Frida Kahlo is an undisputed icon - as an artist, activist, and visionary human being, everything that she continues to stand for is worthy of attention. But like most historically significant women, much of her legacy has been reduced to her face and her style, and while Kahlo did serve a whole lot of looks in her day, the reduction of her memory to mere appearance is definitely diminutive.
This is why cosmetic brand MISSHA's soon-to-launch "Frida Kahlo x MISSHA The Original Tension Compact" is perhaps causing some of us to frown and consider the way in which the commercial fashion and beauty industry has largely bastardized what Kahlo stood for. It is already common to see her face reproduced on a wide range of kitschy merchandise, often photoshopped or redrawn to reduce the appearance of facial hair, whiten her skin, or heighten her bone structure; as Kahlo was both a feminist and a communist, altering her appearance to make her commercially salient feels antithetical.
Likewise, a significant reason why Kahlo is so beloved by modern feminists is because of her eschewal of homogeneous feminine beauty standards. Kahlo once said:
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you."
The idea, then, that her name should be used to sell foundation of all things feels at best inauthentic and at worst, completely insensitive.
The inclination to wear Frida Kahlo's face on your t-shirt or buy a mug painted with her eyebrows because you believe in her work/politics may be well-intentioned, but the beauty industry's co-optation of her feminist status is not - it is profit-driven. This mainstream acceptance of feminism is definitely progress, but it is important for consumers to be wary of when it is being used as a means and not an end. Women are mighty and powerful, but let's see this celebrated by getting cities, schools, and awards named after female icons, not just makeup compacts.