Sesame Street: The Original Social Influencer

By Lenie Lucci

When I was six and my best friend Laura was five, the most incredible thing that could ever happen to a child happened to us: Sesame Street came to the door.

Not my door exactly, but to Laura’s pre-school playground to film a segment featuring my bestie dancing and singing with her classmates at Les Enfants du Monde in Montreal. I don’t remember her telling me about it, but I do remember an ordinary day turning extraordinary, when playing in my basement with my older brother, a small glance at the screen turned into one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Laura Saviano

“Is that Laura?” a rhetorical question I posed to my brother, the television and myself – and one that, unbeknownst to me, would be asked again fifteen years later in the exact same way.

The answer: yes, it was Laura. The excitement of seeing my best friend on Sesame Street was only lessened by my own disbelief at what I was witnessing. Frozen in front of the screen, my brother and I watched our upstairs neighbour dance and sing for what seemed like an eternity. This was our first taste of fame and five of the fifteen minutes in Laura’s lifetime.

Sesame Street was more than just a television show to us – it was our teacher, and Big Bird, Oscar and Grover were our friends. It was the only show everyone could agree on to watch, and the unbroken background noise in our house.

Lenie Lucci & Laura Saviano

Reflecting (as we often do) on Laura’s introduction to stardom, we realized that her appearance on Sesame Street set the tone for many of her future decisions; her love of counting with Elmo encouraged her to get a finance degree; learning about the importance of community and family gave her the confidence to build a family of her own. The experience also gave her an unexpected appetite for celebrity!.

“It still makes me feel special that I was on Sesame Street,” said Laura when asked how her appearance affected her. “It was like winning an award. Everyone around me was so excited and that made me so excited.”

Where Laura’s Sesame Street-developed taste for TV appearances becomes evident is about fifteen years later when the same scenario unfolded in my basement. Laura had auditioned for a WeightWatchers commercial at an open casting call at Rockland shopping centre in Montreal.

“I think because of Sesame Street, I wasn’t shy about being on TV,” Laura explained. “I was excited about it. Actually, when I saw the posters for the casting call, the first thing I thought about was that time I was on Sesame Street and how fun it was, and it made me want to audition.”

In true full-circle fashion, on what started out as a regular day of me watching General Hospital in my basement (this time with my brother grumbling on the computer desk beside the tv about soap operas), there was Laura, walking and smiling on our TV.

Those Sesame Street days came rushing back to me as once again, my best friend was suddenly a celebrity.

Although the two experiences share their differences and were fifteen years apart, we still credit Sesame Street as the appearance that started it all. I myself credit Sesame Street with not only my love of reading and writing, but with encouraging me to try new things. Sesame Street made me feel like anything was possible.

Lenie Lucci and Laura Saviano

That’s what Sesame Street – and Mountain Lake PBS – is for us: the foundation upon which everything else is built. The memories, the experiences, the lessons that that informed our understanding of world and the decisions we made about ourselves.

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