"You should never give up on your dream," says Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, an artist, performer, and Sesame Street puppeteer. You can only really measure success by what you contribute to the world, explains Leslie. As Sesame Street's Abby Cadabby and other characters, Leslie is making a difference in kids' lives each day.
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Leslie started cartooning and drawing when she was a child with a big imagination. She even told her sister that she was moving to Sesame Street, because she knew she belonged there. But when Leslie was 11, her brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. After, she says her family dynamic changed, making the arts even more important to her.
Leslie went to college at San Francisco State, where she designed a major in Child Development Through the Arts. She worked as an artist and performer before fulfilling her lifelong dream of joining Sesame Street in 2006.
Shortly after, she came up with the idea for "fairy-in-training" Abby Cadabby. Sesame Street was looking for a strong, female role model who could have a different perspective on what it's like to be new on Sesame Street. Leslie, a fan of fairies, put on the puppet and knew exactly who she was. "Well, I'm a wish fairy," says Leslie as Abby Cadabby.
Leslie is also regularly featured as other characters on the show, like chickens, plants, cows, and a penguin that gets married. She is actively involved in Sesame Street's outreach programs that focus on problems kids face. Leslie says she's helped kids with everything from divorce to food insecurity. "It's an honor to be doing what we're doing," she explains. "The way your characters reach is beyond what we could possibly imagine."
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Recently, she's been working on a side project called Wake Up Your Weird, featuring a puppet named Lolly Lardpop. Lolly deals with self-esteem issues and bullying, Leslie says. She recently took Lolly to visit a high school. Nervous to pull a sock puppet out in front of a group of teenagers, Leslie says Lolly received a warm welcome; the teens took it as a "permission slip to feel joy and empathy."
Learning at a young age that every day counts, Leslie says one person can make a difference. Leslie wants to make a creative difference and pinches herself everyday because she's living her dream. She says, "I'm really grateful that I've found a place that I get to keep giving."