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Charlotte Girl Gives Voice to New Sesame Street Singing Sensation

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http://66.225.205.104/JR20101104.mp3

A video of a Sesame Street muppet singing a love song to her curly hair has gone viral, attracting more than a million viewers and inspiring bloggers all over the web. The voice behind the hair-loving puppet sensation is a 13-year old Charlotte girl. WFAE's own curly-haired reporter Julie Rose has the story. The little muppet in the pink dress with the curly afro doesn't even have a name yet, but her song has been such a surprise hit, she'll soon be a regular member of the Sesame Street cast. "The puppet will have a name soon," says Chantylla Johnson. She gets to help pick the name because she's the spunky little character's voice. "I would prefer a very cute name," says Chantylla. Maybe name it after her? "Yeah, that would be cool as well!" she says with the infectious giggle that helps make her so perfect for the role of the new Sesame Street character. When Chantylla recorded the song in a New York studio last year, she had no idea it would be so big. Neither did the white songwriter, who meant it as a tribute to the daughter he adopted from Africa. He worried she would feel inferior because her tight curls were so different from the blonde locks on the dolls she played with. The simple little song struck a major chord with women everywhere. They're posting it on their blogs and forwarding it to friends. African American women who've fought to straighten their curls all their lives say the video brought them to tears. The song resonated with Chantylla all along. "The funny thing is that I really love my hair," she says. "This video is here to touch everyone around the world and tell them to love their hair and love the person who they are." The muppet even looks a little like Chantylla, with her apple cheeks and flouncy curls. The voice, though, is a bit different. "I had to change my voice completely, get more kiddier with the voice," explains Chantylla. Her real singing voice has already earned her some big roles. At the age of 8, she was in the original cast of The Color Purple on Broadway. That's where producers of The Lion King Broadway musical discovered her. She spent 2 1/2 years on Broadway and then touring the nation with The Lion King. Her family was living in New York at the time, but when The Lion King made a stop in Charlotte, Chantylla's family decided they wanted to stay. That was three years ago. "We liked Charlotte a lot so that's when we moved here," says Chantylla. Now Chantylla's an 8th grader at Wilson Middle School. She commutes to New York for auditions and shows. She'll play the gum-chewing character Violet in a new musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She's been cast as the young Josephine Baker in a new Broadway show. Plus there are plans for more episodes with her yet-to-be-named singing muppet. And she'd like to try a movie someday, too. "I don't know what is gonna happen in the future but whatever goes for me, I'm pretty sure it will go great," says Chantylla, brimming with confidence. "Whatever decision I'm making in life when I get older, I'm sure I'll make a great decision." And she'll probably have great hair, too. "Yeah, I might go around telling every one 'I love my hair!'" says Chantylla, again with a giggle tailor-made for Sesame Street.