As part of its continuing quest to create a diverse and inclusive environment for children, beloved PBS franchise Sesame Street introduced its first Black family (father and son Wes and Elijah Walker) earlier this year. And now, Sesame Street will soon be even more diverse and inclusive with the introduction of the company’s first-ever Asian American character — a music-loving, skateboard-obsessed 7-year-old named Ji-Young.
Entertainment Weekly’s Andrea Towers reported that “when the popular children’s series debuts its See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special next week, it will introduce Ji-Young, a Korean American Muppet with a passion for skateboarding and electric guitar playing. It’s the first time in 52 years that Sesame Street has introduced an Asian American Muppet into its ranks.”
Kay Wilson Stallings, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of creative and production, said in a statement, “Sesame Workshop’s mission is to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder. Today, we uphold that mission by empowering children and families of all races, ethnicities and cultures to value their unique identities.”
Wilson said, “See Us Coming Together continues Sesame Street‘s proud legacy of representation with an engaging story that encourages empathy and acceptance and uplifts Asian and Pacific Islander communities. With the generous support of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), Ford Foundation and P&G/Pampers, we’re proud to bring this special to life.”
The Sesame Street team also proudly noted that Ji-Young is Korean and proud of her heritage — a distinct effort from the group to not create a character who was “generically pan-Asian” or part of the “Asian” monolith.
Kathleen Kim, a puppeteer who has worked with the Sesame Workshop since 2014, has been tasked with bringing Ji-Young to life.
“I feel like I have a lot of weight that maybe I’m putting on myself to teach these lessons and to be this representative that I did not have as a kid,” Kim said in an interview with the Associated Press.
In addition to the introduction of Ji-Young, Sesame Street’s Thanksgiving Day special (which will air on local PBS stations, HBO Max and Sesame Street social media platforms) will also include appearances from Shang-Chi actor Simu Liu, chef and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and tennis superstar Naomi Osaka.
In an interview with EW, TAAF board member Sheila Lirio Marcelo said, “this is a proud moment for AAPIs everywhere, particularly Korean Americans. Ji-Young and the See Us Coming Together special demonstrate that Asian Americans are part of the very fabric of American society and culture.”
“At TAAF, we are striving to help create a permanent and irrevocable sense of belonging for AAPIs in this country, and supporting Sesame Workshop’s introduction of the first-ever Asian American Sesame Street Muppet brings us one step closer toward making that vision a reality,” said Lirio Marcelo. “We are grateful for their partnership and their commitment to supporting AAPI communities.”