Sesame Street's Maria offers lessons from a challenging childhood

Before she lived on Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano grew up on a much tougher block.
Sonia Manzano has won the hearts of generations of kids with her portrayal of Maria on Sesame Street. (Richard Termine)

For over four decades, Sonia Manzano has simply been Maria to legions of Sesame Street viewers. Her recent departure from the show inspired a wave of warm wishes from fans of all ages.

But there's lots about Manzano that TV audiences may not know — including that her tumultuous childhood in the Bronx bore little resemblance to life on the happiest street in the world.

The actress and writer joins Shad to discuss her revealing new memoir, Becoming Maria. The book, which is not intended for kids, builds on the Sesame Street tradition of real talk and details her rocky path to becoming the first first leading Latina actress on television. 

WEB EXTRA | Read an excerpt of the book and browse some classic images of Sonia Manzano and her Sesame Street colleagues. All photos courtesy of the Sesame Workshop. 

Plus, it seems everyone falls in love with Maria! Here are three examples from the Sesame Street vault. 


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