The First Lady of Fruit is celebrating her 75th birthday – Miss Chiquita, we adore you!
In her early years, Miss Chiquita found fame in the fruit aisle as an animated banana. Drawn in 1944 by cartoonist Dik Browne, creator and illustrator of Hägar the Horrible and Hi and Lois comics, Miss Chiquita put a personal face on Chiquita bananas. She showcased a festive and fun personality, as the resident expert for everything you ever wanted to know about bananas.
In her early years, as an animated banana, she helped to teach consumers about the great nutritional value of bananas and how to ripen them. She was a big celebrity, making guest appearances in top radio shows including those of Fred Allen and Alec Templeton. Other broadcast personalities inviting Miss Chiquita to be on the air were Charlie McCarthy and Bert Lahr.
Wearing a red skirt and wide hat filled with fruit, the 1944 commercial spot featured Miss Chiquita swaying and singing along to her catchy jingle while educating viewers on why bananas have to ripen to be at their most delicious. (Best consumed when flecked with brown and with a golden hue, she advises.)
As the decades progressed, so did Miss Chiquita’s look as she was slowly brought to life.
Live models and personalities were hired to bring the “First Lady of Fruit” to life, beginning with Patty Clayton in 1944. Portugal-born Elsa Miranda (no relation to movie star Carmen) was the most famous Miss Chiquita. In 1945 and 1946. Miss Chiquita made numerous personal appearances. She also made many guest appearances in movies, in commercials and even with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra.
Since 1963, a likeness of Miss Chiquita has appeared on the labels that identify Chiquita bananas and other products. She was depicted as a banana until 1987, when artist Oscar Grillo, creator of the Pink Panther, transformed her into a woman. The change reflected the image the public had of Miss Chiquita as a real person.
By the end of World War II, the jingle and Miss Chiquita were a hit with audiences who were going bananas for the yellow fruit. Riding on the trending wave, the UFC began adding Chiquita stickers to banana bunches that sold to further promote them. Since 1963, stickers bearing the brand mascot’s likeness have been appearing on Chiquita bananas everywhere.
One of America’s most famous and beloved icons, Miss Chiquita, celebrated her 50th birthday in 1994. It was a proud moment. Testa of New York was selected from a national talent search for this landmark occasion. That year, she made numerous broadcast and personal appearances as part of her nationwide “Good Will, Good Nutrition” tour, with the mission of giving every person she met a Chiquita banana and educating them on healthy eating.
In 2000, Angela Lanza took on the role of Miss Chiquita. Her activities included the Chiquita Perfect For Life Tour in 2001, during which she visited with the media, school children and the public in many cities across the country.
The latest in a series of women handpicked to portray the number one ambassador of fruit is Jenny Canales. In 2003, she started her duties as Miss Chiquita by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chiquita Brands International’s listing on the NYSE.
Inspired on Miss Chiquita, in 2017, Charlotte Olympia launched Chiquita shoes atthe London Fashion Week. With the collection Let’s Go Bananas, the designer showed a fruity fashion trend, all brightness and fun. Demonstrating, once more, that bananas and Miss Chiquita are in fashion everywhere these days.
Now over 70 years old, Miss Chiquita remains the indisputable first lady of fruit and still brings a smile to the faces of banana fans everywhere!