Ji-Young will formally be introduced this Thanksgiving in the “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special”, which will also feature Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka.
At only 7 years old, Ji-Young is making history as the first Asian American muppet in the “Sesame Street” canon.
She is Korean American and has two passions: rocking out on her electric guitar and skateboarding.
For Ji-Young, her name is a sign she was meant to live there.
“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 during a recent interview. “But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame.”
Ji-Young will formally be introduced in the children’s TV programme, which first aired 52 years ago this month, on “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special.”
Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka are among the celebrities appearing in the special, which will drop Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max, “Sesame Street” social media platforms and on local PBS stations.
Some of Ji-Young’s personality comes from her puppeteer. Kathleen Kim, 41 and Korean American, got into puppetry in her 30s.
The diversity task
Ji-Young’s existence is the culmination of a lot of discussions after the events of 2020 – George Floyd’s death and anti-Asian hate incidents.
Like a lot of companies, “Sesame Street” reflected on how it could “meet the moment,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organisation behind “Sesame Street.”
Sesame Workshop established two task forces – one to look at its content and another to look at its own diversity. What developed was Coming Together, a multi-year initiative addressing how to talk to children about race, ethnicity and culture.
One result was 8-year-old Tamir. While not the show’s first Black muppet, he was one of the first used to talk about subjects like racism.
As the new kid on the street, Ji-Young is looking forward to showing her friends and neighbors aspects of Korean culture such as the food.