‘What’s Happening’ Child Star’s Journey Past Cancer, Paralysis & Depression

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If the name Danielle Spencer doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the name “Dee,” former adorable child star of ’70s classic TV show What’s Happening, is probably more familiar.

Spencer’s catchphrase on the show was, “Oooh, I’m gonna tell my momma!” She left showbiz to pursue her education at Tuskegee University where she completed a degree in veterinary science and became a veterinarian. The now married 51-year-old Dr. Spencer couldn’t be happier.

“I knew I wanted to work with animals but I didn’t know in what capacity. But I always loved animals,” confesses Spencer. “They were my closest friends sometimes growing up.

I was so happy to be able to be a veterinarian because I wasn’t doing much acting once the show went off the air. It’s good being able to make a living doing something that I love.”

But her transition from entertainment to animal medicine wasn’t always a smooth one. 


In 1977, Spencer was in a car accident that took the life of her stepfather. Symptoms of spinal cord injury showed up 26 years later, eventually leaving her near-paralysis for about eight months where she had to learn how to walk again.