RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For more than two decades, Mikki Spencer has been bringing Virginians’ luck as the Draw Show Host for the Virginia Lottery. But, what you may not know is that Spencer created her own luck years ago when she became the first African American female program director at WKIE, a Richmond radio station.
Born and raised in Richmond, Spencer always had dreams of being an actress. After graduating from Richmond Public Schools, she spent some time studying at the University of Virginia before coming back home to join the Richmond Broadcast Academy. There, she got the radio bug.
“I got a job right before I graduated from Richmond Broadcast Academy and started working in radio,” Spencer said. “I did overnights at WDYL and WGGM — those were gospel stations in Chester. I worked the overnight shift.”
She eventually landed multiple on-air jobs before settling at WKIE in the mid-1980s.
“During the time I was there, it was a young radio market,” Spencer said. “In that, FM was not big. WKIE was an AM station. FM was coming to be. We were a daytime station, sun up to sundown. We couldn’t really compete.”
The radio DJ knew she had to make a change.
“We went from contemporary urban to hip hop, rap,” she explained. “Nobody was into rap. We figured if we could give something to a market that wasn’t being satisfied, we could garner ratings and advertising dollars. And it worked! People who were 30 and over didn’t like it, but all the young people loved it. Ratings shot up.”
Here’s a look at Mikki Spencer’s radio life:
The change quickly sparked a movement putting Richmond on the map for up-and-coming artists.
“Rap and hip hop was new. So, the rap and hip-hop artists were looking for a place to go. All of the hip-hop artists came by, the LL Cool J’s, the Kool Moe Dee. We just had a ball,” she told 8News. “We were the only station that played rap and hip hop. We got the rap and hip-hop community to get involved. That was big for WKIE, the first AM rap station in Central Virginia.”
With that, came the growth of a genre that regularly dominates the charts today.
“It was a catalyst for Central Virginia,” she told 8News. “WKIE kind of kicked off the acceptance of it in Richmond, Virginia.”
Spencer had a career change in the early 2000s after a colleague approached her about an audition for draw show host at the Virginia Lottery.
“When I got there, I saw all of the local actors and actresses auditioning for the Virginia Lottery Draw Show host,” Spencer said. “I had seen all these people in commercials.”
As luck would have it, Spencer landed the role and has now become a household name.
“It’s so interesting because my girlfriends and I went to Virginia Beach,” Spencer recounted. “A guy came up to us on the boardwalk and said ‘It’s the Lottery Lady! Let me rub your elbow for some lottery money!”
While she now spends most of her time tending to her garden, Spencer said she can only help but be thankful for the opportunities her career has given her.
“I’ve been very blessed,” she said. “My career has been wonderful in many respects. I think the Lord put me where he wanted me to be to get the things that He has made available to me and I receive it.”