Frida isn’t a commodity, she was a person who fought against materialistic consumerism.
As someone who has spent almost 20 years studying the life and art of Frida Kahlo, I’ve mused for hours over what her doll version would look. Here’s the Frida doll I’ve imagined: Since she spent so much time in a wheelchair due to illness and so many surgeries, her doll would have to come with one as an accessory.
Accessories would also include a back brace, body cast, and washable paints so you could draw on her as she did herself. Her right foot to knee would be detachable, and modeled after the red boot prosthesis she designed and painted herself. Her clothing would be ethically sourced from the same villages she commissioned them in Mexico and would be an entire line all of its own to accompany the doll, as well as a variety of hairstyles and headdresses.
The doll’s eyebrows would be thick and meet in the middle, and she would have a shadow above her upper lip. Underneath her elaborate outfit, Frida’s doll would be criss-crossed with a variety of scars across her legs, pelvis, belly, and back; Frida suffered her entire life and her avatar would need to represent all the physical pain that inspired and informed her art. The doll would come with a booklet explaining all of this, and would be written in a way that encourages people to go learn more about her rather than just consuming her image because she’s hip now.
But since we can’t have nice things (ever), Mattel created the exact opposite of a doll honoring Frida Kahlo. Instead of looking even a little like Frida, they have made her into an actual Barbie. Her unibrow is softened as are her striking features, and there is no evidence of her disabilities at all. In a nutshell, Frida has been grotesquely whitewashed.
Having been a fierce Communist until her death, she would despise this consumerist and capitalist "tribute" to her life and work on so many levels. Everything that Frida did in her self-presentation eschewed Western standards of beauty. She refused to pluck her brows or wax her face; she didn’t shave her underarms or legs. She rarely wore makeup and instead focused on layering away her pained body under handmade textiles from remote villages in Mexico, almost single-handedly bringing some of these traditional weaving methods back from cultural extinction.
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