Barbie has changed a great deal since the very first blonde disproportional doll was constructed 58 years ago, but not everyone was content with Mattel creating a new range of dolls especially not the Latino community. The toy manufacturer took it upon themselves to celebrate Women’s Day by creating a new range of dolls based on “inspiring women,” including Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson, and Amelia Earhart.
Once the dolls were unveiled there was an immediate uproar of criticism from Kahlo’s relatives and the Latino community, including Latin celebrities that are a fan of her beautiful art. One Latina that made her voice heard on the imagery of the new doll was Salma Hayek, who played Frida in one of her best roles yet. She shared an image of the doll with a caption that reads:
“#FridaKahlo never tried to be or look like anyone else. She celebrated her uniqueness. How could they turn her into a Barbie. No puedo creer que hayan hecho una Barbie de nuestra Friducha que nunca trato de parecerse a nadie y siempre celebro su originalidad.”
The main issue found with the doll is its appearance, as it does not showcase Frida’s intricate looks. In fact, many of the features that made her unique are completely removed.
The doll features the familiar floral crown Frida was commonly photographed in, braided jet-black hair, a flowing floral print dress paired with a fringed shawl and de rigueur earrings and necklace. However, lacking from the doll are her signature uni-brow, her upper lip hair that has become notorious, baubles that adorned most of her fingers due to long hours of painting, her numerous accident scars, and the doll appears much slimmer.
On Mattel’s website a statement on the doll was shared saying:
“The Barbie Inspiring Women Frida Kahlo doll celebrates the groundbreaking achievements, heroism and long-lasting contributions Frida made in the art world and for women. Her extraordinary life and art continues to influence and inspire others to follow their dreams and paint their own realities.”
Another issue pointed out by critics and those who loved Kahlo is the idea that she would’ve never wanted to be immortalized in a doll as it went against all of her core beliefs. To fully understand the discontent of the Latino community and all those who love her due to what she represents it is essential to dive into her background.
Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in Mexico, where she lived a regular childhood with dreams of being a doctor someday until she got caught in a surreal accident that changed the course of her life. At the age of 18, she and her boyfriend at the time were on a bus that was intersected by a train the horrific scene caused Kahlo to have multiple different injuries, including spinal column, ribs, pelvis, and a fractured right leg in 11 different places to name a few. The severe injuries left her with chronic pain for the rest of her life.
During her recovery, she decided to pick up her father’s paintbrush and the magic began. Kahlo started painting pieces of art that resembled her and what she was feeling at the time. One-third of her paintings were self-portraits that share with the world what she was enduring at the time. Many of the images show her heartbroken or grieving due to her tumultuous relationship with her husband and her inability to have children.
It wasn’t just her artwork that made a statement of who she was, it was her ability to share that she was not going to ever be defined by any definition, that she was going to always be a proud woman regardless of the cards she was dealt in life.
Frida Kahlo was not only a painter who used herself and her life as a muse, but she was also a communist who fought for her belief as well as for her people. It was her pride in who she was that makes her an icon of many today.
Which brings the questions of, has Mattel finally crossed the line, by creating a doll of a woman that never wanted to be defined by anyone or anything that wasn’t authentically herself? And is this another way for society to impose their beliefs on what beauty really should look like?
Keep reading in Spanish: Mattel crea muñeca Frida Kahlo y los latinos no están contentos