Blue Wiggle Anthony And Newcomer Tsehay Don’t Care For Anti-Woke Culture Complaints
“People are talking about this ‘woke’ thing and I don’t even understand what that means, but we’re just coming from a child-centred point of view. It’s the right thing to do."
After three decades, The Wiggles are shaking things up by adding fresh, diverse faces to their famous crew for an upcoming special called Fruit Salad TV.
Launching next month, the online offshoot will double the team’s numbers from four to eight. Racial and gender balance are at the forefront of Fruit Salad TV’s casting: First Nations ballerina Evie Ferris, Asian-Australian performer Kelly Hamilton, and part-Filipino musician John Pearce have joined the beloved, colourful show.
The Next Generation
Also in the mix is newcomer Tsehay (pronounced ‘Suh-Hai’) Hawkins, who told Junkee she was elated to find out she was part of the YouTube series, having watched The Wiggles all the time when she was younger.
At only 15, Hawkins found her feet with the show as a backup dancer last year, and starring in a viral TikTok doing the ‘Renegade’ on set.
“I didn’t realise how packed out The Wiggles shows were. So many kids, and it’s amazing to see their faces when Emma, Lachy, Simon, and Anthony get on stage,” she reflected.
“When kids see representation, they’re like, ‘Oh wow! She looks like me’.”
Hawkins was born in Ethiopia and was adopted by her Australian parents, who made sure she connected to her roots growing up through cultural dance classes which lead her down the performance path she’s on today.
In the new series, she wears her natural hair, to proudly showing off who she is. Growing up, Hawkins said she didn’t see a lot of POC on the screen, and is proud to now be a role model herself.
Hawkin’s first name in Amharic translates to ‘the sun’ — fitting for being someone looked up to by so many. “When kids see representation, they’re like, ‘Oh wow! She looks like me, I can do what I want to do, seeing her on TV’,” she told Junkee.
A New Path Forward
For creative director, founder, and Blue Wiggle Anthony Field, making diversity a priority was a no brainer. “I’ve always wanted to represent our culture and the world — which isn’t just one skin colour,” he said to Junkee. “I hope children see reflections of themselves, and also feel a place in The Wiggles world”.
Field shared how in the past, audiences weren’t as accepting as they are now. Jeff Fatt, a former, Chinese-Australian Wiggle, faced a slew of anti-Asian prejudice in the ’80s, when he and Field were in a rock band named The Cockroaches, which sadly carried through when they formed their children’s music group a decade later.
“Before the internet, people actually took the time to write to us about why [Fatt] shouldn’t be there,” he said. “The same thing happened when Emma arrived. For me it was a natural, great thing to do, but we got a lot of messages asking why a woman was in the group,” he reflected on his colleague and current Yellow Wiggle, Ms Watkins, who joined the gang in 2010.
Field said the team has received so much support and thanks from parents excited their kids will see people who look like them on TV.
But naturally, conservatives begging for attention have kicked up a stink. Nationals senator Matt Canavan said to The Australian that, if “you go woke, you go broke”, expressing dismay over The Wiggles’ new casting choices.
“People are talking about this ‘woke’ thing and I don’t even understand what that means, but we’re just coming from a child-centred point of view. It’s the right thing to do,” Field said in response.
In the end, the criticism is all white noise in the name of provocation — all that matters is that boys and girls are seeing their idols from a range of backgrounds following their dreams, and inspiring the next generation to do the same.
“You don’t have to follow any stereotypes, and you can do whatever you want. There’s no boundaries,” Hawkins said.