Tennessee woman is first Black female puppeteer on ‘Sesame Street’

Megan Piphus is the first Black female puppeteer on "Sesame Street."
Megan Piphus is the first Black female puppeteer on "Sesame Street."(WSMV)
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:32 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV/Gray News) - Although the beloved children’s show “Sesame Street” has been on the air since 1969, it wasn’t until 2020 that the program had its first Black female puppeteer.

Megan Piphus, from Nashville, told WSMV she was 10 years old when she was first introduced to puppetry and ventriloquism by a woman at her church.

“I remember that experience so vividly of making children laugh and smile and also learning something,” she said. “That became my passion. I really found it as a way for me to open up and to express myself in a different way.”

Piphus appeared on national television throughout the years, showcasing her ventriloquism skills.

In March 2020, Piphus got a call from “Sesame Street” offering for her to learn their style of puppeteering.

“I absolutely never made ‘Sesame Street’ a goal because it is the pinnacle of the art of puppetry,” Piphus said.

Piphus’s character on the show is a 6-year-old Black girl named Gabrielle. She said Gabrielle came at a time when racial injustice was in the headlines.

She said “Sesame Street” is able to respond to national events by breaking down complicated and sensitive topics so that children can understand.

“We had the opportunity to respond to the George Floyd civil rights protest. That was my very first project,” Piphus said.

Viewers have reportedly had a positive response to the addition of the Gabrielle character and Piphus’ work on the show.

“A woman posted a picture of her daughter next to Gabrielle. Her daughter was 6 years old and her name was Gabrielle and she had two puffs, just like Gabrielle,” Piphus said. “She just mentioned how joyous it made her daughter and feel special to see someone like her.”

Alongside her puppeteering, Piphus is a wife and mother of two young boys who she hopes she’s inspiring with her unique and historic career.

“I dream of making it work because I don’t want to just tell my boys to dream big, I want to show them how,” she said.