#HelloKittyGirl

Only days after posting my museum exhibition review of Hello!  Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, everyone’s favorite poor little rich kitty appeared on episode 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 7.  “Hello Kitty Girls!” includes not only a guest appearance by Hello Kitty but also loads of products for contestants to re-work in creating their Runway Eleganza looks.  Before announcing the show’s special guest, Mother Ru advises:

“America’s next drag superstar needs to know how to brand her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.  For inspiration you’ll be joining forces with a global marketing phenomenon worth over 8 billion dollars.”

#HelloKittyGirl


RuPaul introduces Hello Kitty to the queens.
 

For readers who may have missed the earlier reveal (http://lorihallaraujo.com/blog/searching-for-charisma-uniqueness-nerve-and-talent), those four qualities brought together make one naughty acronym.  A banana may have been the first fruit ever to be branded but a drag queen’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent is a brand for the 21st century. 

#HelloKittyGirl

In her ethnography of drag performers in late 1960s Chicago, anthropologist Esther Newton notes that in drag performances “details have been pared away and the core archetype simply accentuated” (Mother Camp 1972:57).  Certainly RuPaul’s charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent are accentuated in “Hello Kitty Girls!” and all unnecessary details have been pared away.  A mother of camp, Mama Ru explicitly advises her kittens what they need to do in order to succeed in the competition: brand.

RuPaul as spokesmodel for Mac Cosmetics (1994)
RuPaul in the first Viva Glam campaign for Mac Cosmetics (1994)
 

If anyone knows how to brand, it is RuPaul.  In 2009, RuPaul’s net worth was estimated at 4 million dollars though given the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, different licensing deals, residuals on music and shows, and what-not, methinks his empire doth continue to grow.  Ever savvy, back in 1993, RuPaul was quick to seize upon what might have otherwise been a momentary flash in the pan with the success of the song “Supermodel (You Better Work).”  By 1994, she was the first face of Viva Glam, a celebrity-endorsed Mac Cosmetics lipstick, which contributes money to helping people affected by HIV/AIDS.

So when RuPaul says, “You better work” or “The next drag superstar needs to know how to brand,” listen up.

#HelloKittyGirl

In this week’s episode, just as the five remaining queens are frantically finishing their runway looks, RuPaul slips back into the workroom to tell them about an additional look they need to create: “A character that Hello Kitty would be proud to call her new BFF.”  Category is, Hello Kitty BFF Realness.  While not all the queens seem to realize it, the competition is essentially a marketing pitch to a company worth more than 8 billion dollars.

#HelloKittyGirl

Lest you think Hello Kitty is for children and therefore an inappropriate subject of more than one double entendre this week, think again.  You will recall that Hello Kitty is ultimately about bringing happiness (read: wealth, orgasms, etc.) in a supercute envelope to a company worth billions of dollars (http://lorihallaraujo.com/blog/hello-exploring-the-supercute-world-of-neoliberalism).  Adults, not children, are Hello Kitty’s biggest consumers and part of Hello Kitty’s appeal is the malleability of her meaning.  Consumers can ascribe all manner of sentiments to the speechless little wonder as RuPaul and the other judges did this week.  Hello Kitty appears on the episode as a plush-suited sweetheart who expresses herself through the body and her performance.  She covers her eyes and gently shakes her oversize head back and forth to indicate, no, she would not want to be friends with Hello Pearl whose Hello Kitty BFF Realness includes a bared midriff, an open mouth with gap tooth, and Madonna hair circa Blonde Ambition.

#HelloKittyGirl
Category is, Hello Kitty BFF Realness
 

#HelloKittyGirl

This week’s episode is the height of camp.  Camp as it exists in the United States, necessarily happens within the confines of square culture.  That is because camp is always about resisting and testing the boundaries of the ordinary, putting camp sensibilities within a carnivalesque framework that potentiates long term social transformations.  Camp would not be nearly as much fun if it were an outright rebellion.  Camp mocks the system from within making the camper(s) participants in say, for example, modern capitalism.  It subverts without immediately or radically altering the system.  At times camp can be what scholar Homi Bhaba calls “sly civility.”  You may not even be entirely certain if you’re being mocked as poor Miss Fame eventually learned in episode 6 (http://lorihallaraujo.com/blog/searching-for-charisma-uniqueness-nerve-and-talent). 

Ginger with hand up Violet's ass
Ginger puts her hand up Violet's puppet ass and opens up the library
 

RuPaul mocks her own shameless product promotion on the program but this time she has really let her blonde charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent show.  Is Hello Kitty the icon for enterprising drag queens to emulate?  Whoever is crowned this year’s next drag superstar is well advised to follow Mother Ru’s lead and emulate Hello Kitty according to her own camp, subversive agenda.  Though Ginger Minj is the most lovable and funny of the remaining queens, I predict Violet Chachki will be this season’s winner.  While Violet may seem to be “beautiful and useless,” as Ginger herself describes Miss Chachki in a puppet depiction this week, she nonetheless demonstrates clever resourcefulness and subtle subversion in Hello Kitty looks that successfully and cohesively brand her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

#HelloKittyGirl

 

 

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