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Hello Kitty turns 40 with 1st ever fan convention

Hello Kitty cuteness took over Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend on the first ever Hello Kitty fan convention.

Thousands show up at Los Angeles conference

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      Hello Kitty cuteness took over Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend on the first ever Hello Kitty fan convention.

      The convention has drawn more than 25,000 fans over four days. Long lines snaked through the sold-out event — $30 for adults and $20 for children aged six to 12 — for the festival.at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

      Visitors could pose for photos with Hello Kitty, get permanently inked with her image, hear lectures about her popularity and shop for exclusive products created for the mouthless cat character's 40th birthday, which falls on November 1st.

      The first Hello Kitty product was a coin purse, launched in 1975. (Sanrio/ Associated Press)

      Chicago tattoo artist Mario Desa created about 100 Hello Kitty-inspired designs for ink-friendly fans. Scores of fans came in costume, wearing Hello Kitty dresses, cat ears and the character's signature red bow.

      Many vintage Hello Kitty items are also on display, including the Hello Kitty coin purse issued in Japan in 1975 that launched her popularity. For its first U.S. appearance, the tiny, original vinyl purse is displayed with all the pomp of a famous and expensive jewel. It sits atop a pile of blue velvet inside a glass case rimmed with red ropes, all alone in a room manned by security guards.

      Workshops, panels offered

      Lectures, panel discussions and hands-on craft workshops are offered throughout the convention, along with ample shopping opportunities.

      Companies such as Sephora and Spam have created special products for Hello Kitty Con, including a $450 crystal-encrusted makeup-brush set and Spam shaped like a Kitty face.

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          Another pop-up shop carries convention souvenirs and 40th anniversary limited-edition items, while a "Vintage Shoppe" offers authentic antique pieces, including a Hello Kitty plush doll that cost $14.50 in 1976 and now sells for $150.

          Hello Kitty helps generates about $8 billion a year for its creator Sanrio, according to the company.

          The neighbouring Japanese American National Museum is showing an associated exhibit, "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty," through until April that features a breadth of Hello Kitty products as well as creative interpretations of the character from 40 international artists.

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