challenges and oppositions and obstacles and threats that I can't even imagine. And she was doing all of this while raising a family," the actress explains of Wells, who is one of the founders of the NAACP.

Related: Alicia Keys, Jim Parsons and More 2024 Tony Awards Hopefuls React to Their Nominations: 'This Is Wild'

<p>Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images</p> Derek Osterman and Nikki M. James

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Derek Osterman and Nikki M. James

"I'm a mom, and in the time since we last did the Suffs at the Public [Theater], and now I've become a mother and that's a part of my connection to her that didn't exist before," James continues. "And it actually really brings into focus why she was willing to fight so hard. She wanted to make the world a better place for her children. And now I really know what that means."

The PEOPLE Puzzler crossword is here! How quickly can you solve it? Play now!

She adds: "And I think in telling my little story and walking in Ida's shoes for a few minutes every day, I am changing the world. I am making the world a better place."

James tells PEOPLE the Suffs cast has become like family to her and supported her throughout her pregnancy and parenthood journeys.

"I was pregnant with my daughter when we did the show at the Public, and my cast didn't all know until I was out of my first trimester. And I will tell you that group of incredible humans, the way they lifted me up and continue to lift me up and care for my daughter and love her so fiercely…" she says. "That's the other added bonus is that my young daughter has 25 aunties who would lay down their lives for her."

The 2024 Tony Awards will take place on Sunday, June 16, at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater in New York City. Viewers can watch the show on CBS and Paramount+ beginning at 8 p.m. EST. Select awards will also be handed out on a preshow that will stream on Pluto TV.

Tickets to Suffs are now on sale.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.