There's a new muppet resident on Sesame Street, and her name is Ji-Young.
She's the first-ever Asian American character in the show's 52-year history. The seven-year-old Korean American is a rocker who loves playing her electric guitar and is now trying to work on her skateboarding skills. With her charm and warm personality, she truly fits into the neighborhood.
"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 told the Associated Press. "But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame."
The character is voiced by puppeteer Kathleen Kim, who said it was important that she was made specifically to be Korean American. "Because that's something that all Asian Americans have experienced. They kind of want to lump us into this monolithic 'Asian,'" Kim said. "So it was very important that she was specifically Korean American, not just like, generically Korean, but she was born here."
Since the drastic rise of reported anti-Asian hate incidents in 2020, Sesame Street wanted to "meet the moment," according to Kay Wilson Stallings, Sesame Workshop's Executive Vice-President of Creative and Production. The company developed the muppet within months, though the process usually takes a couple of years.
Ji-Young will officially debut in "See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special," which will feature stars Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi, Naomi Osaka and more. The show premieres on Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max, local PBS stations and will also be available on Sesame Street's social media accounts.