Kierra Cotton is always trying to elevate. In fact, the Cleveland native has a bit of a repuation at WKYC, where she recently joined Leon Bibb on We the People and earned a full-time role on Weekend Go! “People in the newsroom make fun of me because I’m always like ‘Could I have done that better?’” she says. “I grew up with the expectation that there was a bar set, and you have things to achieve.”
Raised in Cleveland on East 140th Street and St. Clair Avenue, she saw the dualities of her Collinwood neighborhood and private school life. From Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, Cotton headed to Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. After graduating in 2016, Cotton started behind the scenes at WKYC as a “glorified receptionist." Since securing her first on-air opportunity in 2020, she’s earned three Emmy Awards and parlayed her charisma and energy into a role as in-game host for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Cleveland is a city of hustle,” she says. "There's a different level of grit."
Cleveland Magazine: What does a typical game day look like for you from start to finish?
Kierra Cotton: We have a team meeting early in the day where we go over the rundown of the day and make sure we know the flow of the game. I come in an hour before tip. Sometimes they have clothes for us, and sometimes they don’t. Normally I’m going through three different outfits to see what looks good. I try to make it my own personal style. I enjoy a good sneaker, so I coordinate my outfits that way. Once I have my outfit figured out, I’m rehearsing scripts and going through lines to make sure I know what I’m talking about and have the freedom to ad-lib.
CM: What do you hope to bring to your second year as the Cavs in-game host?
KC: I am a walking good time, and that’s what I try to bring to the game atmosphere. With my new role at WKYC, the skills are just going to continue to transfer over. Ahmaad [Crump, Cavs on-court host] is an amazing colleague, so we bounce off each other. The fans make the experience. I’m there to serve the fans and to get them excited for everything the Cavs are doing on the court.
CM: What is the most memorable moment from last season?
KC: Jarett Allen is a gem. I was on the court fooling around ahead of a game, and I’m just throwing up some shots when Jarett comes out to warm up. I put up one final shot and I make it. He’s like, ‘Hey, you made it!' It was incredible. It was my rookie season, and if you ask Ahmaad, he talks to the players all the time, but for me, it was so cool.
CM: What are some of your favorite places in Cleveland?
KC: Biased opinion — I love The Velvet Dog on West Sixth because I used to work there. My work family is there, so I love it. I’m also a foodie, but I am a picky eater. I love the Cleveland traditions: the corned beef, the Polish boy, the wings, so I’m going to say Slyman’s Restaurant and Kim’s Wings [in Collinwood] are my favorite. I grew up inner-city Cleveland so those are very urban places, but you’ve gotta go to the thick of it to get the good stuff. There’s a new bar called Crobar on St. Clair, and my go-to meal has been their Man Bird Pig sandwich. Absolute favorite. If I could have it every day, I would.
CM: What inspires you?
KC: I am the oldest of three and to set an example for them has always been a priority. I always have wanted to show them that anything is possible. So often the narrative is ‘Well, you have to leave Cleveland to make your dreams come true,’ and I just don’t believe that. For me to make my dreams come true in my hometown — my siblings can turn on the TV and see me every day — there’s no better feeling than that to me.