They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who became one of the most famous women in history of Latin America. Apart from creating great works of art, was also a poet.
The ones who personally knew her, described her as “one of history’s grand divas, a tequila heavy drinker, dirty joke-telling smoker, a bohemian who threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera.”
If I were to introduce her, I would say she is an icon of strength, a victim of love and a genius in art.
Being my great inspiration in life, I regard Frida Kahlo as a school of lessons. After many years of admiration for Frida Kahlo, I can finally put on paper what this woman taught me:
Love is forgiveness.
“I had two big accidents in my life: The trolley and Diego; Diego is by far the worse.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Frida was the wife of Diego Rivera, the muralist who was best known for his endless love affairs with women. He was a womanizer who had serious problems with infidelity.
Although none of Frida’s friends nor parents approved of this awkward union, Frida still married Diego. She kept on loving him despite all the pain he caused her.
Frida teaches us that love is forgiveness.
She might not have said it out loud, but staying with him throughout her life, shows us that she did forgive him every time he cheated on her.
Love where you come from
Frida was born to a German father and a Mexican mother who was of mostly indigenous descent. Her love of these mix of cultures is evident in every aspect of Frida’s life, from her art to her sense of style to the way she decorated her home. Frida proudly dressed in traditional Mexican styles, and her home was teeming with Mexican folk art and pre-hispanic artifacts.
Love is unexplainable.
“…the marriage of Frida and Diego is like the union between an elephant and a dove.” ~ Frida’s mother, Matilde Calderon
Whenever I have a discussion about Frida’s life with someone, I always get the same question: “Why did she love him?”
Frida loved Diego for reasons no one understood and she remained faithful in her love for him up until the day she died.
Sometimes people think we fall for the wrong person, but in our own eyes, they’re always right for us. Diego was 42-years-old and 300 pounds while Frida was 22 and 98 pounds. He cheated on her, had little time for her and yet she loved him.
If each one of us looks back at our own experiences, we can understand Frida’s love for Diego. We can never explain the love we had (and maybe still have) for people who hurt us or left us but we can definitely feel it. Frida simply taught me that love is unexplainable.
Life, however painful, is worth living
Frida lived a difficult life shaped by crippling pain. She suffered from polio as a young girl, leaving one of her legs withered and stunted.
“I AM HAPPY TO BE ALIVE AS LONG AS I CAN PAINT.”
Then, at 18, Frida was in a horrific trolley-car accident that would force her to wear a corset to support her spine for the rest of her life. After that, not one day of her life was free from pain.
Yet Frida loved to live. For years of her life she was completely bedridden, the view of her home’s courtyard (which she watched from a mirror hung on the wall above her bed) her only real contact with the outside world—and still she did not surrender to pain or to sorrow. “I am not sick. I am broken,” she wrote in her diary. “But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”
“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to.” ~ Frida Kahlo
To love yourself means to remember yourself, no matter what the circumstances are.
Frida married a man who had little time for her, due to the busy life he lead. She married a man who cheated on her and left her in agony. She suffered from polio, underwent three abortions and had an accident that tucked her away in bed for numerous years.
We live in a time where we’re instantly bedridden if we have a tiny headache. Frida had a broken spine, wore a corset most of her life, had an amputated leg and still she managed to paint.
With all this emotional and physical pain, Frida never forgot herself. She loved herself immensely that she always kept herself busy with painting. Although she loved Diego, she didn’t accept being a doormat who waited for him at home crying. In retaliation, she loved herself enough to go out, make affairs and pleasure herself just the way Diego pleased himself.
Embrace what makes you special, even if it’s “odd”
Frida, with her signature unibrow and hairy upper lip, was not “conventionally attractive.” Still, if she was criticized for it, Frida didn’t bat an eye, nor did she ever make an effort to change herself for the benefit of others. Frida painted her thick brow into her own self-portraits, with the understanding that it was part of what made her her. She found power in radical self-acceptance, telling the world it shouldn’t dare try to change her.
Know when to quit.
“I am not sick… I am broken.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Diego had many affairs with many women. But one affair finally pushed Frida to quit. In 1934, after having her third abortion, Frida learned that Diego cheated on her with her younger sister, Cristina.
Afterward, they separated for almost four years and Frida led a life away from Diego.
Frida teaches us that it’s okay not to let go too soon but one must know when it’s time to quit.
Life is better with color
Frida loved color. Her house, which she shared with famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, was a striking royal blue. Reds, oranges, yellows, and greens are found even in the unhappiest of her art. More than that, she dressed in brightly colored clothing and cut flowers fresh from her garden to wear in her hair. Frida’s life, no matter how painful, was vibrant and full of laughter and brightness. We can all learn from the way she chose beauty over sadness and color over pain
Suffering is consciousness in disguise.
“I drank to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learnt how to swim.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was plagued by illness starting at a young age. At 18 she went through a tough accident that left her with a broken spine, a fractured vaginal structure. She had hundreds of injuries and died critically ill with pneumonia.
Mentally, emotionally and physically, Frida Kahlo went through intense suffering. And though we don’t realize it, Frida was more conscious than many of us are today.
Her pain was her gate to higher realizations—realizations that we only find through books nowadays. Frida found them through pain.
Never apologize for your strength
Frida famously (or perhaps infamously) said, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.” This woman was a boss. She endured so much more than I (or any of us) could possibly imagine and yet she still came out swinging.
“I WAS BORN A BITCH. I WAS BORN A PAINTER.”
She was not silent, she was not demure, she did not worry that her strength or power or success might be intimidating to others. Frida never apologized for her strength, her art, her politics, or her sexuality…and she didn’t need to. She simply was who she was.
Keeping a diary is healthy.
“I never paint dreams or nightmares; I paint my own reality.” ~ Frida Kahlo
People usually underestimate the importance of keeping a diary. I bet Frida wouldn’t have been able to live as long if she didn’t let out her pain.
There is only one thing that can truly kill us and it’s called “sadness.” If sadness isn’t expressed, it has the capability of ending a body’s life faster than any disease.
Frida Kahlo is the first in history to write a diary with a brush on canvas. She also kept written diaries with drawings for the last 10 years of her life.
Frida teaches us to express, to paint, to write, to do anything to let out our anger and sadness. She teaches us to make something out of our pain—something beautiful.
Don’t be ashamed of your style.
Frida was regarded as an icon of beauty in Mexico. She was known for her extensive style with her colorful clothes and extraordinary hair braids.
The unibrow and the mustache that people make fun of today, are the very elements that made Frida unique. She left her armpits untouched and decorated her shoulders with fantastic Tehuana dresses.
Frida was best known for her red lipstick, red nail polish and the beautiful smell of perfume that she wore. Kids in her neighborhood used to know she was passing by when they started smelling roses.
Frida taught us to be unique in our style and comfortable in our own skin. She taught us to simply be ourselves.
Don’t get attached to your plans.
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
~ Frida Kahlo
Frida never planned to become an artist. Until she was 18, she was planning to become a doctor and attended a prestigious school that only had 35 girls out of 2,000 students—Frida was among them.
The accident she had at the age of 18 changed the course of her life forever. As a result of being bedridden with a corset, her father gave her his brushes and paint and constructed an easel for her so she can paint while she was in bed.
Just like Frida says, “everything changes, everything moves.” We never know how or when our life can change. Hence, never plan and get attached to your plans.
Women have an abundance strength inside.
“At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ Frida Kahlo
I highly believe that women are stronger than men in many aspects and Frida Kahlo stands out today to prove this notion for us.
She is an example of how much a woman can undergo and still be able to stand on her two feet.
With a man who sucked the energy out of her system and an accident that left her with hundreds of injuries and deadly illnesses, Frida teaches us that women are a pile of strength.
“I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Frida was an outgoing person who used wise words in her conversations. She loved to smoke, drink tequila and sing off-color songs to guests at the many parties she hosted.
Despite the fact that the doctors tests on her revealed a severe kidney infection, anemia, exhaustion and alcoholism, Frida remained a person who drank, smoked and had fun.
The bottle of tequila and cigarettes never quit her hand.
She held them until her last breath. She just didn’t care much about the consequences. She went through a lot and lost a lot that there was nothing more to lose—she let go, and this is what made her the great Frida.