Face of the New York Lottery finishes her final day as the state's most iconic TV host
By Kate Northrop
Famed New York Lottery television host and personality Yolanda Vega has retired after more than three decades delivering the winning numbers (and checks) to players across the state.
Yolanda Vega, 66, is stepping down as the face of the New York Lottery, having had touched the lives of Empire State residents with her exuberance while greeting players with her trademark phrase, "I'm Yolaaaaanda Vega!"
"Yolanda Vega, our iconic Draw Team member, has retired after an incredible 32 years," the Lottery announced on Twitter this week. "We truly hit the jackpot by having her as a part of the New York lottery family."
Monday marked her final day at the New York Lottery, but her classic signature greeting cemented itself in the rest of her career just six months into the job.
"I came in, and I had drank a lot of Puerto Rican espresso, and I was pumped up," she told Binghamton Fox affiliate WICZ in a 2018 interview. "I said, 'With the New York Lottery, I'm Yolaaanda Vegaaaa!' And they said, 'Woah, what are you doing?' And I said, 'That's who I am, and I'm proud of who I am."
It must not have just been the energy she exuded in front of cameras, but the distinct way she pronounced her name that also helped solidify her role as a staple in New York television.
"It just took so hard," Vega remarked on Wednesday. "I believe it helped promote me, helped blow me up. It's melodic and it's fun. I've had numerous women tell me that the first words out of their children's mouths were Yolanda Vega."
As her popularity grew, so too did her fanbase. While followers constantly greeted her with their own impressions of her trademark phrase, the Lottery held "I Want To Be Yolanda Vega" contests across the state where fans would dress up as and deliver their best attempts to imitate her.
"People would imitate [her catchphrase] or test it out with her — if she ever got tired of it, it never showed," former New York Lottery Director Margaret R. DeFrancisco said.
Players tuning in to live televised drawings would even voice their disapproval whenever Vega's segments were occasionally pre-empted by a sporting event.
"We would get phone calls from people saying, 'How dare you pre-empt Yolanda," DeFrancisco added.
For 32 years, players knew Vega, not only as the lady on TV who called out the winning numbers, but as the one who personally delivered the oversized checks to New Yorkers-turned-millionaires. For those lucky enough to come into millions, Vega was the one they could expect to meet.
"Yolanda was the master of that," New York State Gaming Commission spokesperson Brad Maione told the Post. "She defined the role."
Vega had said in her 2018 interview that part of her job meant making winners feel at ease while she presented them with a ceremonial check on live television.
"I find out how they feel about winning, what led up to the winning," she explained to WICZ. "I find out details about them, and it makes them feel comfortable because they're looking at me. Don't look at the audience, don't look at the camera, just talk to me."
According to Gaming Commission officials, Vega delivered a conservative estimate of over $4 billion in lottery prizes.
"It's the end of an era," Maione finished. "There will never be another Yolanda Vega in the business. Her ebullient nature, coupled with playful personality made Yolanda a national icon. We will miss her presence."