1. Reading Guide
Frida - The Biography of Frida Kahlo
Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican
painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist
whose sensual vibrancy came straight from her own experiences: her childhood near
Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution; a devastating accident at age eighteen that left
her crippled and unable to bear children; her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego
Rivera and intermittent love affairs with men as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Leon
Trotsky; her association with the Communist Party; her absorption in Mexican folklore and
culture; and her dramatic love of spectacle.
About the Author
Hayden Herrera is an art historian. She has lectured widely, curated several exhibitions of
art, taught Latin American art at New York University, and has been awarded a
Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of numerous articles and reviews for such
publications as Art in America, Art Forum, Connoisseur, and the New York Times, among
others. Her books include Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo; Mary Frank; and Matisse: A
Portrait. She is working on a critical biography of Arshile Gorky. She lives in New York
Topics to Consider
1. Discuss Frida's obsession with death and the symbolism of death throughout the book.
All during her life, Frida found death attractive, alluring. Even when she was very
young, when she still found it frightening, even then, death fascinated her.
2. Discuss the relationship between Frida and Diego. Do you think that the volatility of
their passion fueled their art?
3. After the unattractive physical description of Diego Rivera what you think attracted both
Frida and Cristina to him? Besides being highly sexual, do you feel there was love
between these people? Was there intimacy? Or was it merely a physical act? Do you
think that Cristina betrays Frida and has an affair with Diego to prove something to her
after years of living in her shadow?
4. What do you feel that Frida's obsession with creating self-portraits said about her?
2. 5. From the moment of a bus accident when she was 18, Frida Kahlo endured constant
pain, numerous hospitalizations, and many operations. How do you think Frida's
physical pain influenced her life and her work?
6. Explore Frida and Diego's commitment to Communism. Do you feel that they embraced
Communism as a true calling, or a socially chic issue?
7. Are you drawn to read and learn more about Frida after reading this book? Does
reading this book make you want to view her work? Do you feel this work will have
more meaning to you after reading this book?
Salma Hayek talks about the movie quot;Fridaquot; - interview with Rebecca Murray and
Fred Topel (www.about.com)
Producer Nancy Hardin optioned the film rights to Hayden Herrera's extensively
researched biography, quot;Frida,quot; when the book was originally released in 1983. No studio
was interested in the project at that time, though Hardin shopped the project around
It was not until Frida Kahlo's work exploded into popularity during the early 1990s, that
interest in a movie based on her life took off. Hardin recalls, quot;There was a period in 1993
when I'd gone around and gotten the usual 'no's,' and then I came back three months later
and everyone had a 'Frida' script. From no one to everyone. It was incredible.quot;
Salma Hayek, a longtime fan of Kahlo's work, heard that quot;La Bamba'squot; director Luis
Valdez was set to direct a Frida film. She went after the title role but was told she was too
young for the part. In words that would eventually prove to be prophetic, Hayek replied,
quot;Then you are going to have to wait until I'm old enough.quot;
Valdez' Frida project never came to fruition, however in the meantime, Hayek had proved
her bankability with starring roles in quot;Desperadoquot; and quot;From Dusk Til Dawn.quot; In 1997,
producer Hardin signed a deal with Trimark Pictures, and Trimark Pictures signed Hayek
to star in and produce their quot;Frida.quot;
SALMA HAYEK (Frida Kahlo)
You've been passionate about this project for a long time.
What was it about this woman that really inspired you?
There was something about the woman and there was something about the time the
woman lived in. About the woman: her courage to be unique. She was never conventional
about anything she did. She was always herself and it was not easy. She started exploring
her womanhood at a very early age. She got caught with a librarian right before the
accident. She was not allowed to go back to the school after the accident because of this.
It's not in any books, but Alejandro [Gomez Arias] said, quot;How could you do this to me?
How could you do this, period?quot; She said, quot;That's who I am.quot;
3. She was never apologetic about who she was. She did little paintings that nobody liked.
She lived with this monster of the art. She was not influenced by what he was doing; she
never changed. Even though people would never buy it, she kept true to her own style.
I think also, the fact that she took all these different tragedies or difficulties and made the
best out of them. [She] not only made the best out of them, but did it in an interesting way.
From paint, she did art and poetry. From the infidelities of her husband, she found
Could you relate to her?
I would like to learn from her. It is definitely an inspiration and I'd like to take it in. I'm
working on it.
What did you do to physically get into the role? Did you actually shave your upper
I did that but it didn't work. Now, I'm stuck with it. I had a shoe that was one centimeter
taller than the other one. It was very difficult to know exactly where she stood on the
limping. I talked to many people that knew her and some people would say she never
limped, some people would say she always limped, and some people would say she
limped sometimes. So what I did is have the shoe bigger than the other one and then try
not to limp, try to hide it. But then at times when I thought she was very tired or going
through a hard time, I would surrender to whatever that did naturally. I'd stop trying.
Do you believe the romance between Frida and Diego Rivera was based on
obsession or passion?
I think there was always passion. I think there were very profound elements that
transformed the passion, not just for sexuality, but they really had passion for each other in
many different levels. The passion was not just passion but actually transformed into true
love. I think these people learned, through the years, to accept each other exactly as they
were and to love each other exactly for what they were.
I think that Frida was the only woman that kept challenging Diego for the right reasons -
and she always surprised him. I think he truly believed she was a genius and he was the
only one who had a vision for it, or the strongest vision for it. When he dies, he leaves a
document that says the house that they lived in, the blue house, has to become a museum
for Frida Kahlo. Had it not been for his vision, we probably would have never discovered
Frida - if she hadn't had that museum. He knew that at the time she was not appreciated,
but he knew there was going to come a generation that was going to totally get her.
I think there are very profound symbols of love in this story. What I like about this story,
aside from the fact that it's completely different than any love story I've ever seen, is that
it's not a story about falling in love. It's a story about staying in love. People don't want to
make those stories because they're not as romantic. They're very hard to tell.
Did this character stay with you or could you get out of it easily?
I can break it very easily because she's been in my life since I was 14 and she's still in my
life today. It stays in my heart. So, I don't feel a complete detachment. I can break away
from trying to be her, or feeling that I am her or trying to play her, because still she's
How did you handle some of the bisexual scenes?
It's not a big deal. You have to be somebody. This is what that person was into. The same
4. way when you have to get into somebody that you're not attracted to. They have bad
breath and you have to pretend you're in love.
What would Frida think of this movie?
I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea, but wherever she is she knows I tried really
hard to make her happy with it.
If you enjoyed this book…
Caravaggio, A Life – Helen Langdon
Diego Rivera - Pete Hamill
Georgia O'Keefe, A Life - Roxana Robinson
Laurie Anderson - Roselee Goldberg
Lust For Life - Irving Stone
Piet Mondrian - Joop M Joosten