"Sesame Street" is turning 50!
The beloved children’s show premiered on Nov. 10, 1969, and has introduced hundreds of Muppets over the past five decades including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster. But the series has also created characters that raise awareness, promote diversity, and teach children around the globe important lessons.
Here are 10 ground-breaking "Sesame Street" Muppets who have made a difference.
Aristotle is a blind Muppet who debuted in 1981. His character is named after the Greek philosopher. The blue monster quickly befriends everyone in the neighborhood, from Oscar to Big Bird. He also explains what Braille is to children by reading sentences from “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Katie was the first Muppet in a wheelchair and appeared on Canada's "Sesame Park." She never let her disability bring her down, and often pretended she was a superhero called “Super Katie.” Since Katie’s debut in the late 1980s, there have been several other people and Muppet characters that used wheelchairs, most notably Tarah Schaeffer who was a regular on "Sesame Street" for most of the 1990s.
Rosita is the first full-time bilingual Muppet cast member. Since 1991, she has spoken both English and Spanish on Sesame Street and is often seen playing the guitar. In the early 2000s, she introduced “The Spanish Word of the Day” segment.
Kami is a HIV-positive Muppet who premiered on South Africa’s version of "Sesame Street." She’s an orphan whose name means “acceptance.” Kami’s purpose was to educate kids about HIV/AIDS, specifically that you can’t get it through touch or by playing with someone. UNICEF named Kami a global “Champion for Children" because of her impact.
Mahboub is an Arab-Israeli Muppet. He speaks both Arabic and Hebrew, and promotes peace and friendship in Israel through “Muppet diplomacy.” He first debuted in 2006, and was seen on both the Israeli and Palestinian versions of "Sesame Street."
Segi empowers girls to love their natural hair. She went viral in 2010 for her song “I Love My Hair.” The head writer on "Sesame Street" wrote the inspirational song for his daughter, who he adopted from Ethiopia, after she began saying negative things about her hair while playing with Barbie dolls. Segi's signature song has over 10 million views on YouTube.
Lily experiences food insecurity and homelessness on Sesame Street. She was introduced in 2011, and often talked about how her family didn’t have consistent access to food. In 2018, she also had a story arc online where she was homeless; Sesame Workshop also provided resources to parents with information about how to discuss family homelessness.
Alex experiences paternal incarceration. Like Lily’s homelessness storyline, Alex’s clips did not appear on television and is a part of company's “Little Children, Big Challenges” initiative. Alex is first reluctant to talk about his situation, but opens up to his friends who sing the song “You’re Not Alone.”
Zari is an Afghani Muppet. She focuses on girls’ empowerment on the Afghanistan version of "Sesame Street." Aside from her character playing with other Muppets and children on the show, she also interviews Afghani professionals
Julia is an autistic Muppet who joined the cast in 2017. The puppeteer who plays her has a personal connection to the character, as she has a child on the autism spectrum. The show consulted researchers as well as artists and writers to make sure Julia acted authentic. The character’s portrayal has received praise from advocates.