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