JANM Opens New Hello Kitty Exhibition

Los Angeles just got a little cuter with the opening of Japanese American National Museum’s newest exhibition, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, organized with Sanrio in honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary.

The first large-scale Hello Kitty museum in the United States, Hello! takes fans –– both the kids and the kids-at-heart –– on a trip through the brand’s archives, featuring vintage memorabilia, collections from collaborations and artwork that depicts the character’s evolution from a Japanese cultural figure into a global phenomenon. Visitors have the chance to view special pieces like the plastic coin purse –– the first Hello Kitty item Sanrio sold back in 1975 –– as well as Hello Kitty kitchen appliances, skateboards and surfboards and even a pair of boxers with the face of everyone’s favorite kitty stamped all over.

Gary Baseman for JANM

Gary Baseman for JANM

Older generations have the chance to journey back to their childhood with the wall of display cases featuring every Hello Kitty backpack Sanrio has ever produced. Another wall is lined with Hello Kitty plushes released throughout the years, giving viewers a visual representation of the brand’s transformation.

“I think our art portion stands up to any art exhibition in LA right now,” Dr. Greg Kimura, President and CEO of JANM, said last night at the VIP party for the exhibition, which was MCed by Japanese American actress (and former Audrey cover girl!) Tamlyn Tomita.

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

Hello Kitty vintage plush, 1976

The art gallery proudly boasts 40 mixed-media works created specially for the exhibit by well-known artists such as Audrey Kawasaki and Gary Baseman, as well as collaborating brands like tokidoki and Swarovski. The celebrity and fashion portion of the exhibit illustrates the far-reaching influence of Hello Kitty, featuring the dress of plush toys Lady Gaga once wore for a photoshoot celebrating the character’s 35th birthday.

JANM has also opened a pop-up store for the exhibition, where visitors can purchase exclusive Hello Kitty for JANM items like pins, bags and coin purses.

The exhibition will be on view through April 26, 2015. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17 and free for ages 5 and under. JANM members receive free admission.

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Hello Kitty Turns 40! Check Out How You Can Celebrate It

 

Hello Kitty is turning the Big 4-0, and like most people hitting a milestone birthday, she’s going all out. Celebs and big-name brands are clamoring for special collaborations — everyone from Major League Baseball and celeb chef Roy Choi to cosmetics giant Sephora and Japanese fine jewelry line Mikimoto.

But it’s not just bling and goodies. The Japanese American National Museum is hosting the first-ever Hello Kitty exhibition, titled “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World Of Hello Kitty,” starting October 11. The first-ever Hello Kitty fan convention, Hello Kitty Con, is kicking off on October 30 at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles. And the Line Hotel, Roy Choi’s newest project, will offer a Sean Knibb-designed Hello Kitty suite, complete with Hello Kitty iHome products, toiletries by Sephora and turn-down chocolates from Dylan’s Candy Bar. Needless to say, it’s gonna be a major, supercute party.

And the woman behind the party — well, other than Kitty herself — is president and COO of Sanrio, Inc., Janet Hsu. It seems Hsu was born to be the boss of Hello Kitty — she and the iconic feline share the same birthday. Here, Hsu shares her Sanrio memories and what it’s like to work at what must truly be the happiest place on earth.

 

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Audrey Magazine: What’s your earliest memory of a Sanrio character?
Janet Hsu: My earliest memory of a Sanrio character was of Little Twin Stars, who continue to be my second favorite Sanrio character(s). I remember receiving a Little Twin Stars product as a gift when I was very young. I loved the celestial theme and that Kiki and Lala are twins (just like Hello Kitty). Since I am a twin, I treasured the idea of the two experiencing the world together.

AM: Your offices must be super cool! What’s it like?
JH: The Sanrio offices are filled with the many kawaii items! There is definitely a lot of eye candy, with products showcased in all different sizes, from a wide range of categories, and from different years and decades. Since so many of our employees are die-hard fans themselves, some may possess an “anything Sanrio” hoarding mentality! The Sanrio offices also showcase a great collection of original artwork.

AM: What’s the best thing about working with Sanrio?
JH: The company’s philosophy, the characters and the people. Sanrio has always been about social communication — connecting people and communities, and the “small gift, big smile” philosophy of bringing joy to all. There is so much energy, passion and love for the brands that there is a very strong, unified company mindset.

