The newest kid on the block at “Sesame Street” is Korean-American Ji-Young.
The show’s first Asian-American Muppet will make her official debut on Nov. 25 during “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special,” which will see a number of multicultural celebrities — including Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka — join the program, which airs on HBO Max, PBS KIDS and the “Sesame Street” social media channels.
Her name boasts a double meaning, according to the 7-year-old Muppet herself. Ji could mean “smart or wise,” while Young translates to “courageous and strong,” the character told the Associated Press. But, as it turned out, ji also refers to “sesame” — go figure.
Aside from her love of soccer, skateboarding and playing guitar, Ji-Young also brings to the table her Korean heritage, particularly one of her favorite foods, a chewy rice cake called tteokbokki.
The woman behind the Muppet, 41-year-old Kathleen Kim, began her work in puppetry during her 30s and joined a Sesame Street workshop in 2014 — a dream come true for the lifelong fan.
She shared her excitement, as well as her fear, regarding the historic new cast member.
“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,” Kim told the AP.
The inception of Ji-Young came out of the non-profit Sesame Workshop’s Coming Together initiative, launched in 2020 following the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests against police brutality and racial bias, as well as the number of anti-Asian attacks, seemingly prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the AP. Coming Together was a way to “meet the moment,” said Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production for the workshop, and aims to promote diversity on screen, as well as behind the camera.
“Today, we uphold [Sesame Workshop’s] mission by empowering children and families of all races, ethnicities, and cultures to value their unique identities,” said Stallings in a statement to The Post. The new Thanksgiving Day special “continues Sesame Street’s proud legacy of representation with an engaging story that encourages empathy and acceptance,” she added.