25,000 Fans Pack First 'Hello Kitty' Convention in L.A.

25,000 Fans Pack First 'Hello Kitty' Convention in L.A.

Tens of thousands of “Hello Kitty” fans packed the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art over the weekend for “Hello Kitty Con 2014,” a massive celebration in honor of the iconic character’s 40th birthday.

The sold-out crowd of 25,000 people participated in workshops like “Hello Kitty Flower Arranging,” attended panels on “Cute Culture” and “Hello Kitty Style,” and received free Hello Kitty-inspired ink at the convention’s pop-up tattoo parlor. 

There truly was something for everyone at the convention; in addition to workshops on Hello Kitty cookie decorating and scrapbooking, a panel called “Guys love Hello Kitty too!” was reportedly very well attended.

“Hello Kitty is forever,” convention attendee Allan Tea told CNN while showing off a tattoo of the character inked on his bicep. “She really doesn’t have no gender. As you can see from the Con, millions of people love her.”

Created by Japanese company Sanrio in 1974, the Hello Kitty brand has exploded in popularity worldwide in the ensuing decades. Dave Marchi, senior marketing director for Sanrio, told CNN that Hello Kitty did $8 billion in sales in 2013 alone.

“Hello Kitty means so much to so many people in many different ways,” Marchi said. “But I think it’s easily explained [that] she’s just an ambassador of happiness, and she connects with people emotionally so she’s all about happiness and friendship and fun.”

That happiness and fun translates into dollar signs for Sanrio and the convention’s organizers; according to the Los Angeles Times, goods at the convention’s merchandise booths have been flying off shelves. 

Carol Nguyen, who managed a booth that sold Beats by Dre headphones with the image of the famous cat, told the Times on the first day of the convention that she was already nearly sold out.

“We brought 250 headsets for the entire weekend, and we’ve already sold more than half,” Nguyen said.

At least one Hello Kitty fan reportedly traveled from as far away as Peru to attend the convention. 

“She’s my friend, my companion,” Jessica Perez of Lima, Peru told CNN. “She’s with me at home, at the office, and people who know me know that I’m her fan.”

Gary Slaughter, who traveled 100 miles to the convention from San Diego, told CNN that a friend introduced him to the character two years ago, and he has been a fan ever since.

“Hello Kitty makes everyone happy,” Slaughter said. “She makes me happy, so it was a natural thing.”

Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP