Mexico City (AFP) – A dispute has erupted over toy company Mattel’s new Frida Kahlo Barbie doll, with the late Mexican artist’s family and a Miami-based corporation arguing over who holds the rights to her image.
Mattel raised eyebrows, and indeed unibrows, on Wednesday when it announced that Kahlo — a brilliant painter famous for defying gender norms — would be included in its newest collection of Barbie dolls.
Released just ahead of International Women’s Day, the “Inspiring Women” collection includes dolls based on Kahlo, pioneer aviatrix Amelia Earhart and other historic figures.
But Kahlo’s family soon issued a statement objecting to the doll.
“Mrs Mara Romeo, great-niece of Frida Kahlo, is the sole owner of the rights of the image of the illustrious Mexican painter Frida Kahlo,” it said.
“The company Mattel does not have the proper authorization to use the image of Frida Kahlo,” it said, threatening to take “necessary measures” against the California-based toymaker.
Romeo said the problem went deeper than just a dispute over image rights.
“I would have liked the doll to have traits more like Frida’s, not this doll with light-colored eyes… It should be a doll that represents everything my aunt represented, her strength,” she told AFP.
However, an American company called the Frida Kahlo Corporation insisted it was the legitimate owner of the rights.
“Mattel has worked in close partnership with the Frida Kahlo Corporation, the owner of all rights related to the name and identity of Frida Kahlo, on the creation of this doll,” it said in a statement.
Romeo’s lawyer Pablo Sangri said the family established the Frida Kahlo Corporation in partnership with another company called Casablanca Distributors in 2005.
But the latter has violated their contract by failing to inform Kahlo’s relatives about the uses of her image, he told AFP.
The image of Kahlo and her instantly recognizable eyebrows — which she let grow into a single strip of dark brow in defiance of convention — has been stamped onto an explosion of consumer products in recent years: nail polish, bags, shoes, notebooks and much, much more.
Kahlo (1907-1954), the wife of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, is considered one of the great painters of the 20th century for her searingly intimate portraits, often dealing with her own pain and isolation.