Chances are, if you have a kid who’s under the age of 10, you know that Emma is the yellow Wiggle. Since taking over the role from OG Wiggle Greg Page in 2013, Emma Watkins has changed the dynamic of the Australian supergroup, inspiring millions of young girls in the process. And now, after nine years wearing the yellow skivvy, Watkins is handing down the title of the Yellow Wiggle. The lucky recipient, Tsehay Hawkins, is a trailblazer in her own right. Scary Mommy recently got to talk to both Emma and Tsehay recently over Zoom, and it was great to hear how they’re both feeling about this big change.
As the second female Wiggle, Tsehay has the great honor of being the first Black woman to take over the role as one of the core members of The Wiggles. And she’s only 15-years-old! Tsehay is an award-winning dancer, representing Australia at the World Latin Dance Championships, winning eleven Australian titles and four World titles in Latin and Commercial Dance. And she is the current Australian and World Youth Ladies Salsa and Urban Latin Champion and the current World Amateur Ladies Salsa and Urban Latin Champion.
My son, who is now eight, has been a fan of The Wiggles since he was a toddler. Emma being the Yellow Wiggle is all he’s ever known. I’ve taken him to three Wiggles concerts: when he was two, four, and five. Each one is truly an experience that is delightful from start to finish for kids and their adults. The thing that is most astounding to me is the impact Emma has had over fans of The Wiggles during her time with the group. When you go to a concert, easily half the crowd is tricked out in yellow tops and black skirts, her signature look, complete with bows that would give JoJo Siwa a run for her money.
“It’s really bittersweet,” Emma told me when asked how she’s feeling. “On the one hand, I feel quite sad for the Wiggly fans who have grown up with this generation of The Wiggles over the last decade. But on another hand, I’m really excited to move forward with my experience that I’ve learned and all the knowledge that I’ve gained in the last decade and ready to start a new chapter.”
Mothers and daughters alike find fun and joy in dressing like Emma for the shows. She also gets the most fanmail, which they collect in the middle of the concert. Of course there are boys who love her too, but you would be remiss to discount the effect she’s had on the young female fans of The Wiggles. And Tsehay is one of those fans. As a kid, she was also a big fan of The Wiggles (she told me her mom used to play The Wiggles and she “danced around the house”) even though her initial fandom would predate Emma’s tenure.
“Emma has been an inspiration to me and so many people,” Hawkins gushed. “They’re definitely big shoes to fill, but I’m very excited for this opportunity.”
Tsehay has actually been a member of The Wiggles crew since 2020. After the great racial reckoning of June 2020, organizations and groups were looking for ways to make themselves more diverse. The Wiggles were no exception, and they sought out performers of color to join them. Hawkins became a part of this new Wiggles group, debuting in the “We’re All Fruit Salad” video and then being a part of the group’s “Fruit Salad TV.” When Watkins decided it was time to pursue other interests, Hawkins was the natural choice to replace her, even though Emma had no say in the matter. In fact, the two women found out about the change at the same time!
“As The Wiggles continue to evolve and we look towards the future, we’re very excited to be welcoming Tsehay into the yellow skivvy, and know that parents and children everywhere will embrace her infectious energy and warmth as much as everyone at The Wiggles and audiences of Fruit Salad TV already have,” Blue Wiggle and founding member Anthony Feld said in a press release.
As a Black mother, it’s awesome to see The Wiggles openly embrace diversity. People may not realize it because of what we see on TV, but there are huge communities of color in Australia. And even though Tsehay is of Ethiopian descent, she’s still part of that underrepresented group of people. She understands that this is a huge deal, and doesn’t take her new position lightly.
“I’ve gotten messages saying ‘this kid looks like me! I can be like her!’ and that’s exactly what I was hoping to receive,” she said.
Representation for kids is something we talk about all the time, right? But when you look around, not too many companies seem to be taking it seriously. As arguably the most popular musical entertainment group for the toddler and preschool set, The Wiggles understand that what they do can and will have a positive impact on their young audiences. By having Tsehay and the new Yellow Wiggle, they’re giving a new generation of young girls someone else to look up to. More importantly, little Black girls will be able to point to their screens and see someone who looks like them. Not a cartoon, but a real live young woman. They will not understand the significance at a young age, but they certainly will as they get older. And their parents definitely do right now.
“For representation, and being the first person of color, it really means a lot. I’ve already been messaged by a bunch of parents and their little Black kids and they want to embrace their natural hair. It just means the world.”
And as for Emma, what’s next after she hands over the yellow skivvy at the end of the year? She’s not entirely sure, but she definitely has a few things in mind, including finishing up her Ph.D. and continuing to educate the Australian population on Auslan, which is Australian sign language. But no matter what she does, she knows that the job is in the right hands.
“I’ve been in Tsehay’s position before, when the yellow costume was handed over to me from Greg, so it’s a new chapter for everybody,” she explained. “But I’m so thrilled to introduce Tsehay to everybody — we’ve had the pleasure of working with her for a couple of years. What a beautiful spirit and human that we’re able to bring to the stage and screen. We’re so lucky!”
Tsehay officially starts as the Yellow Wiggle next year when The Wiggles go on tour. And hopefully they’ll be coming back to North America in 2022!