McLaughlin was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. When she was three, her family moved to the town of Zephyrhills, Florida.
She began her acting career with community theater groups in Tampa, Florida. At the age of eight she joined the apprentice cast of Entertainment Revue, a professional show choir in Tampa, and was promoted to the professional cast two years later. She has made presentations including singing for Florida Governor Jeb Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.