Dearest Frida Kahlo,
It is your friend beauty. Allow me to recall a time you were 18 and vibrant in Mexico City, a polio survivor, you boarded a bus which then caused you to suffer from an accident that day that I know you will never forget, one that left your body pierced by a handrail. Your collarbone, spinal cord, ribs, pelvis, foot, leg, and genital were damaged severely. In a moment when many others could not bare to look at themselves, you instead adorned yourself by painting the cast you lived in for three months. When you weren’t in casts you were underneath surgical knives or in corsets. Despite the common use of corsets to create unnaturally tiny waists, you used them as support your spine failed to provide you with. Through the pain and suffering you portrayed in your paintings, you continued to depict yourself honestly. Bed ridden, with brush in hand, you braved the task of confronting yourself with each canvas placed before you.
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
After completing your portraits, you appeared at your gallery opening, bedridden and too sick to speak because nothing could keep you from such a momentous occasion. Later, you suffered the tragedy of the loss of your child to a miscarriage. You found out you were unable to bear children. Then, when gangrene plagued your foot, and amputation left you even more broken, you endured yet another tremendous loss. Frida, you have been battered by life, yet you breathe, you dance, you paint, you limp, you love, you create, and you live in the essence of all that I am. You called yourself the muse you know best, and I see myself enveloped in this idea. Your life and legacy is an intimate and fantastic self-portrait, a beautiful autobiography recorded in paint.
“I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.”
They say I am fair skin, hairless, and thin. They say my hair is tame, long and straight. They say I am symmetrical, well constructed, and whole, a puzzle with every piece in its box. But, I am not always the wax that uproots hair. For you, I was that which brought it forth between your brow, above your lip, on your legs and between them. You have met me in your reflection in the mirror. You have felt me beyond your broken rib beating steadily with your heart. You have created me in your paintings, and summoned me when you could not find me. Tragedy buried seeds in your back, and I bloomed in the form of the wings you imagined for yourself when the world took your feet. I recall Zora Neale Hurston describing love, “like the sea. It’s a moving thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from the shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” You made me see myself that way. I have since meeting you come to define myself differently with every human being I reside in.
You said you thought there must be someone like you who feels as damaged who is thinking of you. I think “she” is like you bizarre. I think she is in pain. I think she is searching for me. She is searching for herself and she is so many women. I think she is thinking of you, that she will know your name and when she does she will find me. I want her to cease all her bargaining and negotiations with God, and worse humans, for a place in their beauty pageant. You have taught me that the one who can face herself has deemed the right to call herself beautiful.
“Feet, what do I need them for, If I have wings to fly.”
“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 damaged 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 you read this and know that yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
Those who know you now rejoice. Because of you there are beauty revolutionaries taking the pieces of me that belong to them. They are molding me into what they please. They are not changing to fit in holes carved by others. They are carving shapes in places so that they may fit. You wrote letters to Diego Rivera, the man you loved, and now I sit here inside every woman going unknown, going unseen, reaching out to you. I want to thank what forces brought you into the world to redefine who I am.