The Life and (High) Times of Hello Kitty

  • April 4, 2015


Born Josephine Baker in Tupelo, Mississippi, the middle child in a litter of seven would go on to become the (in)famous Hello Kitty. The dark-eyed kitten with pure white fur first came to the attention of famed musical producer, Jon Destin, when he saw her in a sixth grade stage production. “I was simply visiting my cousin, who’s daughter was also in this play. It was a musical rendition of Schindler’s List and Jo just blew us all away, not only with her singing ability but just her stage presence,” he explained. Negotiations quickly ensued and contracts signed. Josephine started, as so many do, on the Mouseketeer Club Show. A former fellow member of the club, who spoke under anonymity, told us, “I don’t know what they were thinking. The “Club” is not a place for any child. We were completely unsupervised and there was a great deal of what you might call “experimenting” going on. And besides, she was a cat. In a “Mouse” club. Really poorly thought out.”

Josephine appeared in small roles opposite big-name movie stars in-between her shooting schedule for the Club. Film critics started taking notice of this tiny, but amazingly self-possessed young actress. It was in her second season when the problems started. Arguments erupted with other members. She started showing up late, went missing for several days before arriving as if nothing had happened. “There were definitely times she showed up high and/or drunk on the set. Her parents were useless in trying to tame their little money-maker.” She did not renew for a third season. Three months passed without a word. Then her first album was released and tour dates announced. Josephine Baker was repackaged and delivered to the world as Hello Kitty. The album was a megahit and merchandising for anything Hello Kitty continues to this day, driven by the 9 – 14 year old female demographic. However, with each successive album, though ‘tweens slavishly bought them up, the quality started to ebb, with critics pointing out the derivative and generic nature of the songs. “In one song all she does is repeat ‘meow’ to a syncopated beat. Purina did that in the 70s!” With each album, also, Hello Kitty, who had legally changed her name, seem to become more and more unraveled.

As Hello Kitty disembarked from her limo, she revealed not only does she not wear
Hello Kitty underwear, she doesn’t wear any underwear at all.

One of the early controversies was when she broke from her first producer over “creative differences” and seemed to come under the influence of Sylvester J. Pussycat, a veteran of stage and screen. While being put foward as a strictly business relationship, the tabloid photographs seemed to paint a much more intimate picture, despite there being a three decade age difference. This was also the time when she had a very public catfight with Duchess of Aristocats fame who had been in a long-term, though unmarried, relationship with Mr. Pussycat. Fur flew, but this only seemed to fuel the monetary juggernaut that Hello Kitty had become, though increasing the dismay that parents were starting to feel about their childrens’ obsession with this pop idol. This altercation did initiate Hello Kitty getting yet another producer and also led to her legally emancipating from her parents.

U.S. spring breakers stand drinking and dancing inside a jacuzzi at a bar in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun, Mexico Wednesday, March 13, 2002. Thousands of college and high school students visit Cancun each year during the six-week Spring Break period. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

U.S. spring breakers stand drinking and dancing inside a jacuzzi at a bar in the Caribbean resort city of Cancun, Mexico Wednesday, March 13, 2002. Thousands of college and high school students visit Cancun each year during the six-week Spring Break period. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

One of many photos of Hello Kitty doing drugs at the many parties
she hosted at her large gated estate, the KatHouse.

While her music career seemed to thrive, her movie roles, which had been promising to start, began to dwindle, both in what she was offered as well as the quality of her own acting. During the filming of SyFy’s Cats vs. Dogs 5, Hello Kitty was hospitalized for “exhaustion”. This would be the first of three stints in rehab. Her behavior became more and more erratic. She crashed her Mercedes. Her phone was hacked and indiscreet photos were released that caused many embarrassments in the Hollywood community. She carried on another very public relationship with Lion-O, only eleven years her senior, former Thundercat turned rap star. They seemed to revel in trashing hotel rooms, assaulting paparazzi, and appearing barely clothed while out in public. After their inevitable breakup, Hello Kitty shaved her entire body, much to the consternation of her female fan base. In her talk-show appearances, where she appeared disoriented and slurred her words, she gave differing accounts for why she did this from her psychic having told her she’s a reincarnated Egyptian princess and, therefore, wanting to look more like a Sphynx breed of cat, to declaring herself “anti-fur”, to a more blunt “F**k you!” on David Letterman. Her publicist relayed an apology to Mr. Letterman later stating that she thought he had asked a different question.

Hello Kitty and the paparazzi have never been on good terms.

After her third round of rehab, Hello Kitty seemed to rally and everyone breathed a (premature) sigh of relief. “She’s used up seven of her nine lives,” an anonymous source from the clinic told us, “She’s one bag of catnip away from being Goodbye Kitty.” She released two albums with songs of varying quality and mixed reviews. Her new tour, while not the blockbuster sell-out as previous years, still pulled in respectably sized crowds. People tentatively praised her musical number at the Oscars and in both her professional and personal life seemed to legitimately be trying to do better. Unfortunately, her parents, who she had long been estranged from, died in a fiery car crash, which precipitated another downward spiral. The latest worrisome stunt that shocked many was Hello Kitty “twerking” with Scooby Doo at the Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards.

It should be noted that Mr. Doo is also five years older than Hello Kitty.

Parents by the thousands decried the poor taste on display and many sponsors pulled their support, not only for Nickelodeon, but also for MegaET that puts on her tour. “Think of the children!” is the latest outcry dogging Hello Kitty. It remains to be seen whether this will be the pink juice that finally puts her career to sleep or not.

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