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The Supercute World of Hello Kitty, Now at the Japanese American National Museum

If you weren’t able to get tickets to the first ever Hello Kitty Con, happening in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles this Halloween weekend, you can still dive into the world of all things kawaii on your next trip to L.A..

Sanrio, the lovely brand that gave us the kitty who is not a kitty, but actually a little girl from London, has partnered with the Japanese American National Museum to present “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary.

The exhibit runs through April 26, 2015 and is a comprehensive exploration of the phenomenon and evolution of Hello Kitty. Here, you’ll find rare, unique and vintage pieces of the brand, as well as 40 mixed media works by contemporary artists who have been inspired by Hello Kitty. The exhibition has been co-curated by Dr. Christine Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, and Jamie Rivadeneira, founder and owner of pop culture-inspired boutique JapanLA.  Vintage items include the first ever Hello Kitty phone:

Hello Kitty Phone c1976

… as well as the one-of-a-kind dress worn by Lady Gaga:


“The art portion of the exhibition shows how Hello Kitty fits into any world to add cuteness,” said Ms. Rivadeneira. “Her simple design makes the perfect canvas for artists to interpret her through their unique style. Several different mediums, including sculpture, paint, ink, ceramics, animation, plush, photography, and wood were used to show that Hello Kitty can be interpreted in many ways without ever losing her core essence. Hello Kitty interpreted in art evokes a sense of nostalgia for people of all ages.”

I’m a ’70s kid, so I remember when Hello Kitty hit our shores and blew our little elementary schoolgirl minds. But she’s gone beyond the classroom, the children, and tweens. In fact, it’s amazing to think that such a simple, kawaii line drawing went from a modest debut in the 70s on a small vinyl coin purse in Japan, to became not only an ambassador between American and Japanese cultures, but this incredible global icon embraced by fans of all ages, and a brand juggernaut. I mean, there’s a Hello Kitty airplane, for the love of all that is holy. My friend flew on it. She said it was AMAZING.

What is it about Hello Kitty that inspires such frantic and loyal brand love by millions of fans? Is it her message of friendship and community? Is it a nostalgiac feeling of parents who loved her as a kid, passing on the love to their children? Is it that she has no mouth, and therefore no voice – so she gives us the ability to project onto her whatever we want her to be? Why am I, a grown woman, planning on going to Hello Kitty Con with my daughter… and then again, alone?

Do you love Hello Kitty? Confessions welcome in the comment section!

Images: Japanese American National Museum

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