Sonia Manzano is a first-generation Puerto Rican who has touched the lives of millions of parents and children as “Maria” on Sesame Street.
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, where she began her career as an actress. She came back to New York from Carnegie Mellon University to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Manzano joined Sesame Street in 1971 and holds 15 Emmy Awards for her previous work as part of the Sesame Street writing staff.
Manzano has performed on the New York stage in The Vagina Monologues, The Exonerated, and Love, Loss, and What I Wore. She has written for the Peabody Award-winning children’s series, Little Bill, and her children’s book, No Dogs Allowed, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2004, was selected by the General Mills initiative Spoonfuls of Stories. Her second book, A Box Full of Kittens, was published in 2007. Manzano’s first young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, published by Scholastic in 2012, was chosen as a Pura Belpre Honor Book. In 2015, she published her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, and a Christmas picture book, Miracle on 133rd Street.
Manzano received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Award in Washington, DC and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education in 2003. She is proud to have been inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame in 2004. She has received honorary degrees from Notre Dame University (2005), Tufts University, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Lehman College (2016). She received the New York Women in Film and Television Muse award for outstanding vision and achievement in December 2013.
Manzano was twice nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series. In May 2016, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmys. “In recognition as a pioneer in the representation of Latinos on Television and for 44 years of portraying “Maria” on Sesame Street while positively impacting the lives of generations of children and their families.” Manzano retired from Sesame Street in July 2015, but fans and viewers can still see her as “Maria” in episodes on-air, on demand, and online.