By Guillermo Kahlo – Wikimedia

Top 10 Surprising Facts about Frida Kahlo


Frida Kahlo was a popular artist and a feminist later in her life. She made a name for herself in the art scene not only in Mexico but also globally. Frida used her art to express human suffering, especially after her bus accident.

Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocan, Mexico City, Mexico. Her father was half German while her mother was half Mexican and half Spanish. Her parents met in Mexico. She had two older siblings and a younger sister.

She has a life story that has become just as popular as her art. Her life story has inspired several biography books and an Oscar-winning film. Other than art, Frida set the trend when it came to fashion.

One feature about her that stood out was her unibrow and she was not particularly shy about her sexuality. She expressed herself through art by using realistic and vibrantly coloured self-portraits. Frida said she loved self-portraits because she was the only person she knew best.

There are more surprising facts about Frida Kahlo, read them below.

1. She was half German and half Spanish

By Guillermo Kahlo – Wikimedia

Frida Kahlo birth names were Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón. Her German name is Frieda which means peace. In 1953, she dropped the e in her name and went by Frida.

Her father, Wilhelm, was a German photographer who migrated to Mexico in 1891. He met her mother, Matilde, fell in love and got married. Her mother had Spanish and Indian American background.

Frida’s mother was very religious and was strict in the upbringing of her children. Although Frida loved her mother, she was not a big fan of her religious beliefs. 

2. Frida got into the painting by accident

By Guillermo Kalho – Wikimedia

Frida was daddy’s girl. She spent most of her time helping her father when he worked on his photography. This made her get interested in art. Frida even took drawing classes but did not think much of it.

It was only after she had a bus accident that she considered art. While recovering from the accident, Frida began painting on an easel while seated in bed.

She would place a mirror in front of her and paint her image, this gave rise to the several self-portraits she did.  

Growing up, she wanted to be a doctor. The dream was crushed when she got into an accident when she was 18 years old. Frida survived the accident although several of her bones were crushed.

She had more than 30 surgeries amid the constant pain she went through.

3. A wooden bus accident left Frida in bad shape

Frida, at 18 years old, was travelling on a bus with her boyfriend. The bus was made of wood. They got into a terrible accident when the bus collided with a streetcar.

The bus shattered into several pieces, leaving Frida with a metal piece piercing her hip. She also broke her spinal cord, collarbone, ribs, pelvis and dislocated her shoulder. It was ironic that she had originally intended to care for others but spent the rest of her life as a patient.

4. Her injuries inspired her art

By Guillermo Kalho – Wikimedia

Being in bed nursing injuries can be quiet and bring with it lots of bore dome. To kill the bore dome, Frida used art to express herself, her pain and her wounds.

She painted her raw and emotional self-portraits. Her theme evolved from pain, disability, injury and fragility. Frida’s most famous painting is the Broken Column. This painting depicted her shattered spine and looked like fissures.

Another famous painting by Frida is Without Hope. She expressed her lack of appetite when recuperating. Her doctor prescribed that she force-feed on a fattening puree every two hours 

Later in life, Frida suffered several miscarriages and she documented them in her paintings. The bus accident left her with a damaged uterus.

5. Her dream job was to be a doctor

By Toni Frissell – Wikimedia

Although Frida grew up working on several art pieces with her father, she was more fascinated by the sciences and biology. Her dream career was to become a doctor.

While working with her father who was a photographer, she got interested in art at a very early age. When she was 6, she got polio and it disrupted her childhood. Frida’s right leg was paralysed.

Her schoolmates nicknamed her Frida the gimp because she had a limp in her walk. At 16, she was one of the lucky 35 students to be accepted into a prestigious school in Mexico.  

6.  She painted more than 55 self-portraits

In her entire art career, Frida Kahlo created 143 paintings. Among these, 55 of them were self-portraits. The self-portraits came about after she was always spending most of her time alone.

Frida’s self-portraits are believed to be among the finest ever created. Two of her famous self-portraits are Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.

She spent most of her recuperating time at her parent’s place. They knew she loved art and therefore asked for a custom-made easel that she used while lying down.  

The self-portraits became the voice of her pain.

7. Frida Kahlo hardly smiled in her portraits

By Guillermo Kalho – Wikimedia

Frida Kahlo’s expression in her portraits was neutral. She always seemed distant and never smiled in any of them. It is believed that Frida hated her teeth and smile.

This way, Frida was able to show the raw emotions that she underwent both physically and psychologically. It showed her fragility and pain after the accident.  

During this time. Frida became a trendsetter since the most artist of her time never expressed their emotions.

8. Frida was sexually attracted to both men and women

By Wikimedia

As an artist, Frida used art to express her sexuality. Although she was married to Rivera, the two were not faithful to each other. Frida had sexual relations with both men and women.

Her husband, on the other hand, had an affair with Frida’s younger sister which angered Frida. Frida and Rivera divorced in 1939 but surprisingly remarried again despite the constant cheating. Only death separated them.

Frida wore a gender-neutral dress and this made her an iconic figure among the LGBQ community. She also loved her Mexican roots always wore a traditional dress. 

Some of her extra-curricular activities included dancing, socializing and flirting. She had an affair with Isamu Noguchi, an American Sculptor. They remained lifelong friends. 

Frida also had a public affair with Josephine Baker when she visited Paris.

9. She is a celebrated feminist

Frida was only acclaimed as a feminist after her death. In the 1970s, most feminists were drawn to her work and her reputation. Feminists embraced her self-portraits as her depiction of the female experience.

They also acknowledged her depiction of herself and not letting any other person define her. Despite her injuries, she showed self-love by capturing her moustache and unibrow in her paintings.  

10. Frida was a style icon

By CNOVIO – Wikimedia

Frida’s distinguishing personal style was very influential in the world of fashion. She inspired designers like Raffaella Curiel, Maya Hansen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Dolce & Gabbana.

Her work was also featured by Vans in their 2019 shoe collection. Interestingly, Frida’s fashion was inspired by her disability and the scars she got after the bus accident. 

She was also featured on the cover of American Vogue in 1937 and Vogue Paris in 1939. The November 2012 issue of Vogue Mexico used a photo of her shot by Murray on their cover marking her 60th death anniversary.