Goodbye ‘Yo-LAHNNN-da-Vega!’ A New York Lottery Queen Retires
Drawing out the syllables of her name with an exaggerated flair became Ms. Vega’s trademark and helped establish her as a New York institution.
“I’m Yo-LAHNNN-da Vega!”
That distinctive introduction is how Yolanda Vega, the face of the New York Lottery’s on-air drawings for over three decades, made, well, a name for herself.
But Ms. Vega, 66, is calling it quits as the evening diva of the state’s numbers drawings. The lottery announced her retirement this week on Twitter.
Drawing out the syllables with an exaggerated flair became Ms. Vega’s trademark and helped establish her as a New York institution. Anchors of news programs began imitating the pronunciation in introducing the lottery drawings, syndicated to television stations statewide. And in a brief appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1994, even Ms. Winfrey introduced her in Ms. Vega’s trademark fashion.
She has likely presented billions in winnings over the years. It was invariably Ms. Vega who presented on-air the familiar oversized ceremonial checks for oversized amounts to stunned winners of the Mega Millions, Powerball and other games run by the New York Lottery, which calls itself the largest and most profitable in the nation.
But it was the way she pronounced her name, as much as her role, that gained her the affection of millions. “It just took so hard,” Ms. Vega said on Wednesday. “I believe it helped promote me, helped blow me up.”
“It’s melodic and it’s fun,” she added. “I’ve had numerous women tell me that the first words out of their children’s mouths were Yolanda Vega.”
Brad Maione, a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission, which operates the lottery, said, “Her ebullient nature, coupled with her playful personality, made Yolanda a national icon.”
“There will never be another personality associated with the lottery like Yolanda Vega,” he said.
Ms. Vega became part of an evening ritual for millions of lottery players and a staple at promotional events and lottery news conferences.
SCHENECTADY — Yolanda Vega never said much publicly. She avoided interviews and made few appearances on the news.
But when it came time for televised lottery drawings in New York, Yolanda Vega struck a pose that became iconic.
"I'm Yooooolaaaanda Vega"
Vega's catchphrase invigorated the lottery drawing and for decades made her a celebrity with viewers.
But her time as the face of the state lottery is over: Tuesday it was announced that she was retiring.
"We truly hit the jackpot by having her as a part of the New York Lottery family. Let’s send her off in the comments below by posting our favorite Yolanda Vega memories," the lottery wrote in a tweet announcing her retirement.
On the social media site, the compliments arrived quickly. Some users called her an "icon." One writer recalled that everyone in her home hushed when Vega came on to lead the lottery drawing on TV.