Graphic and colorful, Frida Kahlo has become the favorite accessory of our interiors. However, in many ways, the woman who has become an icon of feminism is a far cry from the clean, stylized image sold in stores or online for a few dollars.
An accomplished artist, openly bisexual and married to a man 20 years her senior, Frida Kahlo represents the strong woman, fighting despite her physical handicap, independent and breaking with social conventions. In short, Frida carries all the values of feminism, without any cliché. Except that on a closer look, she has also, somewhat ironically, become a pop icon. The subject of “Fridamania” is not new. Already in 2018, at the time of the release of “Frida Barbie”, the contradiction between the polished image of the Mattel doll, in contrast with the life of the Latina artist, was controversial. In his recent book Feminism Wash, French journalist and author Léa Lejeune sheds new light on what lies behind the commercial exploitation of feminist values by brands.
From a painter of indigenous origin, the artist has become a pop icon. “It looks like a Christmas catalog without imagination: postcards, fridge magnets, sneakers, dishes, jewelry, suitcases, planters or bath towels… From € 5 to € 200, there is something for everyone. eBay lists 87,000 items related to Frida Kahlo and 50,000 to Amazon. It is also in vogue on the craft site Etsy with 16,500 visits, ”notes the journalist.
Is the commercial craze for Frida so worrying? For Léa Lejeune, this image which has become “mainstream”, like Madonna, would not be dramatic if it were not in total contradiction with the values and the life of the Mexican artist: “Isn’t it ironic to to put the artist’s face on a bottle of tequila when she was struggling with alcoholism? How do you sell yoga pants with the image of someone who had their leg amputated at the end of their life?
Frida Kahlo Company
When she died in 1954, Frida was not yet a star. She was certainly recognized as a strong Latin artistic figure, but it was not until the early 2000s with the release of the eponymous film with Salma Hayek that she was thrown into the limelight. And while her works have been left to her husband Diego Rivera, her name, signature and image have been deposited by her family.
“Carlos Dorado, at the head of several companies in fashion, real estate and commerce, and his niece Isolda Pinedo Kahlo created, in 2004, the Frida Kahlo Corporation (FKC), a company based in Florida which owns all commercial rights to its image, ”we learn in Feminism wash. From her small village of Coyoacan, which has since merged with Mexico City, the painter has become an American multinational.
And the timing of the creation of the firm is far from being a coincidence, since it comes just after the release of the film directed by Julie Taymor. The FKC plays a fundamental role in the image of Frida Kahlo, since any company that wants to market a product must go through this corporation.
“Never apologize for who you are”
Another problem addressed by the author is the altered image used in the wares relating to the artist. It has been erased and smoothed by the brands that use it, to adapt to more current criteria. So the unibrow and the mustache she proudly sported were styled and toned down. Her complexion was also brightened. But this aesthetic and political makeover has not escaped everyone. In 2019, the launch of an Ultra Beauty makeup line, with a watered-down Frida and accompanied by the slogan “Never apologize for who you are”, caused an uproar on the web. The firm vaguely justified this by specifying that the images used were original and not retouched, including the famous eyebrow. Yet this is a justification which, at first glance, seems somewhat confusing …
Despite online protests from some engaged consumers, the opposition between the watered-down image of Frida and her atypical life – poles apart from that of a Barbie (after all, Frida was once Trotsky’s mistress) – is not Not that easy. . Léa Lejeune sees a “confirmation bias” in this, where “each of the people who consume this reconstituted character sees a confirmation of their lifestyle and their subordinate beliefs by unconsciously erasing the rest”.
An opinion shared by Sylvie Borau, professor of Marketing at Toulouse Business School, questioned by the Inrockuptibles on the subject: “Frida had a side [that said] “I don’t care about my appearance” by refusing to wax, for example, but at the same time she was very elegant and was wearing makeup. It’s contradictory ! She was in this duality [and] it is a trend that is making a strong comeback today.
Communist Frida would she have appreciated this consumerist craze around her image? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it still adorns many living room walls.
(Main and Featured Image: GONZALEZ SUSANA GONZALEZ / AFP)
This story was posted via AFP Relaxnews.