TheGrio's 100: Kevin Clash, Voice of Elmo brings joy to millions of children

theGRIO's 100 - If you told someone the voice of Elmo belongs to a 51-year-old black man from Baltimore, they'd most likely not believe you...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

If you told someone the voice of Elmo belongs to a 51-year-old black man from Baltimore, they’d most likely not believe you. But Kevin Clash has always done the unbelievable, catapulting himself from homemade puppet shows in his backyard to working under “The Muppets” creator Jim Henson and eventually becoming the senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain on Sesame Street, the longest running children’s show in history.

Clash’s love of puppets stemmed from watching Disney and “Sesame Street” growing up, and he made his first puppet when he was 10 years old, using the lining of his dad’s winter coat.

While performing shows in front of the children at the daycare center where his mother worked, Clash began to develop the infectious personality and relatability to children that would bring joy to millions of children for years to come.

While the furry red monster known as Elmo already existed when Clash went to work for Sesame Street, he changed the character’s voice from a gruff voice to the high, child-like one that we recognize today.

Kevin Clash is making history … as one of the few African American puppeteers working in television. His journey to playing Elmo was chronicled in a documentary called Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, released last year, and he has won several Daytime Emmy Awards for his work as Elmo.

What’s next for Kevin?

Clash continues his role on Sesame Street and is currently working on several projects.

In his own words …

“If everybody else your age is doing something very different than what you’re doing, there’s always going to be someone saying that you might not succeed, you might not make any money with that. All of those things will go away if you really focus on what makes you happy,” Clash said in the trailer for the documentary.

A little-known fact about Kevin Clash…

Elmo is the only puppet to have testified before Congress. In 2002, former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) asked Elmo to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to gain support for increased funding for music education.


Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: I really hope to explore new projects with different companies and explore my creativity.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: I can never eat peanut butter without jelly.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: It’s bigger than us.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: Life.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: My mom and dad, Jim Henson, Kermit Love, Stu Kerr, and anyone who has achieved success and inspired others.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants achieve their dreams

A: Stay focused.