Frida Kahlos in New York City

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
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A woman channels her inner Frida.
A woman channels her inner Frida.
What struck me, as I looked at Francisco’s photos of the women who showed up for the Frida Kahlo look-alike contest at New York City’s La Casa Azul Bookstore, was how each woman embodied Frida.

I didn’t say looked like Frida. I said embodied.

Yes, there was the woman whose eyebrows did seem to arch and join in the way that school kids learning about Frida and men who are afraid of strong women find so uncomfortable they have to joke about her unibrow. But these women weren’t trying to be Frida. Instead, they were each, seemingly, trying to take inspiration from some aspect of Frida’s essence and channel it in her own unique way.

And it was interesting to me, too, what aspects of Frida’s identity or the images of Frida that we are most familiar with were appropriated and interpreted: the oversized jewelry, the intense expressions and fearless eye contact, and the monkey… the monkey! I must have looked at 20 photos before I saw the woman who had the monkey on her shoulder.

The Frida Kahlo look-alike contest was one of many events hosted by La Casa Azul bookstore, which describes itself as “grounded in Latino culture.” If you’re in New York City and want to visit the bookstore, it’s located at 143 E. 103rd Street.

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. The look-alike birthday celebration was held on July 7, 2012.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. The look-alike birthday celebration was held on July 7, 2012.

A contestant puts the finishing touches on her maquillaje.
A contestant puts the finishing touches on her maquillaje.

Notice the monkey on this Frida's shoulder? Frida Kahlo had a pet monkey named Fulang Chang, and monkeys appeared in several of her paintings.
Notice the monkey on this Frida's shoulder? Frida Kahlo had a pet monkey named Fulang Chang, and monkeys appeared in several of her paintings.
The contestants pose for a group shot, staying entirely "in character."
The contestants pose for a group shot, staying entirely "in character."
The contest over, the Fridas leave together and then go their separate ways.
The contest over, the Fridas leave together and then go their separate ways.

The complete set of Frida Kahlo look-alike photos is available for viewing on Flickr.

Published by

Julie Schwietert Collazo

Julie Schwietert Collazo and Francisco Collazo. For more information, please contact us: e-mail: collazoprojects@gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Frida Kahlos in New York City”

  1. Love this. I’m curious to know who won the contest. I think the woman front and center of the group shot captures Frida’s essence particularly well. I’m definitely adding this bookstore to my list of Mexico/Latin America related things to do whenever I get a chance to visit NYC again 😉

  2. Ekua- I’m not sure which one won (Francisco said he didn’t ask), but I agree with you. Each, though, has got some serious Frida going on!

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