Joining the Wiggles is a ‘dream come true’ for teen dance star Tsehay Hawkins
When Tsehay Hawkins got the call to join one of the world’s most popular and enduring music groups, it sounded incredible. The 15-year-old knew she would soon be performing in front of millions of fans, not only in her home country of Australia, but around the world.
The fact that most of these fans had barely started kindergarten did nothing to dampen that excitement.
“I think if that was out of ten I’d be 100 to be honest,” Hawkins told CBC News. “It’s honestly surreal. It’s a dream come true… I’ve been obsessed with the Wiggles since I was little, so it’s amazing.”
“I have so many friends who say, ‘Oh my God, my kids are going to watch you on TV.'”
The children’s group formed in Australia in 1991 with four members – who individually sport purple, red, yellow and blue – and quickly became an international sensation. They perform as a touring group live, on television and on social media platforms, alongside a host of costumed characters.
WATCH | What it means to be a Wiggle:
Hawkins, who will now inherit the role of “Yellow Wiggle”, will be the youngest member of the group and the first woman of color to join its main cast. She will also bring her dancing skills – Hawkins is the current Australian and world champion in women’s salsa and urban Latin, and has won four world titles in Latin and commercial dance.
Hawkins says she started dancing because of the group. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hawkins was adopted at seven months old and raised in Australia. She soon discovered the Wiggles and constantly danced to their music, prompting her parents to put her in dance lessons.
The Wiggles are on hiatus from live performances, switching in place of Facebook and Instagram Live, but their dominance in the preschool entertainment scene has not faded. With over 30 million albums and DVDs sold – and over a billion music streams and two billion views on YouTube – their reach and audience are almost unparalleled.
But after being criticized for a comparative lack of representation, both racial and sexual, the group recruited four new performers. This included Hawkins, Australian aboriginal Evie Ferris, Chinese-Australian Kelly Hamilton, and Filipino-Australian John Pearce.
The Wiggles said the change was to “better represent Australia today … while allowing children around the world to see themselves reflected on the screen.”
Hawkins says the opportunity to be an example to children is extremely important to her. She hopes to showcase and share her interests in everything from Harry potter hip hop, salsa and shuffle dancing.
But she also hopes the kids feel comfortable with who they are and proud of. She says she often saw other African children straightening their hair, thinking their natural style was not pretty or acceptable.
Hawkins has never straightened her hair, and the hope of appearing with the Wiggles with her natural curls will help other kids to do the same.
“A lot of young black kids… just want to be like the people on TV, and they’re trying to change their natural appearance,” she said. “[But now] I’ve seen pictures of little girls dressing up in their little Afro mini puffs before, and it makes me so happy. ”
Hawkins will replace Emma Watkins, a nine-year core cast member and first female member of the Wiggles.
Watkins said what he will miss the most is connecting with families and kids. The show helped her create a platform for awareness and discussion, she said, including her work with the deaf community and on raising awareness about endometriosis, a disease she has been known to experience. diagnosed midway through her Wiggles career.
But when it comes to Hawkins reprising her role, Watkins says she’s only horny.
“Tsehay and I spoke on the phone the day before her announcement, and I was just telling Tsehay to really take this opportunity with everything she has,” Watkins said.
“I really hope people will welcome her and warm her in this beautiful community.”