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"Maria" on Sesame Street & Best-Selling Author
For over 40 years, Sonia Manzano inspired, educated, and delighted children and families as "Maria" on Sesame Street. Named among the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever” by Latina Magazine, Manzano broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television. Throughout her career, she has continued to contribute to enriching diversity on television, on the stage, and in the educational realm. A first generation Puerto Rican born on the mainland, Manzano’s tale is one of perseverance and courage as she overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most influential Latinas in television. Read More >
Manzano was raised in the South Bronx, where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress. A scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon Univerisity in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Within a year, Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series.
After forty-four years she decided to retire from Sesame Street and author books. Her book titles include a The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and a memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx (Scholastic). Becoming Maria was praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “lyrical and unflinching account of her tough Nuyorican upbringing in the South Bronx,” and calls it a “touching memoir.” “Manzano lovingly details life-changing moments,” with a “stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character.”
She's penned three picture books with Simon and Schuster. Her latest book called A World Together (National Geographic) aims to promote unity by celebrating cultural and generational diversity.
Recently, Scholastic and Manzano partnered to launch two middle-grade novels and two picture books. The first of which is Coming Up Cuban, which will be released summer of 2022. Coming Up Cuban is set in 1959 and follows the lives of four children who each represent different intersections of race and class in Cuba.
Ms. Manzano has created and developed with Fred Rogers Productions an animated children's program for PBS. Alma's Way premiered in Oct 2021.
Sonia Manzano knows a thing or two about determination. Now a twice nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series, Manzano didn’t have a lot of resources as a child growing up in the South Bronx. Immensely talented, Sonia never gave up. Read Less ^
You Need To Be Flexible: Sonia Manzano's Path to Sesame Street
The Civil Rights Movement in El Barrio
Kids Have Answers Too
Diversity in TV
The Responsibility of Children's TV
WJCT Cathedral Arts Project
In this presentation based on her book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, speaker Sonia Manzano explores the impact that the Civil Rights Movement had on the Hispanic community. She examines how growing feelings of self worth in both the African American and Latino communities gave rise to social programs like Head Start and the United Farm Workers, as well as educational TV programs like Sesame Street. Manzano gives her personal take on how the whole movement made Latinos examine racial prejudices in their own groups and sadly, in their own families.
In this presentation based on her new book, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, Manzano shares the personal tale of the struggles she faced coming from a poor Puerto Rican family to eventually becoming one of the most influential Latinas in television. This poignant and inspirational story is told with Manzano’s signature humor and wit, making this a memorable presentation for parents and children alike.
A television writer as well as a children’s and young adult’s book writer, Manzano faced many challenges writing across all mediums. From writing for Sesame Street and Pulitzer Prize winning show Little Bill to writing the books No Dogs Allowed, a Box Full of Kittens, and the inspirational The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, Manzano shares her experience and insight on how to inspire and excite children through the written word.
Manzano’s over forty years on Sesame Street has afforded her a unique look at how the landscape of children’s television has changed. She will share thoughts from the way children are taught cognitive skills, to the way Latinos are depicted, to how 9/11 has affected children’s educational curriculum on Sesame Street. This informative presentation gives audiences a rare opportunity to learn from one of the most knowledgeable people in children’s television.
"You were magnificent! What a shining brightness you brought with your smile and your incredible energy. I can't tell you how many people have poured out their admiration and appreciation for your session. Thank you so very much for your tremendous effort to make this a wonderful success - so many women were moved by today's virtual conference and we at Simmons are so grateful. I personally want to thank you for the treasured memories I have for the time we spoke together during this process and your generous beautiful spirit."
"I just wanted to say THANK YOU for such a phenomenal conversation! Your stories and thoughts were such a great way to kick off the event and really resonated with our audience. The feedback that we got from the audience indicated that yours was their favorite session of the day! Your story, and the way you bring it to life, is incredibly captivating and so powerful. Thank you again for your time, it was such a pleasure to have you join us!"
"Sonia was great - very well received here! She was a great fit and we appreciated the time she spent with us."
"[Her] presentation was entertaining, inspiring, provocative and ultimately a reminder of the benefit of resilient hope and courage. I am grateful that [she] was able to bring [her] story to our campus and that our students and other participants in the conference were able to hear [her] speak. We all will carry memories of [her] story with us, and we will find in [her] story a source of hope and inspiration in times of challenge."
"Sonia was a pure delight! Her speech resonated with the kids, parents and donors in the room but more than anything with our educators. Her talk with our kids prior to the event was genuine and she gave them great pointers as they prepared to speak to an audience of 650. We were very happy to have her!"
"Sonia was wonderful! It was evident from the reactions of our guests that she had been a great draw. They loved sharing their memories of Sesame Street with her and the impact they felt it had on their children. Sonia was gracious and very accommodating when people wanted to have their photo taken with her. She helped to make our luncheon one of the most successful ever!"
"Outstanding! Sonia was great, we had about 150 at the evening presentation. I think the highlights were her reading to the preschoolers and talking to the students. Thank you for all of your help on it!"
"We would like to thank you for being a dynamic and inspirational keynote speaker. You set the stage for libraries to reflect upon the importance of true and honest portrayals of communities of color and popular culture. We were inspired by your cutting-edge work in bringing the Latino and Nuyorican experience to life on Sesame Street. Thank you for sharing your humor, passion, and experience with us."
"We very much enjoyed having Ms. Manzano at Indiana University. She was an engaging speaker and a lot of fun. The Sesame Street clips went over very well. Thank you for all of your help with making it a success."
"She was fantastic!!!!!! Thanks so much for recommending her. She told me that she'd hit a home run for us and she definitely did. I appreciate all you did to make it possible to bring her to our conference."
"We absolutely love hosting Sonia Manzano at the 2017 Latino Cultural Dinner. She was amazing. Sonia left an impact on our campus that will be felt a long time. I shared with the staff today that although I grew up watching “Maria”, it was my pleasure and honor to meet Sonia Manzano."
"Her speech was great and very appealing to the audience. Sonia was wonderful and so easy to work with!"
"Sonia was amazing and truly made one of my dreams come true. The line for her book signing was nonstop and she had two standing ovations. It was wonderful to work with you and your team."
Coming Up Cuban: Rising Past Castro’s Shadow
Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
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