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Introducing Ji-Young, Sesame Street's First Asian-American Muppet

“It’s a powerful thing when kids see people like themselves represented on screen and in stories—it supports them as they figure out who they are and who they want to be.”
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
November 16, 2021
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Image: Courtesy Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street is introducing its first-ever Asian-American muppet, a 7-year-old girl named Ji-Young.

Ji-Young likes to play the electric guitar, soccer and skateboard. According to the muppet’s bio, she is close to her family and proud of her Korean heritage. “She loves playing music with her grandma and cooking her favorite food—tteokbokki,” the bio says. “Her family eats dinner together at the kitchen table every night, chatting in both Korean and English."

Ji-Young’s debut will be a part of See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special. The special follows the muppets as they experience a “Neighbor Day” celebration. It will air on Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max, PBS Kids and on Sesame Street’s YouTube channel. The special will include Ji-Young, voiced by puppeteer Kathleen Kim, as well as celebrity guests including actors Simu Liu and Anna Cathcart, comic book artist Jim Lee, chef Melissa King, television personality Padma Lakshmi and tennis player Naomi Osaka.

As a part of Sesame Workshop’s Coming Together initiative, the special will offer a chance talk about anti-Asian racism—which has seen a huge spike since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—including with an off-screen incident in which Ji-Young is told to “go home.”

“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,” Kay Wilson Stallings, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of creative and production, said in a press release. “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.”

“It’s a powerful thing when kids see people like themselves represented on screen and in stories—it supports them as they figure out who they are and who they want to be,” Alan Muraoka, longtime Sesame Street cast member and co-director of See Us Coming Together, also said. “We can’t wait for families to get to know Ji-Young—in this special and in future seasons of Sesame Street—and celebrate some of the Asian and Pacific Islander people in our neighborhood!”

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