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Fridamania: Homage or Materialistic Commercialization?

By Erika Marquez

You’ve probably seen Frida Kahlo portrayed on a variety of products and images, ranging from artistic tributes, to merchandize like cell phone cases and jewelry, and everything else in between. She is immediately recognizable by her intense gaze, floral hairpieces, eccentric clothing, and her famous unibrow and mustache. When I was a little younger, I’ve always remembered seeing her and knowing who she was without actually knowing her; I just knew her as the famous Mexican painter who painted portraits of herself.

It wasn’t until I learned in college about her paintings and their connection to her life that I came to appreciate and look up to her as a female artist. She was a strong and powerful woman who endured through so much pain, from her bus injury and lifetime of physical pain, to the emotional pain she endured from her husband’s infidelities and miscarriages, yet she didn’t let it slow her down. She transcended societal norms and created her own identity that were considered taboo for women of her time. And she portrayed all her thoughts and experiences through her paintings. Now I understand why she is so prominent in today’s culture.

She was a badass. Her work is powerful and captivating. People are inspired by her. People identify with her. So much so that thousands have created things that pay tribute to her. She has inspired fashion lines, artwork, and photography. In addition, you can find almost anything with Frida’s face on it. Literally. From nail art, to tequila, to makeup bags, underwear and puppets. You name it, it’s out there.

Many people have jumped on the Fridamania bandwagon. After the release of a biography and movie that detailed Frida’s life, people were yearning to learn more about this Mexican goddess. Her life was so alluring, colorful and complicated. She was suddenly everywhere and on anything. She became an international icon.

It’s not surprising to think that even people who don’t even really know her or have some sort of personal connection to her buy anything that bears any reference to Frida on it. It makes it interesting to think if people or companies take advantage of this and use Frida’s allure to sell their products. She is such an iconic figure that one wouldn’t doubt that people out there have used her image to attract consumers for their own profit. But it’s hard to say.

It’s definitely questionable when people or organizations try to sell their Frida inspired products for large sums of money and make a large profit from them. Art lovers cringe over this idea, of people exploiting Frida to make money. Some say that if Frida were alive today, she wouldn’t have supported any of it.

Personally, I feel that I would question anything that just has her face plastered on the item. For example, the Frida Kahlo skin cream and the tequila. But I do support other artists who pay tribute to Frida through their work. Art that pays homage to Frida. Crafted items that people worked hard to create that are inspired by her. Handmade items. Fashion lines. Photography. In other words, I support such things because the people who created them are so moved by Frida that they feel the need to express it creatively. Frida is their muse. And they want to commemorate her through their work.

Whether people relate to her love for Mexico, for her strength and power during hard times, her unique identity, outward personality and style, her passion for love and art, and so on, people will continue to want to have a little piece of her in their lives.

Images via here, here, here, here, here