Gabriela Reagan Is Seeing Sunny Days Beyond Sesame Street With Her New Design Career

“Sunny days…chasing the clouds away.” If you grew up watching PBS, then you probably know the lyrics to the Sesame Street theme song by heart. And you might have wished that you could live on the famous street yourself, just so you could eat cookies with Cookie Monster or learn your 1, 2, 3’s with The Count. Well, Gabriela Reagan did just that. As the daughter of actress Sonia Manzano (who plays Maria on Sesame Street), Reagan joined the cast of the legendary children’s show when she was just a baby — and literally grew up in one of the best neighborhoods on television. We spoke to Reagan about her memories from Sesame Street, her newfound love of fashion, and why she feels that her path now is clearer (and brighter) than ever.


We have to talk about Sesame Street. How old were you when your mom brought you onto the show?

I was probably 10 months old. Once we had to measure Snuffy’s tail. I went to get his tail and I turned around and saw all the people in the studio watching me. I started freaking out. I think it had to do with being self-conscious and having stage fright.

How old were you when you left the show?

I was about 5. If you think about it, the kids whose parents were on it, like Miles Orman; he had the same reaction. We weren’t there to be actors. I didn’t really get why I was there or why I had to repeat things. I didn’t understand the concept of acting. So they hired someone who actually was an actress. She’s older than me, so I think that helps because they can take direction.

I think Sesame Street is a little different from a regular scripted show in that they do want the kids to be kids but at the same time, you can’t go run amok and play.

There are lots of regular kids that went on the show. They would put on mini costumes and be Big Bird’s little bird and follow him around. I was self-conscious at a young age to wear the costumes and seeing all these people with cameras, and everyone’s silently waiting for me to do something, was scary.

What was life like after Sesame Street?

It was pretty regular, except that my mom gets recognized all the time. I got used to it as a kid, and I’m very used to it now. We would go places, like the San Diego Zoo, and she would do a Maria performance with kids. She used to do them with Emilio Delgado (who played Luis), and they would perform together, singing songs. She would also do it at my school every year, from kindergarten through eighth grade. And I knew the whole performance by heart. [laughs]

So let’s talk a bit about your love for fashion. How did you get into it?

Well, at first, I wasn’t the typical fashion student who lives and breathes I did go to LaGuardia High School, where my mom also went a long time ago. I went there for visual arts. I loved art history and painting and sculpture, drawing and things like that. So for college, it only felt natural to apply to art schools. Only so many schools have really big art programs, though, like FIT, but Savannah College of Art and Design was the only one that was out of state. We’ve visited there, the facilities are wonderful, and the city is warm.


At that time, I wasn’t really into fashion; I thought maybe I would major in graphic design. For some reason, my instinct told me to take a fashion class my freshman year, and that class was the most fun class in the world. I mean, it was hard. I was up five nights in a row with no sleep! I had to learn about disciplining yourself and pushing yourself and just making art that I never thought that I could make at all. We had to learn how to research our collections. We had to get inspired; we had to come up with concepts and then we had to learn how to draw the collections. Our teacher just hated our first collections, so we had to do them all over again and stay up all night again! The second time and the third time we came back, our teacher said, “Great! This is what you need to be doing.” I learned what it means to actually push yourself and make something that’s worthwhile.


I remember that the first project that we had to do in class was to make a garment out of paper, but it had to be inspired by something in our lives. I made this feathered coat that was inspired by Big Bird.

So what do your parents think about your fashion design? Your mom said that she likes going shopping with you because you pick out really cool stuff.

[laughs] I’ve learned how to find what’s special. Something that has been well made is very valuable. Rather than just spending a bunch of money on stuff that can break in a month, you can appreciate the fabric and the craftsmanship that goes into clothes.

That is so cool! Now, how would you describe your aesthetic?

It’s changed a lot. They asked us to design clothes and get the fabrics we want to use. I chose all these shiny fabrics, crazy colors, and stretchy materials. My teacher said that my fabrics were like a New York City party in SoHo! They taught me how to choose nice fabrics and develop my taste. Now, I have this earthy aesthetic; I love Jil Sander, for example. Sometimes it seems she’s simple, but there’s something very intricate and special about her fabrics, shoes, and designs. My style is ready to wear and outerwear. I love coats and when I have a collection, everything has a hood. I think it’s more dramatic.

But at the same time, my aesthetic is changing every six months. As I learn more about other designers and see more fashion, the more my eyes open to this new way of thinking about it. But each year, my path becomes clearer.

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