It seems it was destiny for Ji-Young to eventually live at one of the world’s most famous addresses.
“So, in Korean traditionally the two syllables 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.”
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. The children’s TV program, which first aired 52 years ago this month, gave The Associated Press a first look at its adorable new occupant.
Some of Ji-Young’s personality comes from her puppeteer. Kathleen Kim, 41 and Korean American, got into puppetry in her 30s. In 2014, she was accepted into a Sesame Street workshop. That evolved into a mentorship and becoming part of the team the following year. Being a puppeteer on a show Kim watched growing up was a dream come true. But helping shape an original muppet is a whole other feat.
“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 said.
But fellow puppeteer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph – who performs Abby Cadabby – reminded her, “It’s not about us … It’s about this message.”
For Kim, it was crucial that Ji-Young not be “generically pan-Asian.”
“Because that’s something that all Asian Americans have experienced. They kind of want to lump us into this monolithic ‘Asian,'” Kim said.