Aug. 18, 2006 — -- When you think "Sesame Street," you think Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover: All lovable, all entertaining and all boys.
Not anymore. "Sesame Street's" newest "star" Muppet, Abby Cadabby, is a girl.
Abby Cadabby describes herself as "a fairy in training."
She made her debut on Monday, kicking off "Sesame Street's" 37th season. Three-year-old Abby is the venerable children's show's first female character with major star potential, hoping to rival the likes of powerhouse Elmo.
What took "Sesame Street" so long to embrace girl power the way other popular kids' shows like "Dora the Explorer" and "Lizzie McGuire" have?
"It's hard to write and portray women as funny without giving them some sort of stereotypical hang-ups that we tend to put labels on," says Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of "Sesame Street." "If Cookie Monster was created as a female character, she would get sort of pressure for having an eating disorder."
So the creative team at "Sesame Street" set out to make a female character who is a girly-girl -- hence, the sparkly hair and flouncy dress -- but is also strong and open-minded.
Abby Cadabby wants to "learn everything."
"Yes, she's a fairy," Parente says, "but she's also a smart, funny, little girl."
The addition of Abby allows the show to explore issues such as girls' friendships and acceptance.
Just ask Abby.
"When I moved I thought, 'I have wings, I'm a fairy; there's not going to be anybody like me,' " she says. "And you know what, there isn't. That was the best part. There's nobody like me, but there's nobody like you. There's nobody like any of us, because we're all different."
Parente adds that this is a "chance to model healthy female relationships and friendships." She thinks there is a lack of that in current children's programming.
We asked Abby what she wants to be when she grows up. Without hesitating, she says a fairy godmother, just like her mom.
"If you're a fairy godmother," Abby says, "you get to help people find their dreams. Not just with magic. My mommy says that you don't need magic for everything. Sometimes magic is just being a good listener to someone and helping them find their way. And know what's in their heart. If you can help people see be what's in their heart, that's magic."