Arianna Davis is a beloved Refinery29 alum and we're so excited to reveal the cover for her new book, What Would Frida Do? A Guide To Living Boldly. Keep reading to hear more from Arianna about Kahlo, creativity, identity, and inspiration. The book is available for pre-order here.
I first fell in love with Frida Kahlo in 2001, when I was 15 and saw Salma Hayek portray her in the Oscar-winning Frida. As a Latina, I was, of course familiar with her work growing up—but learning more about the woman behind the artist sparked what would become a lifelong obsession for me. It's that infatuation that recently led me to write my first book: What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly, a reflection on the many lessons we can all learn from Frida's fierce spirit and lust for life.
As a writer, I’m captivated by Frida’s endless creativity as a visual storyteller. As a woman, I relate to the ways the outspoken feminist both loved her husband Diego Rivera unconditionally—despite her infamously rocky relationship with the famed muralist—yet refused to remain in his shadow. And as a bi-racial Latina—my mother is Puerto Rican, and my father is Black—I love how deeply proud Frida was of her own identity as a Latina born to a German father and a Mexican mother with indigenous roots. In the Latinx community, especially, Frida has become an icon for many of us—a symbol for standing up for who you are and never letting anyone define you but you.
But above all, simply as a human, I'm in awe of Frida's strength. A childhood bout of polio and a bus accident at age 18 resulted in dozens of surgeries throughout her lifetime and the inability to have children. Yet somehow through all of her pain, both physical and emotional, Frida lived with an insatiable lust for life—a joie de vivre that stayed with her all the way until her early death at age 47. Just days before she died, she wrote these words on what is believed to be her final painting: "Viva la vida!" or "Long live life!"
I’m far from the only one Frida superfan. It's been more than six decades since Frida Kahlo died in 1954—but in 2020, the artist is more beloved than ever. Tickets to art exhibits of her work sell out in hours. Her quotes circulate in thousands of Instagram and Pinterest posts daily. And if you take a look around, it won't be long before you notice that familiar face framed by a notorious pair of eyebrows adorning everything from t-shirts to graffiti murals, sneakers, keychains, and even nail art.
She was known as much for her self-portraits and whimsical art as she was for signature style and outspoken beliefs. But what is it exactly about the artist that has left generations captivated by her—and how can the rest of us channel just a little bit of Frida's fearlessness?
It’s those questions that inspired me to write What Would Frida Do? Of course, the story of Frida’s life is the stuff of legend, one that has been told many times. But instead of yet another biography, I wanted to explore the lessons we can glean from an activist who was decades ahead of her time—one whose experiences as a Latinx, queer, disabled, and feminist woman are more relevant now than ever and show us by example how to be our very best selves.
I explore all these facets of her life and more in What Would Frida Do?, much of which I wrote while staying in Frida's neighbourhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City. So without further ado, I present you with the cover, featuring a rich, vibrant design by artist Kimberly Glyder that perfectly captures the empowering essence of this book. I can’t wait to share it with the world on November 3rd, and I hope it will inspire all of you to soak up a just a little bit of Frida’s magic.
Arianna Davis is the digital director at O, The Oprah Magazine. She previously worked at Refinery29 and Us Weekly and has written for New York Magazine, Glamour, Marie Claire, PopSugar Latina, and more. She has also served as an entertainment expert for Access Hollywood, Tamron Hall, VH1, TLC, and more. She lives in New York City surrounded by way too many books. Follow her on Instagram at @ariannagab and Twitter: @ariannagdavis.