Who is Megan Piphus Peace?

Posted by on Oct 21, 2022 in People and Culture

The well-known American children’s show Sesame Street has been a part of television history since 1969. It is broadcast in more than 150 countries. It has also won 142 Emmy awards–more than any other show in television history. Sesame Street has always prided itself on breaking down barriers during its more than fifty-year run, but until 2021, it had never had a full-time puppeteer who was an African American woman. This week, btw profiles Megan Piphus Peace, Sesame Street’s first female African American puppeteer. 

Meet Gabrielle 

Megan Piphus Peace plays the role of Gabrielle, a six-year-old African American puppet. Piphus Peace is 29 years old. She has worked at Sesame Street since September 2021. (It’s important to note that Sesame Street has had other African American women in production positions in the past, as well as in acting and guest-star roles, just never in the role of puppeteer.) Piphus Peace says that while Gabrielle doesn’t explicitly discuss race on the show, she is very confident. Gabrielle encourages children to embrace and use their unique voices.  

The Puppeteer’s Story 

Megan Piphus Peace’s love of puppetry began when she was a child. She grew up watching Sesame Street. She thought of the puppet characters on the show as her friends, not realizing until she was older that they weren’t real. As a child, she was invited to a puppetry conference by a woman at her church. Piphus Peace decided that she wanted to be a ventriloquist like several of the women she had seen at the conference. So, she watched video tapes of other ventriloquists to teach herself. She bought her own puppet and began performing for her classmates. In high school, she was given the nickname the “Ventriloquist Valedictorian.” She was known for her ventriloquism skills in college at Vanderbilt University as well, even though she studied economics.  

In 2012, Piphus Peace appeared on The Tonight Show. In 2013, she competed on America’s Got Talent. In 2017, she applied to Sesame Street but did not receive a reply from the show until 2020. Eventually, she performed with the Sesame Street cast for a special online event called “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism.” This online special was a town hall aimed at kids and families. She trained with the Sesame Street puppeteers for a year, then formally joined the cast in 2021. Piphus Peace isn’t just the first African American female Sesame Street puppeteer. She is also the first cast member who is completely self-taught. She says that the experience of playing Gabrielle has inspired her to become a television producer one day.  

Why Does It Matter? 

Piphus Peace notes that there are only a handful of African American women in the puppetry field today. Increasing representation is important for several reasons. For one thing, increasing diversity in any field means that more stories are told from a variety of perspectives. This can increase awareness about different groups and fight against stereotypes. Representation is also important so that younger African American girls who may have an interest in puppetry can be inspired by someone like them who is successful in the field. Having people of color in a profession also helps make it easier for others who might want to follow a similar career path. 

Dig Deeper Who was Sesame Street’s first male African American puppeteer? What famous puppet character did he bring to life?