Overcoming Adversity

How Nikki Burdine Found Her Way Into Television

Article by Cortney Wilbanks

Photography by Christy Hunter/Photowalk Nashville

Originally published in Belle Meade Lifestyle

As soon as Nikki Burdine enters a room, people take notice. To Nashville residents, Nikki is known as the charismatic anchor for "Good Morning Nashville." Still, her personal and professional journey exceeds what meets the eye.

A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, with roots in Nashville by way of her mom, Nikki considers herself part Nashvillian. Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2005, she says she planned to move to Los Angeles to become an entertainment correspondent. However, her father, a USMC Colonel, served in Iraq then, and her mom couldn't bear the thought of her moving so far away from home. So she switched gears and landed in Washington, D.C., with no plan other than to network her way into a career she loved.

While working with the now-Washington Commanders (formerly the Redskins), Nikki met CBS legend Bob Schieffer, who became a fast friend and respected mentor. She says she sought his advice for breaking into the business. Thanks to his guidance and encouragement, she landed her first on-air job as a reporter in Hagerstown, Maryland. "I wouldn't be in this career had it not been for Bob," she adds.

Hagerstown was anything but a glamorous stepping stone for her. Still, she credits this time with forming her into the journalist she is today.

Nikki says she could barely make ends meet; she worked holidays, weekends and overnights, holding every role at the television station as a 'one-man band.' Her job included shooting videos, writing, editing and anchoring. From Hagerstown, she moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to work for the local NBC affiliate to anchor weekends. She left her now-husband in the Washington, DC, area while she chased her dream, adamant to one day return to work in the nation's capital. After three years in Lexington, she accomplished that goal. Then, she moved to Washington to work as a reporter and anchor for the CBS affiliate. "But I always knew I would end up back home in Tennessee," she says. 

So when a job opened in Nashville, she and her husband knew Nashville would be the perfect place to grow their family.

The long road to her dream job in Nashville was anything but smooth, and overcoming adversity is something with which Nikki is very familiar. At 12, she was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, a fact few people know about her. Nikki recalls being bullied and excluded, and feelings of anxiety and depression, and often experiencing debilitating and embarrassing tics. Through family support, therapy and medication, she says she's now comfortable in her skin and able to manage her tics.

Nikki can hold a job many doctors said would never be possible for someone with Tourette's. Although not specific to TV news, she remembers doctors telling her parents she would probably have difficulty holding a 'regular job' into adulthood.

She still does 'tic' on television, but most people don't spot them. Speaking publicly about her tics has sometimes been challenging for her. So it wasn't until her time in Washington, DC, as a reporter that she was assigned a story about Tourette's syndrome. With the encouragement of colleagues, she shared her story. The report sparked the interest of a mother whose son had Tourette's.

"I had one viewer reach out to me personally and tell me that my story gave her hope for her son, who was also living with Tourette's," she says.

Nikki has overcome barrier after barrier, with a significant hurdle being the birth of her daughter, Andi. Andi was born at just 28 weeks and weighed only 1.4 pounds, which gives her the unique distinction of being a 'micro-preemie.' She spent nearly three months in the NICU. Finally, after beating a blood infection and putting on some serious pounds, she was ready to go home with her family. She's tiny but mighty. When Nikki is asked to describe Andi, she will smile graciously and state her daughter is feisty and fearless. Never wanting her daughter to feel too small in the room that she steps in, Nikki encourages her daughter's fire, calling little Andi a true inspiration.

Today, Nikki is grateful for her supportive team members and loving husband, Justin, who understand her tics, allowing her to have moments of release without judgment and overcoming hardships, creating a life worth noting, and displaying grace and self-compassion along the way. Nikki's story challenges everyone that hears it to look beneath the surface when meeting someone new, because one never truly knows what they may have overcome.

"It's something that I am a huge advocate for now. I want people living with Tourette's to see me and know that a normal, healthy and fulfilled life is possible," shares Nikki Burdine, anchor for "Good Morning Nashville."

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