“I am Yo-LAHNNN-da Vega!”
That particular introduction is how Yolanda Vega, the face of the New York Lottery’s broadcast drawings for more than three decades, has made a name for herself.
But Ms. Vega, 66, calls it the evening diva of the state’s digital drawings. Lottery announced her retirement this week on Twitter.
The delicate drawing of syllables became Ms. Vega’s trademark and helped her establish an organization in New York. News programs began mimicking the pronunciation when introducing lottery drawings, which were provided to television stations across the state. And in a brief appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1994, even Mrs. Winfrey featured her in Mrs. Vega’s trademarked outfit.
She has likely made billions of dollars in winnings over the years. It has always been Mrs. Vega, who presented online the familiar oversized ceremonial checks with oversized sums to the stunned winners of Mega Millions, Powerball and other games run by the New York Lottery. , the company that claims to be the largest and most profitable in the nation.
But it’s the way she pronounces her name, as well as her role, that has earned her the love of millions. “It was very difficult,” Ms. Vega said. “I believe it helped motivate me, helped blow me away.”
“It’s melodious and fun,” she added. “I’ve had many women tell me that the first words that come out of their baby’s mouth are Yolanda Vega.”
Brad Maione, a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, which runs the lottery, said, “Her vibrant nature, coupled with her playful personality, have made Yolanda a national icon. family”.
“There will never be another personality tied to the lottery like Yolanda Vega,” he said.
Ms. Vega has become part of the evening ritual for millions of lottery players and a key figure in promotional events and lottery press conferences.
During her first decade on the air, she began to gain a following. At one point, the lottery held statewide “I want to be Yolanda Vega” advertising contests featuring fans who dressed up as Miss Vega and imitated her.
When customers give gifts, the lottery is done Yolanda Vega bobblehead figure with a recorded voice announcing her name.
Over the years, as fashions and hairstyles have changed, so has Miss Vega. But her wave of fun remains unchanged as she stands among boxes of dancing balls ready to be spewed into winning combinations.
Ms. Vega said she started exaggerating the pronunciation of her name as soon as she started appearing on television for the lottery. One morning, she “jumps on some espresso” and spontaneously exaggerates her name, and a program director warned her that “prolonging your name will take seconds off your time.” precious”.
“I said, ‘I’m proud of who I am’ and I keep being true to myself and I keep doing that.”
Ms. Vega is known across the state, from Buffalo to Long Island, a key figure in lottery presentations from county fairs to minor league baseball stadiums to drop-offs. New Year’s Eve shadows in Times Square.
Margaret R. DeFrancisco, director of the New York Lottery from 1999 to 2004, said she was constantly greeted by fans as they tried to pronounce her special name.
“People will imitate it or experiment with it – if she gets tired of it, it never shows up,” Ms. DeFrancisco said, adding that when sporting events occasionally delete before the lottery drawings, “we would get calls from people saying, ‘How dare you hit Yolanda first.’
On Wednesday, a Twitter user, @JoeRashbaum, called Miss Vega “Being an iconic part of NYC like subways, bagels, The Garden and everything else” and thanked her for “doing the ‘Must See TV’ drawings”
She could give a check for $400 million to a truck driver from Brooklyn, or $7 million in winnings to a Staten Island construction worker.
There she was, jumping for joy in Madison Square Garden with the guy who hit the long shot in 2002 to win $1 million in the Mega Millions, and atop the Empire State Building in 2005 with the prize. King Kong Millions jackpot of $55 million.
Born Yolanda Antequera, Vega said she grew up as one of six daughters of Puerto Rican immigrants at a public service home in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
She attended public schools including Hunter College in the city’s university system and began working as an accountant, eventually moving to the Albany area.
In 1990, on a nightingale, she tried her hand at being a television personality for the state lottery. At 34, with no relevant experience, she has no real hope of landing the job, “so I’m just my old Brooklyn,” she said. She was hired.
Ms. Vega said she turned down job offers from TV news networks to continue to be the face of the lottery. During a 2019 appearance on the Wendy Williams Show, Ms Vega said she did not want to retire. But after overcoming the pandemic, she said on Wednesday that she wanted to spend more time with her husband.
She added that she recently “hit the jackpot” when she gave birth to her first grandchild, a 5-month-old boy named Isaiah.
“He was the last straw” in her decision, she said.
Ms. Vega said her upbringing as a New Yorker may have prepared her for relationships with the many lottery winners on the cusp of going from working class to billionaires. rich.
Before the cameras start rolling, she said, she would pull them aside.
“I would say, ‘Look at me, baby, look at me – it’s going to be all right,’ she said. “I made them feel comfortable and they ended up talking to me and connecting with me.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/nyregion/yolanda-vega-ny-lottery.html After 32 years, Yolanda Vega will retire from the NY Lottery