 

 

AM: If you could be a Sanrio character, who would it be?
JH: I would be Hangyodon. I think it would be fun to be a sea creature — half-human, half-fish. Also, he is very unique looking, and even though he is not as well-known as some of the others, there is something very familiar and friendly about him. He is also really comedic — so I would like to laugh the most I can every day.

AM: Who’s your favorite Sanrio character?
JH: My favorite Sanrio character is Hello Kitty. Ever since I was a little girl, Hello Kitty would bring a smile to my face. She has grown up with me and continues to evolve, to integrate herself into the modern day and current pop culture, yet always stays true to being about pure happiness. Many adults grew up with Hello Kitty and have formed their own relationship with her. She has a comforting effect, and her Zen-like disposition makes her relationship with every person special and unique.

AM: Do you have a dream collaboration for Hello Kitty?
JH: Experiences that connect with fans are key. We have a fan, a junior high student, who created a rocket with Hello Kitty to send up to space. This was very inspiring. So a dream collaboration could be a space experience with Hello Kitty.

 

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This story was originally published in our Fall 2014 issue. Get your copy here

 

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“Sorry to keep you waiting, boys” — Sanrio Launches Hello Kitty Men

 

For years, Sanrio has catered to the female audience. That’s not to say that their products couldn’t be used by and loved by men, but it’s definitely harder to find a Hello Kitty shirt in men’s sizes. Well, Sanrio is looking to change that.

In honor of Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, Sanrio launched the Hello Kitty Men Project to encourage men to love their mascot without shame and without stereotypes. The project launched a six-day “Hello Kitty Men” exhibition, which started on September 10th. The exhibit will feature a new shirt line designed by Nendo and graphic designers Mina Tabei and Atsushi Ishiguro. Most exciting of all, the event may have a visit from Yūko Shimizu, the original designer of Hello Kitty.

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Here’s the translation, courtesy of Dramafever:

Thanks for waiting, boys.
And hello to all boys!
I’m Kitty. Up until now, I’ve been loved by a lot of girls.
But it’s always been on my mind.
Not only girls, I want boys to be around me too.
So I’m just going to do it.
Hello Kitty Men Project, a Kitty for boys!
The first part is going to be a t-shirt exhibit, in collaboration with designers.
Cool, right?
I’m going to be coming up with new forms of Kitty.
So stay tuned.
Hello Kitty Men.

Project Start!

 



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Photo courtesy of dramafever.com

Avril Levigne Responds To Criticism About Offensive “Hello Kitty” Music Video

You may have missed the recent controversy surrounding Avril Lavigne’s new music video “Hello Kitty.” After all, the video was taken down the same day it was uploaded onto YouTube.

The video to Lavigne’s single “Hello Kitty” has received criticism left and right for its cultural appropriation. Simply put, it’s 3 minutes and 19 seconds of sushi, bright colors, expressionless Asian back up dancers and random Japanese words. All of this prompted Billboard to call the video an “embarrassment in any language.”

Even some of Lavigne’s most loyal fans (who wouldn’t even necessarily call the video intentionally racist) definitely saw why it was problematic to use a culture as a prop. They were certain that Lavigne would release an apology. Were they right?

Well, 21 hours ago, Avril responded to all the criticisms and allegations of racism.

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Now we can all let out a collective sigh and eye roll. Is this an apology for a lapse in judgement? Absolutely not. In fact, it sounds like the cop-out excuse: “I have an Asian friend so I can’t be racist against Asians!” Yup, we’ve all heard that one before. If she had noticed that she offended people and sent an apology because that was not her intention, our feelings would be different. Despite an overwhelming amount of people shaking their head at the video, Lavigne, as well as a number of fans, still don’t see the problem.

To reiterate what we said early, the reason people are upset over this video is because “it uses Asian culture as a prop. Even the expressionless back up dancers are simply a backdrop. There is a very big difference between embracing a culture and using it as an accessory. It is not appreciation to trivialize an entire way of life.”

Avril, why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?

 

 

Why People Hate “Hello Kitty” by Avril Lavigne

Yesterday, Avril Lavigne released the music video to her new single “Hello Kitty” on YouTube, but in a blink of an eye it was removed. Billboard called the video an “embarrassment in any language”  and Entertainment Weekly claimed that there “are serious questions about whether it’s offensive.”

Why?

