In 2012, after working as a photographer in Latin America for the better part of a decade, Joana Toro moved to New York to study English.
Toro soon found herself in need of extra money, which led her roommate Marcela to introduce her to the semi-legal world of Times Square street performers. She was captivated by the mostly immigrant performers, who make a living by dressing as iconic characters, posing for pictures with tourists, and asking for tips.
“It was shocking at first to see Mickey Mouse did not speak English and was an immigrant from Mexico,” Toro told the New York Times. “ ... It was surreal. A paradox.”
Soon after her introduction, Toro took up her own costume. For a year and a half, she donned the cumbersome costume of Hello Kitty and saw firsthand a world that most people can't imagine.
Toro shared some photos from her experience, and you can see the rest at her website.
Toro was first introduced to the world of costumed performers by her roommate Marcela, who dances salsa with a Barack Obama mannequin.
When Toro decided to become a costumed character, she first tried wearing a Minnie Mouse costume. She ended up also trying Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer, before settling on Hello Kitty.
She rented the costume from Berta, a Mexican immigrant. She warned Toro that the gig was hard work and not very lucrative.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider