If Kitty White could smile, she’d be smiling all the way to the bank!
Sanrio, the Japanese company that created Kitty White, better known as Hello Kitty and her twin sister, Mimmy, in 1974, certainly has reason to smile. The cartoon cat has generated more than a billion dollars in revenue for her Japanese parent, the Sanrio Company. Approximately 15,000 Hello Kitty products are on the market worldwide and there are hundreds of Sanrio retail stores devoted to Hello Kitty in the U.S. and around the world in countries such as Costa Rica, Guam and Saudi Arabia. If you still haven’t gotten your fill of the frilly feline and her friends, a visit to Sanrio Puroland, an all-indoor theme park located in Tama City, Tokyo and dedicated to Sanrio’s most popular character, may be in order.
What makes her so appealing? Many have speculated as to the reasons Hello Kitty is so wildly popular, and one of the most cited reasons has been her lack of a mouth. Her lack of a mouth is said to allow the Hello Kitty lover to project his (but mostly, her) mood on the passive, placid cat. She can sympathize with a lovelorn owner, celebrate with a joyous one, or commiserate with an overworked one. In short, Hello Kitty mirrors what her owner is feeling at the moment and is versatile enough to change with her owner’s moods. Sanrio’s official position on Hello Kitty’s lack of a mouth is that she speaks from her heart, and that as Sanrio’s ambassador to the world, she is not bound by any one language. However, there are websites dedicated to exploring and hypothesizing as to why Hello Kitty is mouth-less, and many of the websites suggest a more sinister reason.
Whatever accounts for her universal appeal, Hello Kitty certainly has captured the hearts of little girls and career women alike. The younger set has long delighted in the trademark school supplies adorned with the dainty white cat. But the attraction lives on in adult women who have been known to bring Hello Kitty into the boardroom. Pink sparkly pens and signature staplers are making their way into corporate America at an unprecedented rate. Citing the need for individuality and some degree of rebelliousness, career women are bringing the cat along to important meetings and events. Hello Kitty can liven up even the most staid of gatherings by conjuring up images of more carefree times.
Hello Kitty’s appeal has expanded beyond schoolgirls and career women to include the celebrity crowd. Pop diva Mariah Carey recently showed off her Hello Kitty boombox and hair dryer on an episode of MTV’s Cribs, a show in which celebrities allow cameras into their homes to capture intimate details of their lives. Sarah Jessica Parker and Tyra Banks also profess a love for the delightfully pink products and accessories.
And the list goes on. Mandy Moore, Lisa Loeb, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Jessica Alba, Selma Blair, Drew Barrymore and Brandy proclaim to be among the most ardent Hello Kitty fans.
“Most of us work very hard and we’re very, very busy, so anything that can add a spark of excitement and creativity and fun to mundane things in life is important to us,” says Loeb.
Despite being a perennial third grader, Hello Kitty will turn twenty-eight this November. And nobody can accuse her of not keeping up with the times. Although she has not shed the colorful bow she wears above her left ear, she has gained a cell phone with which she can speak to her growing number of pals and devotees. If only she had a mouth.
– Marianick Simon