Updated: Mar 12
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón Rivera was a painter who "had an innate love for life in the face of pain and suffering". In this exciting time of Women’s History Month, I am elated to focus on this Mexican woman who has inspired women for generations. Her story has universal appeal to women, to those who suffer from physical, emotional, psychological pain and desire passion in life, which means everyone.
Born on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City, Mexico in the borough of Coyoacan (I am a July baby as well) to Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, a German immigrant of either Jewish/Hungarian ancestry and prominent photographer and his second wife, Matilde Calderon, Spanish/indigenous Mexican woman. Frida had two sisters, Adriana (older) and younger (Cristina) and lived through the Mexican Revolution, which impacted their family income since Guillermo's government commissions for his photography work ceased. They had to mortgage their house, sell off nice furniture and take in borders at times.
Frida was stricken with polio at age 6 and was bedridden for many months. Subsequently---introverted, played with herself and her imaginary friends. Post-recovery, her right leg was shorter and thinner for the rest of her life and she would wear socks to hide the deformity. She was teased by children and called "Peg Leg Frida of Coyoacan of the Coyotes" and moved past it by owning the name. Frida was described as being a fiery, capricious and natural leader.
On September 17, 1925, Frida and her friend were riding in a bus when it crashed into a street trolley car that had veered off the tracks and exploded. It was a horrible accident and some people died, while many others were injured. Frida survived, although she suffered multiple fractures in her spinal column, pelvis, collar bone and also broke her right leg.
She endured two years of treatment to correct her spine, wore constrictive corsets make of plaster, leather or metal. She was bedridden, so her father bought her painting supplies and her mother ordered a special easel that enabled her to paint lying down. They attached a mirror to her bed's canopy so she could see herself and create self-portraits. To pass the time, she would paint and write letters.
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best" – Frida Kahlo
Frida started dating Diego Rivera in 1928 and they got married the next year - much to her mother's objection - due to Diego's reputation as a womanizer. Diego also already had a child. Frida was 22 years old and he was twice her age.
Frida traveled with Diego when he was commissioned to paint murals in NYC for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Detroit Institute of Arts, Rockefeller Center and more. She supported him and painted some of her own works while Diego painted his commercial works.
Post marriage, she began to wear indigenous Mexican clothing from many parts of Mexico including from the Oaxaca region, where her mother was from. The Oaxacan Tehuanas are known to be strong and independent woman, so it worked for her. Their dresses were long so they concealed her physical impairments.
In 2014, I spoke at a conference called EMTECH sponsored by MIT in Mexico City and visited the Frida Kahlo Museum before I left. It was there that I learned about her pain, disablement, and miscarriages, which resonated with me on a personal level since I had experienced some myself. It was there, that I purchased my first Frida piece of art.
Frida created 143 paintings out of which 55 are self-portraits, which showcased her physical and psychological wounds. More to the story---the Louvre exhibited her art in 1939 which made her the 1st 20th Century Artist to be purchased by an internationally renowned museum.
I increasingly began to collect Frida art over the years and incorporate her into my family interior design décor.
According to an Artsy.net article written by Tess Thackara, Frida Kahlo has become a global symbol of resilience against adversity and patriarchal oppression. She is a feminist and cultural icon for indigenous Mexican culture. Vanity Fair considered her to be a "politically correct heroine for every wounded minority".
Hence, her personal brand radiated to a point that it is a corporate brand that will live on forever.
If want to learn hear how Frida Kahlo’s personal brand became an authentic global powerhouse, you can hear much more of the story in the Brand Authenticity Masterclass. You will also gain other powerful nuggets to help you improve both your personal and company brand impact.
Brand Rebirth is a purpose-driven brand consulting and virtual learning firm. We are a certified Women-Owned Business that provides 1:1 Consulting to mid-size businesses and brand masterclasses via Rebirth U to women business-owners and corporate teams.
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Tanika Vital-Pringle is the Founder and Chief Brand Strategist of Brand Rebirth. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanika-vital-pringle-global-mba-483116/
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