Megan Piphus Peace has made history as the first Black American woman puppeteer on Sesame Street.
Since she was a child, Peace has always been a performer. At age 15, she was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and later appeared on The Tonight Show and America’s Got Talent. While attending Vanderbilt University, she became known as the “Vanderbilt Ventriloquist.”
“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,” Peace told Vanderbilt University’s MyVU News.
But her path to one of the most familiar addresses in the world was not a traditional one.
After earning a Bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt in 2014 and a Master’s in finance from Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management in 2015, Peace embarked on a successful career underwriting and financing billions of dollars worth of real estate deals. Most recently, she was the director of residential development for the Nashville-based Elmington Capital.
In 2017, Peace submitted a video audition to Sesame Street, and Matt Vogel, the puppet captain of the show, contacted her about possibly joining the puppeteer team in March of 2020. She enthusiastically accepted the offer.
At the time, Sesame Street was developing a special about racial justice called The Power of We and was looking for someone to perform as Gabrielle, a six-year-old Black girl muppet.
“We needed authentic representation, and Megan is incredible,” says Carrara-Rudolph, who had lobbied for her for the two years. “She’s got a light inside her.”
“Megan was our choice from the beginning,” Vogel said. “She already had lip sync skills from her abilities as a ventriloquist, but she did not know the monitor work, which is harder than it looks.”
Vogel also spoke about the rigorous selection process and how Peace passed with flying colors.
“It takes time to go through video submissions, but once we do, we earmark people that we’d like to invite to a workshop where we see their skills as a puppeteer and actor in person,” explained Vogel, who performs as Big Bird and Kermit the Frog. “Zoom is not an ideal way to conduct a workshop, but we made the best of it, and Megan was game to learn.”
“The sets of Sesame Street are like walking into a fantasy," Peace added. "To be there is really something.”
Amazingly, when she filmed her first episode,Peace had no idea that she was the first Black woman to be a puppeteer in the history of the show.
“I would have cried like a baby on the 123 steps if they had told me beforehand,” Peace admitted. “The sets of Sesame Street are like walking into a fantasy. To be there is really something.”