At the world's first Hello Kitty convention, which opened in Los Angeles on Thursday, a largely female crowd - which ranged from pre-schoolers to professionals to retirees, many wearing outsized red bows in their hair just like Kitty - huddled around booths selling an array of collectibles, from US$5 (S$6.40) key chains to US$450 make-up brush sets.
Janet Hsu: "Since I was a little girl, I've collected Hello Kitty things. She and I share a lot in common - my birthday and hers are the same, Nov 1. And I have a twin sister and so does she - Mimmy. I like the unexpected surprises in the design of the products - it's always changing and it's total eye candy all the time."
Gina Becerra: "As a little girl, I used to save my pennies just to go by an eraser or a stick of gum. The character makes me feel good. It takes the pain away from whatever I'm going through, it's my release, and I kind of grabbed on to that and said this is my thing. My house is Kitty-fied - I have plush toys, purses, bracelets, trinkets, a microwave and a fridge that are all Hello Kitty."
Brandee Amore: "I've been a fan forever. I love going to the Sanrio store in LA and buying pens, stationery, everything, I've always been infatuated with Japanese culture. I have a ton of stuff at home - a lot of limited-edition stuff - I dress up for it, I participate in anything they have. It's just really cute, everybody loves it, and it's okay to be an adult and love it, I'm not the only one, there's a whole convention! My job is so serious, having a cute pen or knick-knack to work with, I like it."
Atressa Ng: "I have big plush dolls and furniture like drawers, a TV stand and a dresser. My mom is a real big Hello Kitty fan too, so that's how I got into it - my brothers too, but they grew out of it. It reminds me of childhood, and I just love sticking to it. And I love that my mom loves it too and we can share that. Hello Kitty makes me happy - she's awesome."
Mrs Chan: "We've been married for 15 years - I forced him to become a Hello Kitty fan. When we were still dating and I lived in Hong Kong and he lived here in the US, I would ask him to buy me Hello Kitty as gifts. One time there was this 'Angel Kitty' figurine you could only get here - I made him get it for me.''
Mr Chan: "The first time I ever heard of something called 'Hello Kitty' was through her. Now I guess I'm a fan. It's not masculine but it's very cute, and you get a lot of unique gifts.''