Princess Cheeto lives in Brooklyn. Of course she does. Could a cat this cool live anywhere else? Her name, an homage to both Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Tumblr memes of Britney Spears, is a pop culture mash up perfect for the Internet. And indeed, she has taken it by storm, thanks to 27-year-old photographer Hugo Martinez and his singular vision for his singular cat.
Cheeto was actually a surprise gift. Hugo’s friends adopted her from a Manhattan shelter for his 22nd birthday. Smitten, he started an Instagram account, just for himself and his friends, posting photos of his new best bud. Fast forward, and Cheeto now has over 90,000 Instagram followers, partnerships with major brands such as Target, Steve Madden, Purina, and American Apparel, and a print project in the works. But despite the success—Buzzfeed has called her “the most purrfect cat of the year” and Comedy Central proclaimed “Princess Cheeto stars in the best photo series of all time”—Cheeto and Hugo remain down to earth. When asked how Princess Cheeto’s life has change since becoming famous, Hugo is quick to assert that it hasn’t. “We really don’t give in to thinking about that. We’re just happy that, because of our photos, we’ve been able to afford the best food and the best care for Cheeto. That’s what’s really important to me.”
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Q: How much time is spent on each shot?
It can depend on what type of image we’re doing. I hand make everything that you see in our photos, whether it be a large, complex set or tiny detail, so it really depends. Usually I’ll work on an image for an entire day or two. More elaborate photos like our holiday photos can take up to a week.
Q: Inspiration behind the photos?
Overall, I’m inspired by Japanese culture, pop culture, and by my favorite artists like Murakami, KAWS, Herb Ritz, William Wegman, Frida [Kahlo], [David] LaChapelle, just to name a few.
We have this photo series called Outfit Of The Day. Those are the images where Cheeto has something on her head. The inspiration for many of the hats on her head that I make out of food or from ordinary objects comes from fashion legends like Thierry Mugler and Phillip Tracy. I try to shape the food or objects in the same way that they shape their famous hats.
Q: What are Princess Cheeto’s favourite things?
Her shark bed, wet food, coconut Popsicle’s, cardboard texture.
Q: What cameras do you use?
Some of my favourite photos were shot with my iPhone—that’s the camera I use the most. I use it with Olloclip lenses [a lens for iPhones]. And I use mirrorless cameras mostly, like the Canon EOS M and Sony 6300. I use Photoshop and the VSCO app for post production work.
Q: Top three most popular posts to date?
I would have to say Breaded Cheeto, Susheeto, and one of our holiday photos with me and Cheeto on a bike.