Well it may have a thing or two to do with all the cultural appropriation. Lavigne’s video includes all things stereotypically Japanese — sushi, Japanese schoolgirls, bright pink colors and even expressionless Asian back up dancers. Throughout the video, Lavigne throws out Japanese words like “arigato” and “kawaii.” That’s right. Her lyrics are actually “Thank you! Cute! Cute!”  Apparently, there’s no need to have lyrics that make sense as long as you blurt out the most stereotypical Asian words you know.

As you can expect, audiences are torn. Loyal Avril fans have stood by her side and see nothing wrong with the video. Fans on her official website are claiming that “Hello Kitty” is far from offensive. In fact, they believe that the video should be praised for “doing something different.”

Of course, even more people are arguing that Lavigne’s cultural appropriation is far from new and different. We saw this with Gwen Stafani’s “Harajuku Girls,” with Katy Perry’s Geisha performance and especially in Alison Gold’s infamous “Chinese Food” video.

For loyal fans who are confused, the reason people hate Avril’s “Hello Kitty” is because it uses Asian culture as a prop. Even the expressionless back up dancers are simply a backdrop. There is a very big difference between embracing a culture and using it as an accessory. It is not appreciation to trivialize an entire way of life.

As Huffington Post explains, “Borrowing from another culture is most problematic when it plucks from a minority group (especially one that has been exploited or otherwise oppressed). Using aspects of another culture from a position of privilege is a means of additional exploitation in that it disregards the shared experiences that led to the development of the culture in question and uses ideas and traditions for their benefit.”

The video was removed from YouTube, but check it out here and tell us what you think. 

Life-Size Lady Gaga Doll VS. Gaga-Inspired Hello Kitty Doll

This past weekend, the oh-so-popular Lady Gaga was in Tokyo promoting her latest album Art Pop. Although Japanese netizens can say they’re accustomed to the eccentric, Lady Gaga still turned heads with her giant hair ears and and confusing outfit (typical of the pop diva).

During one of the press conferences, Lady Gaga held on to a Hello Kitty doll that was clearly inspired by her own look. The doll was created specifically for her by Sanrio designer Yuko Yamaguchi. As you can see in the image below, The Lady Gaga-inspired Hello Kitty doll wears a blond wig, a white pantsuit outfit with a shell bra and huge platform shoes.

After engaging in a kiss with the doll, Lady Gaga revealed that she would be auctioning the signed doll and the proceeds would go to Tomodachi, a non-profit organization. The proceeds for this particular auction would go to the Tomodachi Stella Adler Performing Arts Fellowship.

So what’s so special about this Hello Kitty doll? When we say its limited edition, we really mean limited edition. Only two of these Lady Gaga-inspired Hello Kitty dolls exist and the owner of the other one happens to be Lady Gaga herself.

The auction will continue until December 23rd and 10pm. The bid is already around $24,000. Check it out here.

In return, Lada Gaga was presented with four life-size dolls resembling herself. The dolls had such realistic detail and skin that it was hard to tell the singer apart from her dolls. The silicone “Gagadolls” were created by Orient Industry in Tokyo which specializes in synthetic “love dolls.”

All of the Gagadolls dolls were dressed up to replicate a specific outfit and look of Lady Gaga. The pop-star tweeted a photo of herself next to the dolls saying, “Who needs barbies when you can own your own life size pop star that sings to you #gagadollz.” Hey, Santa? Is it too late to add this to my Christmas list?”

Check out the video of the making of the Gagadolls below.

 

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Our Favorite Hello Kitty Cakes For Her 39th Birthday

You may not know it, but November 1st is quite an important day. Today is the birthday of one of our most beloved characters, Hello Kitty.

Sanrio’s Yuko Shimizu  introduced this iconic, mouthless kitty in 1974. If you do the math, you can conclude that Hello Kitty is 39 years old today! We know what you’re thinking- she aged quite well.

According to Sanrio, Hello Kitty, who’s actual name is Kitty White, was born in London, England. Her height is five apples stacked on top of one another and her weight is three apples put together.

Now, Hello Kitty has become a worldwide phenomenon. By 1999, Hello Kitty appeared on 12,000 products yearly. By 2008, Hello Kitty was responsible for half of Sanrio’s billion dollar revenue. There were over 50,000 different Hello Kitty branded products in more than 60 countries.

Now, Hello Kitty is worth $5 billion a year.

Clearly, this lovable character has achieved an overwhelming amount in 39 years. We wanted to thank her for years of enjoyment and wish her a happy birthday with our favorite Hello Kitty Cakes.

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Hello Kitty x The Simpsons 2014 Collaboration

Here’s a collaboration we never saw coming. Although unexpected, we’re pretty excited to see Hello Kitty and The Simpsons come together.

Next year, the two very popular franchises are teaming up for a special line of products. Hello Kitty will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and The Simpsons will be celebrating its 25th making this quite a landmark year for both franchises.

This collaboration between Sanrio and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products will bring limited-edition collectibles and fans are already trying to guess what could be in this anticipated line of products. Some guess that because the release of the collaboration will  occur during the “back-to-school” season of 2014, it will be geared towards that.

The collaboration promises “a fun and unexpected take on The Simpsons‘ transformation within Hello Kitty’s super-cute world,” says Sanrio president Janet Hsu.

The first appearance of this collaboration will make its first appearance at Brand Licensing Europe in London on October 15-17 and available for purchase in the Fall.

Image of The Day: The Cutest Hello Kitty Bento Boxes

September has been quite the month for Hello Kitty fans. First, Sanrio brought fruit-flavored Hello Kitty beer to China. Then the Hello Kitty jet made its first flight to the U.S.

In honor of Hello Kitty’s rather eventful month, we decided we ought to show some fan-made Hello Kitty love. So what impressed us?

Hello Kitty bento boxes!

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Common in Japanese cuisine, bento is a single-portion meal that is usually placed in a box container. Traditionally, a lot of time and effort is put into the arrangement and preparation of bento boxes. Clearly, these Hello Kitty bento boxes are no exception.

These impressive bento boxes are quickly going viral on various social media sites and for good reason. Check them out for yourself:

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Hello Kitty Jet Makes First Flight to the U.S.

Story by Taylor Weik.

 

They may have launched a Cartoon Network-themed line of trains back in July, but now Taiwan isn’t the only country who gets to experience cartoon travel firsthand. Taiwan’s EVA Air, known for its popular line of Hello Kitty jets, flew its Boeing 777-300ER Hello Kitty Hand-in-Hand Jet from Taipei to Los Angeles on September 18.

This will be EVA Air’s first long-range flight route and an expansion of the five shorter-range jets that, from its conception in 2005 up until now, had only flown from Taiwan to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China and Guam.

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Piloted by EVA Chairman and airline Captain K.W. Chang, who conceived the idea for a Hello Kitty-themed flight line “to make flying fun,” the Hello Kitty Hand-in-Hand jet flew from the Taoyuan International Airport to LAX to celebrate the new jet service with fans and guests. Among those present for the celebration were Sanrio Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kunihiko Tsuji, Japanese pop star Yoshiki and Head Hello Kitty Designer Yuko Yamaguchi, not to mention the nine cartoon members of the Sanrio Family.

Guests checked in at the Flight Path Museum at LAX, which was decorated with blown-up, pink boarding passes and various pictures of Hello Kitty flying in an airplane, before being escorted outside to a spacious tent where they could glimpse the jet landing on the strip. While waiting for the jet’s arrival, guests were invited to sip on champagne and munch on Hello Kitty-themed treats like red velvet iced cupcakes and browse the displays of all the in-flight items available. Hello Kitty playing cards, pillows and hand creams are just a few of the many items passengers can purchase in the jet’s sky shop. Hello Kitty artists from Tokyo were on hand to draw pictures of Sanrio characters and adorn fingernails with special Hello Kitty nail art, and Sanrio characters Cinnamoroll and Bad Badtz-Maru mingled and took pictures with fans.

 

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The arrival of the Hand-in-Hand jet revealed a colorful paint job, with 19 Sanrio characters splashed across the length of the aircraft holding hands. EVA explained that the union of the critters was designed to “bridge cultural barriers and invite new friendships from around the world.” The airline also pointed out that “this is the first time Sanrio has featured characters with the familiar Hello Kitty that are not typically depicted among her family and friends.”

 

A performance by a troupe of Hello Kitty dancers, the introduction of nine Sanrio characters and the recognition of Chang, Tsuji and the jet’s other pilots were given before the jet’s doors opened to reveal its first passengers –– Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel themselves –– and to invite guests on board to take a full tour of the cabin.

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The 312-seat is split into three cabins: Royal Laurel, Elite and Economy Classes, all of which offer passengers the opportunity to use more than 100 in-flight service items and select meals from its seasonal menus. EVA confirmed the Hand-in-Hand jet will be used on three of 17 weekly flights from LAX to TPE, with flight schedules listed on its website.

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