The Surprising Thing You Never Knew About Lisa Frank
There's more to those iconic '90s rainbow lions and tigers and bears than you thought!
If you were a child of the '90s—or the parent or grandparent of one—then you're definitely familiar with the name Lisa Frank. The brand synonymous with glittery rainbows, tuxedo-clad teddy bears, and bikini-wearing bananas was a staple of the '90s. Frank's designs—yes, Lisa Frank is her real name—were all over Trapper Keepers, pillows, fanny packs, and stickers (so many stickers) throughout the decade. And as the '90s themselves have had a resurgence in recent years, Lisa Frank's designs have, too. Kitten-covered coloring books are being sold at Urban Outfitters and bright leopard-print sheets are selling out at Walmart. But even if you were a Frankophile in the '90s, chances are there's still one thing in particular you don't know about Lisa Frank: Those oh-so-cute characters of hers are all named after real people and designed to represent them. In fact, two of the most beloved Lisa Frank characters are modeled after her sons, one of whom is carrying on his mom's legacy by running the brand's Instagram.
In 2012, as the Lisa Frankaissance started to take hold, Urban Outfitters headed out to Tucson, Arizona, where the brand has long been headquartered, to talk to the notoriously private Lisa Frank. In the interview, which went viral at the time, Frank revealed details about the origins of her characters. "We actually really try to base our characters off of people who are in our lives or who have been in our lives, and sometimes it's in memory. We ask people first," Frank said. That said, no one's declined. "People are actually begging us, 'Can you do a character with my name?'"
There were, however, two people near and dear to Frank's rainbow-filled heart who were born to be adorable cartoon animals. "My two favorite characters are Hunter and Forrest, who are based off my kids," Frank told Urban Outfitters. Hunter is the rainbow-spotted leopard and Forrest is the sunset-toned tiger seen all over Frank's work.
"We had created both characters before the boys were born, and then when they were born, we thought, 'Oh my gosh, they really do fit their personalities!'" she said.
Franks' sons—Hunter Green and Forrest Green—are now in their 20s. Hunter is a research programmer, but Forrest, the younger of the two, is now actually deeply tied to the family business. The 21-year-old UCLA graduate is the director of business development and partnerships at Lisa Frank, but what he's secretly best known for is running the brand's Instagram, which famously leaves hilarious comments on celebrity posts, from Miley Cyrus to Chrissy Teigen.
In Aug. 2019, Elle interviewed Forrest about how he helped revive the Lisa Frank brand. "I've been involved with the business for a long, long time. I started going to [company] meetings when I was six and really getting involved in meetings when I was eight," he told the magazine.
"I originally started the Instagram when I was in high school," Forrest continued. Though he wasn't always posting regularly, in early 2019, he started getting more active on Instagram, helping Lisa Frank's relevancy rise again.
While he's been worried about perceived nepotism through the years, Forrest told Elle, "I can't say that I deserve to be in this position. But I can say that I'm very committed to doing something great with it. I'm very grateful to be in this position. For whatever reason—just because I was born into it, raised in it—the company really is who I am and what I stand for."
He admits his elusive mom isn't the most social-media savvy, though he does try to get her involved. "I'm very open with her to be like, 'Go look at some stuff. If you like it, put it in your saved things and we'll talk about it later,'" he said. "To be honest with you, it ends up being videos of golden retriever puppies." Yep, that sounds about right. And if you can't get enough '90s nostalgia, check out What the Little Girl From Those '90s Pepsi Commercials Looks Like Now.