Dr. Danielle Spencer played the bratty little sister Dee on the late-’70s sitcom, ‘ What’s Happening!!’ But the now 49-year-old actress is not a sad cautionary tale like so many other child stars. After the show ended it’s 3-year run from 1975-1978, Spencer went on to Tuskeegee University where she completed a degree in veterinary science and became a veterinarian. Spencer is facing a challenge now – she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and she hopes her story will encourage other women to seek screening. But for those who love nostalgia, Spencer remains a fond memory of childhood, her famous line ‘Oooh, I’m gonna tell mama,” is one her fans still say when they run into her. But Spencer says she’s OK with that, even if some people don’t realize she’s heard it many times before.
“I chuckle, because everyone thinks its original, so I have to act like it’s new every time,” she laughs.
Spencer says she stopped acting to focus on school, vowing to return to acting if her career as veterinarian didn’t work out. Twenty-two years later, she’s happy with her choice.
“However I do miss it every once in a while. There are a lot more show and opportunities when I was young. She says. I wish there were more representations of animal rights on TV and I”m so glad there is Animal Planet now.” Spencer says she’d love to be part of a reality show focusing on animal rights and care.
But first, Spencer has her own medical challenge. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a month ago and is heading to the hospital this week to seek the best treatment option.
“Surgery is definitely one of the options,” she says. “I”m trying to get as many opinions as possible but it does look that that is what I’m going to do. Hopefully after that there won’t be any chemotherapy or radiation. With everything that I’ve been through with the spinal cord injury (Spencer was in a car accident in 1977, during the show. Symptoms of spinal cord injury showed up 26 years later, eventually leaving her near-paralysis for a time) I know God is not going to give me another affliction. So I was completely shocked when the doctors told me.”
Spencer had a family history of breast cancer, but says she has a lot of support and help in her life but says that good things have also happened in her life this year. One of the most significant was her induction into the Smithsonian Museum, the only child star so inducted. She will be part of the permanent exhibition of the African-American cultural museum scheduled to open in 2015.
“I still can’t believe it,” she says. “That’s something people can look at for years to come, long after I’m gone.”
Click the links above to hear the entire interview!
Teenage Stars That Made Good
1. Omarion appeared in commercials at an early age and went on to join 'B2K'. He is currently signed to Rick Ross' label and a cast member of 'Love and Hip Hop'1 of 26
2. Kyla Pratt started acting at age 8, appearing in shows like, 'Friends', 'Smart Guy' and 'Family Matters'. She currently stars in the BET hit 'Let's Stay Together'2 of 26
3. Zendaya Coleman is most known for her characters on the Disney channel and is currently starring in a show on the same network.3 of 26
4. Tahj Mowry is the little brother of superstar twins, Tia and Tamera, however he has been acting in his own right since age four. Some of his roles include 'Full House' and ' Smart Guy'. Currently stars as Tucker on ABC's 'Baby Daddy'.4 of 26
5. Romeo Miller has been on the scene since 2001 first in music and now in television and film.5 of 26
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8. Kim Fields caught our attention in 1979 as Tootie in 'Facts Of Life'. She went on to appear in the highly successful show 'Living Single' starring Queen Latifah.8 of 26
9. Gabrielle Union's goal wasn't to be an actress. While interning in college at a Talent Agency she was discovered and landed her first role on 'Saved By The Bell'. Since then she's become a household name and is currently starring in BET's 'Being Mary Jane'.9 of 26
10. Meagan Good started acting in 1999 on Nickelodeon's 'Cousin Skeeter'. She has since been seen in other television sitcoms and movies. The highly anticipated sequel to 'Think Like A Man' comes out in June 2014 where she stars as Joanna.10 of 26
11. Reagan Gomez Preston was spotted on the scene in 1995 as Zaria Peterson in the hit show 'Parenthood'. Since then she has been in a number of videos and movies alike.11 of 26
12. Malcolm Jamal Warner is best known for his role as Theo on 'The Cosby Show'. Since then he's starred alongside Tracee Ellis Ross and Eddie Griffin.12 of 26
13. Nick Cannon has been on the scene since 1990. He is now the President of Nick Jr and has married one of the biggest stars in the country.13 of 26
14. Marques Houston has been acting since 1992 and although he's not in the spotlight as much now, he has made cameos in several films and is still active in the music business.14 of 26
15. At age six, Keshia Knight Pulliam was the youngest star ever to be nominated for an Emmy. At 35 she's still in the business.15 of 26
16. Tatyana Ali started her acting career at age six appearing on Sesame Street and later on landing her career defining role as Ashley on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'16 of 26
17. Tamery Mowry-Housely and Tia Mowry-Hardict started their career in 1990 and have had a steady climb in the industry ever since. Both are married with kids and can be seen on their respective televisions shows.17 of 26
18. Keke Palmer started her acting career at age 9 and she shows no signs of slowing down. At age 20 she has just been named the youngest person to ever have her own talk show.18 of 26
19. Brandy became a star at just 15 and at 31, she is not close to slowing down. (PR)19 of 26
20. LL Cool J hopped on the scene at the young age of 19 and 20 years later is still here. (PR)20 of 26
21. "Just One of Them Days" catapulted Monica into the music industry and she hasn't left. (PR)21 of 26
22. Nas made his first big rap appearance at the age of 18, and still is making classics. (PR)22 of 26
23. Beyonce was just a kid when she began her career, and over 20 years later she's a bonafide Superstar. (PR)23 of 26
24. Some may think it's too soon to say Bow Wow has made it but after 12 years in the game, he's made his mark. (PR)24 of 26
25. With over a half a century of success, many forget Aretha Franklin was just 17 with a Billboard Hit. (PR)25 of 26
26. 7-time Grammy Award Winner Usher, snuck onto the scene at 13 and is now one of the best selling artists of all time.(PR)26 of 26
Former Child Star Danielle Spencer Talks Smithsonian Honor And Breast Cancer Diagnosis was originally published on blackamericaweb.com