Hello Kitty, not a cat, is busy celebrating her 40th anniversary in style this weekend--by holding an entire convention in her very own honor. You've heard of Comic-Con, yes? Well, gird your loins for the first ever Hello Kitty Con, happening today through Sunday (October 30-November 1) in downtown Los Angeles, California.
I've been to Comic-Con in San Diego more times than I can count, and I'm not ashamed to say that I never really saw what all the fuss was about. (I go for the parties and the hotel pools, to be perfectly honest.) That's likely because I am not a geek girl by any stretch of the imagination -- I care about the new Marvel movie or a Game of Thrones panel about as much as I care about taking out the trash, which is to say I don't care at all. But attending the preview night of Hello Kitty Con 2014 was a crash course in understanding why people sleep in line outside for events at Comic-Con. I finally get it, big time. This was my place, and these were my people.
In case there was any doubt in your mind that Hello Kitty (who is 5 apples tall and weighs the same as 3 apples, in case you were wondering), is a cultural juggernaut that can't be stopped, allow me to show you to what Sanrio has in mind to make fans out of you for life:
Yes, that's a Hello Kitty tattoo parlor inside the Hello Kitty Con, giving FREE Hello Kitty tattoos on a first come, first served basis. I already have a slightly stupid Hello Kitty tattoo, so I didn't partake, but if you have tickets to the show and want to get yourself the ultimate fan memento, you'd better arrive early! Oh, and this is a good time to point out what an insane success the Hello Kitty Con is--the event's been sold out for over a week. That's 25,000 total tickets sold. Read it and weep, fan girls--cause if you don't already have tickets, you're stuck waiting for it to hopefully come back around next year.
My favorite part of the convention was the endless displays of vintage Sanrio collectibles, including the very first Hello Kitty item ever made, a coin purse from 1975 that has never before been displayed outside of Japan. They aren't kidding with this coin purse--it's in a special darkened room on a pedestal with a velvet drape and a dedicated security guard and a helpful attendant that offers to take your photo with it. Who could say no? This is the $1.00 item that launched an 8 BILLION dollar business. It's the Hello Kitty Magna Carta Holy Grail, to paraphrase Beyonce's husband. (And I didn't even have to stand in line for 5 hours to see it!)
There are tons of interactive exhibits at the Hello Kitty Con, including a life-sized house decked to the gills with every Hello Kitty collectible imaginable--and a photo display of the classic Hello Kitty stores that appeared in malls throughout my childhood.
I spent a good 40 minutes studying these photographs of vintage Sanrio stores, as more than a few of them were responsible for separating me from my hard-earned babysitting money. And a good 5 of that 40 minutes was spent mourning the closure of San Francisco's 2-story Union Square Sanrio store, the best place to shop for Hello Kitty gear outside of Japan proper. I once paid $$$ to have a Hello Kitty TV/VCR combo shipped to Los Angeles from Tokyo, only to find it for sale at the SF store a week later. That trusty pink TV is still chugging along in some young girl's bedroom somewhere, albeit with an Apocalypse Now VHS tape stuck in the player.
As always, the best part of any con is the shopping. I went in having given strict instructions to my brain that we were NOT to come home with one single purchase, no matter how insanely cute. And there were plenty of chances to screw up the plan I'd made with my brain, as endless Hello Kitty items are for sale at the con--everything from golf clubs to Beats by Dre headphones to....Hello Kitty Spam musubi sets.
But it was the Hello Kitty x Sephora booth that finally got me. This $195.00 Swarovski crystal-encrusted hand mirror was INCREDIBLE, and was just begging for a spot on my dressing table. It (along with a few other select items) are available for sale online as well as at the con. I broke down and got the $49.00 "Red Bow Beauty Diary," which contains all sorts of Hello Kitty treats, including a special hair tie and some pink hair mascara.
As you exited the convention, Hello Kitty was there to remind you of her real message -- one of friendship.
Friends, let me tell you--the Hello Kitty Con is not to be missed. See you there!
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison