New “Sesame Street” Muppet TJ Represents Filipino American Heritage, Empowering Youth to Embrace Their Roots

In a groundbreaking move towards greater diversity and representation, the iconic children's show "Sesame Street" has introduced its very first Filipino American muppet.

By AHN Editor

May 15, 2023

TJ, a young Filipino character, made his debut in a heartwarming video alongside popular actor Kal Penn, beloved character Grover, and Ji-Young, an Asian American muppet introduced in a Thanksgiving episode in 2021. TJ is played and puppeteered by Yinan Shentu.

The short video focuses on TJ’s journey of learning the meaning of the word “confidence.” Emphasizing his Filipino heritage, TJ expresses his determination to learn Tagalog, the language spoken by his family. He shares that he feels confident in his language learning because he can always seek assistance from his “Lola,” the Tagalog word for grandmother, whenever he encounters unfamiliar words.

Image Source: CNN

The muppet was made in collaboration by puppeteer Louis Mitchell and Filipino-American animator Bobby Pontillas. Pontillas published concept artwork for the character, who he said was inspired by Max and Mateo, the children of lifelong friends, on Instagram. 

The introduction of TJ is especially significant as it aligns with the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which honors the contributions and cultures of Asian Americans throughout the United States.

Featured Image Source: NPR