A new face is coming to Sesame Street. Ji-Young is the newest character and the show’s first Asian American muppet in its 52-year history. The Sesame Workshop describes Ji-Young as a 7-year-old Korean American girl who loves playing her electric guitar, skateboarding, and eating with her family.
Ji-Young will debut in the upcoming Thanksgiving special See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special, which will air on HBO Max. The special will center around a celebration called Neighbor Day, where residents will share food, music, dances, and other traditions from their cultures. The special features a slew of celebrities including actors Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) and Anna Cathcart (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), professional tennis player Naomi Osaka, chef Melissa King, author Padma Lakshmi, and comic book artist Jim Lee.
Ji-Young will be played by Workshop puppeteer Kathleen Kim. The two share many personality traits, as Kim was able to help create the new muppet. Like Ji-Young, Kim is Korean American and an avid skateboarder, who enjoys eating spicy Korean rice cakes called tteokbokki. Kim joined the Sesame Workshop in 2014 as an assistant puppeteer.
Ji-Young is a result of the Coming Together imitative developed by Sesame Street last year as a result of the events of 2020, such as the George Floyd protests and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Kay Wilson Stallings, head of creative development for Sesame Street spoke on the show’s need to represent all children in their program.
“When we knew we were going to be doing this work that was going to focus on the Asian and Pacific Islanders experience,” Stallings stated, “We of course knew we needed to create an Asian muppet as well,” Another creation of the Coming Together initiative was an 8-year-old African American puppet named Tamir, who spoke about the issues of race in The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special last year.
“You know what’s really cool about Sesame Street,” Ji-Young said in an interview with Today, “is that no matter what you look like, or how you play, or where you come from, you belong! And that’s really cool.” Elmo joined her in the interview commenting, “That’s what Sesame Street’s all about!” She also revealed she is a part of Elmo’s Best Friend Band.
See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special is set to premiere on November 25. If you can’t wait to see more of this electric and lovable muppet, you can watch Ji-Young perform her first song with the Best Friend Band below.
Marilyn Agrelo’s documentary is more about reaffirming a love of ‘Sesame Street’ than providing worthwhile insights or revelations.