Meet Nikki Reed, Co-Host of the “Smiley Morning Show”

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne

If you’ve ever woken up to the sound of belly laughs and the joyful voice of Nikki Reed on 99.5 WZPL and wondered, “Why is she so chipper?” it could be because she truly loves her job.Smiley Morning Show

The silly stories, the awesome music and the playful banter among her “Smiley Morning Show” co-hosts, Dave Smiley, Toni Williams, and Will Pfaffenberger, make for fun weekday mornings. Besides, it sure beats the summer job she had growing up working at a marina as a dock girl in Michigan.

“Pumping gas is fun,” she says. “Pumping out toilets, not so much.”

Reed, the middle of three children, studied theatre at UIndy where one of her classmates was acclaimed actor Adam Driver.

“Adam was pure talent, but I thought, ‘I’m not going to make a living from this,’” says Reed, who considered pursuing a career in TV news until her professors suggested radio instead. She couldn’t deny that it was the more natural fit, as it allowed her to perform and still be her authentic self.

Reed started as an intern at WZPL, then worked in Seymour and Columbus doing morning traffic. In 2011 she landed a job at WZPL, first doing the afternoon shift before transitioning to the “Smiley Morning Show.” Reed’s favorite part of her job is meeting listeners, whether it’s at an event like Smiley Prom, the Indy 500, or the radio’s annual Make-A-Wish Request-A-Thon.

“I like making people’s day better,” Reed says.

Radio has changed quite a bit over time with the advent of podcasts and social media.

“Changing with technology is important,” Reed says. “So is changing with the audience. You can’t assume they’ll stay. We have to always do a better job of meeting them where they are, as many households don’t even have radios. We need to be on smart speakers and have apps. We need to make our morning show into a podcast so that listeners can consume it the way they want.”

In 2018 Reed was chatting with Michael Kaltenmark, who at the time was the bulldog handler at Butler University. He needed a new kidney, so they interviewed him on the “Smiley Morning Show” to give him more exposure. In doing her research for the segment, Reed’s interest in organ donation piqued. When she reached out to the transplant center to inquire about testing, she was told they already had found a match for Kaltenmark.

“I remember feeling disappointed because I was psyched up to do something impactful,” Reed says. That’s when she decided she’d donate a kidney to a stranger.

“I thought, ‘If I can save someone’s life, why not?’” she says.

Her family wasn’t sold on the idea.

“I told my dad that statistically speaking, I was in greater danger driving to work each day than donating a kidney,” Reed says. “He couldn’t say much. He likes to skydive!”

It took a year to get through all of the testing to determine if Reed’s body could handle the procedure. There’s blood work, MRIs and chest X-rays. Plus, all along the way, doctors repeatedly asked her if she had changed her mind. Once she was approved, she waited.

Reed donated a kidney in February 2020. She was shocked by how seamless the surgery was. Post-surgery also wasn’t bad.

“It was mostly just a lot of napping and sore muscles like I’d done a million sit-ups,” she says. “It was so easy that I’d do it again, but I’ve run out of kidneys!”

When one donates to a stranger, it’s up to the recipient to decide if there will be a meeting between donor and recipient. Reed never met the woman her kidney went to.

Smiley Morning Show“It’s altruistic donation,” she says. “I knew going in I may not meet the person. All I wanted was for her to be OK. I know she’s healthy now. I don’t need a big thank-you.”

Just a few months prior to her surgery, a college friend suggested that Reed meet one of his buddies, Nick, who was a cop. Reed was hesitant, but her friend described Nick as “the best person I know.” The two proceeded to text for the next three weeks.

“I said, ‘If this guy is anywhere close to good looking, I’m done, because he’s funny and fantastic,’” Reed says. When they finally met in person, they each knew that they had found their person. It didn’t take long for the pair to tie the knot. Marrying Nick meant becoming a stepmom to his three children and a cat named Luna. Reed brought to the relationship her dog, Marbles.

“I’m so grateful to have my husband,” says Reed, who admits that she was terrified to move to Hendricks County and become a stepmom. But it’s been fantastic.

As for the future, Reed favors wanderlust like her parents, who are currently sailing around the country in their 30-foot sailboat. Reed and her husband went to Greece for their honeymoon where they ate gelato twice a day. They recently traveled to Boston and Philadelphia for sightseeing and creepy ghost tours. At home, Reed likes to take long walks in nature and concoct recipes in the kitchen.

“I hate wasting food, so I play ‘Chopped’ and see what meal I can make with what I have in my refrigerator,” Reed says. “I’ve had some massive failures, but Nick is a former marine so he can eat anything. And I’m improving!”

As for Reed, she couldn’t be happier as a wife, stepmom and radio personality. Her dock-girl days are officially behind her, and it’s smooth sailing ahead.

Fun Facts About Nikki Reed

Best bit of advice: Don’t date where you work. “If you keep your career separate, your career can be your escape,” she says.

Bucket-list items: To stay in a hut that hovers above the ocean, and do a dogsled adventure in Iceland.

A guilty pleasure: Trash TV – “Vanderpump Rules.”

Favorite season: Fall. “I’m big into Halloween,” Reed says.Smiley Morning Show

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