For the last 26 years, 51-year-old Kevin Clash has been warmly invited into the homes and hearts of children all over the world as the voice behind “Sesame Street’s” Elmo.
Many who grew up watching Elmo, and now watch with their own kids, have no idea that the lovable little guy would not exist if not for the playful spirit and wild imagination of Clash, an African American voice actor who created Elmo while joking around with a puppet in the Sesame Street studio nearly three decades ago.
Voted most likely to become a millionaire by his peers (yes, their prediction came true), Clash joined the Sesame Street cast when he was 24, and brought Elmo to life with that high-pitched squeal that the little ones go nuts over. The “tickle me” character has since become a world superstar of television, film, print and merchandising.
Clash will soon be releasing a documentary, Being Elmo, A Puppeteer’s Journey in which he shares his passion for puppetry, and his journey from being a shy Baltimore kid who was teased for making puppets out of slippers to becoming Muppet’s creator Jim Henson’s protege, to creating and giving voice to one of the world’s most beloved puppets.
Clash is not the only African American voice actor who has found success behind the persona of a beloved children’s character. Here are five more black voices animating the cartoons and characters we’ve come to know and love …