You know Sonia Manzano — or at least you feel like you do. In fact, you probably watched her throughout your childhood as Maria on Sesame Street.
After 44 years and 15 Emmy Awards, the Sesame Street actress and screenwriter retired from the stoop and said goodbye to Big Bird, Oscar The Grouch, Elmo and crew. Now, for the first time in four decades, she doesn't have a full-time job — and she couldn't be happier to focus her attention on her philanthropy and her writing.
Manzano began her career in literature as a writer for Sesame Street. Her Emmy-winning writing experience with the show inspired her to pen a few original works. She's published three children's books — including the recently released Miracle on 133rd Street — one young adult novel, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and one memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx.
Becoming Maria, released earlier this year, is a painful tribute to Manzano's childhood in the South Bronx. The autobiography delves into her terrifying experiences growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father and details her dream of becoming an actress in a world that didn't have much room for women of color.
We chatted with Manzano about her experience growing up in the South Bronx, her career as an actress and a writer, and about what she plans to do now that her run on Sesame Street has ended:
It’s been a couple of months now since the news broke that you weren’t returning to Sesame Street. How Do you feel like you’ve retired or do you feel like you’ve moved on to a different sort of work?
I moved on. I just retired from Sesame Street. I haven't retired from living or working.
Have you enjoyed the change of pace?
Yeah, I really do enjoy it quite a bit. I really like to talk to people, and I like meeting different people that have different sensibilities and different concerns.
Have you had any time to continue writing or start a new project?
That’s the only thing — I haven’t had much time to do any of my actual writing, and I hope to get back to that around December. The one thing that happens when you’re traveling, and talking to a lot of people is that you get inspired by them, and get ideas in your head, and then you want to write them down. I am writing them down quickly in my iPad or napkin in the airports. I’ll then gather them all together, sit down quietly, and just write for my own pleasure.
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