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Meet Megan Piphus Peace: The First Black Woman Puppeteer on ‘Sesame Street’

Renowned ventriloquist Megan Piphus Peace makes history as the first Black woman puppeteer to perform on “Sesame Street.” Six months ago, the Vanderbilt University graduate wrapped season 53 of the popular family series, where she plays 6-year-old Gabrielle.

Peace submitted an audition tape for “Sesame Street” in 2017. A year later, she connected with Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, who is most famous for her Abby Cadabby muppet character . In 2020, puppet captain, Mass Vogel, who plays Kermit the Frog and Big Bird, offered to train her through a Muppet workshop. Coincidentally, the company had just launched their racial justice initiative — Coming Together: Celebrating Every Child’s Race, Ethnicity, and Culture!”

By September 2021, the vocalist had successfully completed her training and began taping for “Sesame Street. Since then she’s recorded episodes with celebs like Tamron Hall, Amanda Gorman, Naomi Osaka, and others. It was a historical milestone she hadn’t realized she was making until now.

“I would have cried like a baby on the 123 steps if they had told me beforehand,” she told Vanderbilt University’s MyVu News. “The sets of ‘Sesame Street’ are like walking into a fantasy. To be there is really something.”

Peace was first introduced to puppetry after attending a conference with her vacation Bible school teacher in Chicago at 10. Her parents encouraged her newfound passion after she returned home by gifting her the famous Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll to practice with. 

“What I consider the magic of ventriloquism is getting to share that experience with someone else and have them believe that our conversations are real,” she said.

Peace first performed at her elementary school for students from kindergarten through sixth grades. “I realized what an impact the writing could have on the audience, and that every age could learn something from the show,” she explained. “From then on, my goal was to have a theme, like perseverance, woven into every performance.”

The 29-year-old graduated top of her class from Princeton High School in Cincinnati, where she spoke at her commencement ceremony. Her speech went viral online and earned her the nickname as the “Valedictorian Ventriloquist.” She later attended Vanderbilt University, where she studied economics, music, and Spanish and graduated with honors in 2014.

In her early years as a ventriloquist, Peace performed on hit talk shows like “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Tonight Show,” and later “America’s Got Talent.” 

“We needed authentic representation, and Megan is incredible,” said Carrara-Rudolph. “She’s got a light inside her.”

The Vanderbilt alumna later graduated from the MS finance program at Owen School, where she explored what became another one of her passions: real estate development. While honing in on her new passion, she learned investments, acquisitions, and  development, and landed a job with USSA. She reportedly closed over $2.4 billion in commercial real estate sales, as stated on her website. But she always maintained her ventriloquist passions.

“So puppetry is all about bringing an object to life and you becoming so enthralled in the life of the puppet that you forget a human is operating the puppet,” Peace explained in a video. “With ventriloquism, it adds in the interaction between a human and a puppet so that interaction between a human, the reality and an inanimate object coming to life is that imaginary world coming into reality.”

She added, “So I became a ventriloquist because I wanted to show magical conversation between myself and something coming to life.”

In June 2018, Peace received a standing ovation after performing on “Showtime at the Apollo,” hosted by Steve Harvey. She sang a medley of Amy Winehouse’s cover of “You Don’t Own Me” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” 

Fast forward to 2019, she partnered with the University of Cincinnati to create a financial literacy program for elementary school students. For performing and writing songs in the TV musical, she received two Emmy Awards for Best Composition and Best Children’s Short. She currently resides in Nashville with her husband and two children.

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