LATINO VOICES

How Actress Sonia Manzano Brought A Latino Perspective To 'Sesame Street'

"Why can't people of color just be as mediocre as everybody else and make a lot of money?"

During a conversation with HuffPost Live on Wednesday about her new memoir, Becoming Maria, actress Sonia Manzano looked back on her time playing neighbor Maria on the iconic children's show "Sesame Street" and discussed the pressures of being a minority on television.

Manzano told HuffPost Live that when she was hired on "Sesame Street" at 21 years old, her fellow cast member Matt Robinson told her that part of her job was to "make sure the Latino content was correct." She said she was nervous to make waves, but eventually made her voice heard.

"There was a fruit cart on the show that had apples and bananas and the usual fruit, and I went up to the producers the next day, and I'm quaking in my boots and I'm saying, 'You know, if this was a diverse community, there would be, like, coconuts and yucca and plantains in that pushcart,'" Manzano said. "It was there the next day, and I said, 'Well, alright!'" 

The actress said that while she was happy to be a voice for the Puerto Rican community on "Sesame Street," she doesn't think such advocacy should be required of all actors of color.

"If it's in your heart to have a platform, then by all means, use your celebrity-dom to further your platform. But I don't think we can put that on people and [tell them], 'You have to be a representative.' That doesn't seem fair at all," she said.

Manzano pointed to the intense pressure placed on minority-centric television shows, like ABC's "Fresh Off The Boat," which she said are often "so scrutinized" and held to a higher standard than other programming.

"Why can't people of color just be as mediocre as everybody else and make a lot of money?" she said with a laugh.

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