Sesame Street debut’s Ji-Young, the first Asian-American puppet

During the month of its 52 year anniversary, Sesame Street debuted its first Asian-Amerian puppet, named Ji-Young. 

On November 25 (Thanksgiving) Ji-Young will officially join Sesame Street. The episode will feature several minority celebrities, including Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka. It will premiere on HBO Max, PBS channels, and Sesame Street social media platforms.

In the puppet’s recent interview, she explained the meaning behind her name. “So, in Korean traditionally the two syllables they each mean something different and Ji means, like, smart or wise. And Young means, like, brave or courageous and strong,” Ji-Young explained. “But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame.”

The puppet’s bio says that she is Korean American who is passionate about “rocking out  on her electric guitar, skateboarding, and soccer. She is also proud of her Korean heritage, and loves foods that represent this, like  tteokbokki, which is a chewy rice cake.

Korean American Kathleen Kim, 41 first got into puppetry while in her 30s. She was accepted to a Sesame Street workshop in 2014, where she was able to begin a mentorship, before being brought onto the show. Working as a puppeteer was a dream come true for Kim, who watched the how as a child. “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,” she said, before mentioning how a fellow puppeteer on the show had told her, “It’s not about us … It’s about this message.”

Executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street”, Kay Wilson Stallings, said that after racially-charged events in 2020, the show’s producers brainstormed ways they could “meet the moment”. This has resulted in the show’s first Black and Asian puppets.




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