According to Brooke Kelty, Donald Trump could use a little blush. “I think it would just make him look more human. Maybe a little rosier, like Santa Claus,” she says.
The New York–based video artist should know—she’s given cutesy digital makeovers to a handful of this election cycle’s presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, and the mononymous Jeb! looked fabulous in Kelty’s pink-and-purple candy coating, but the Twitter consensus was clear: More than any of his rivals, Trump was born to be a party princess.
And thus, at the end of September, Kawaii Trump was born. The Tumblr is a repository for Kelty’s confectionary reconstructions of Trump portraits in the style of kawaii, a Japanese pop-culture aesthetic typified by Hello Kitty and her comrades. Using a slew of digital image–editing apps like Youcam Makeup and Snapseed, Kelty, 23, has managed to transform America’s favorite bloviating, vaguely incestuous racist into an impish, long-eyelashed raver teen.
Why does Trump’s petulant mug make for the most precious images of the 2016 primary slate? “I think he’s very animated, when he does the whole ‘I’m not gonna be politically correct’ thing, and he’s almost more emotional,” Kelty says. “Some of the other politicians are more uptight and have an extremely professional air.” Indeed, Trump’s deep well of emotions—or, at least, facial expressions—have drawn comparisons to the emoji keyboard, a perfect kawaii touchstone.
Kelty’s creations are projections of her big wish for politics: that Trump and the other candidates would embrace a feminine, empathetic, playful tone. “But some of the Trump ones are less about me, and more something Trump would say if he were kawaii, like, ‘I’m rich and you’re basic,’ ” she says. Give Trump a little mauve hair dye and a backdrop of glittering kittens, and the leap doesn’t seem too far.