Diego Rivera Tried To Hide Frida’s Letters To Her Lovers, Here’s A Look Into What Some Of Them Said
You knew her as the revolutionary, the artist, the writer, and even as Mattel’s weirdest attempt to turn a communist into a Barbie doll, but do you know Frida Kahlo’s hit list of sexual conquests is inspiring, to say the least? For decades many have speculated that the artist known for her paintings, was also a lover like no other. Frida may just have proved it was true with her collection of lovers from around the world. Let’s get down to business with who the revolutionary herself fell for, both true and rumored.
1. Diego Rivera
Picture teenage Frida, hungry for art and revolution, joining the Mexican Communist Party in 1927. She reads Marx, she looks at the poverty in her country and abroad, and then an older man – an art teacher – notices her. Diego Rivera, almost twice her age, is a fellow Mexican artist and painter. He is also a leftist. A passionate and volatile relationship begins. Just over a year later, they are wed. Abusive, temperamental, and unfaithful, the older man begins a familiar story many young women know. She was too young for him, and eventually outgrew him, but their relationship remains the longest one associated with Frida to this day.
Years of cheating, traveling, and affairs dogged the couple. Frida herself became interested in women alongside men. Diego was prone to temper tantrums and young impressionable women who are joining the art scene. The couple divorced in 1939, only to remarry in 1940. A second divorce followed shortly after.
This drama remains Frida’s most well-known romantic relationship, though years worth of other lovers would affect her life, politics, and art.
2. Nickolas Murray
Getting married young wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and it doesn’t take long for Frida to realize Diego heart (and other parts) have wandered. Frida too decided she had a right to find a little something-something on the side, and in 1931 she met the acclaimed Hungarian photographer Nickolas Murray while he was vacationing in Mexico. Murray had just divorced his first voice and hopes that Frida would agree to leave Diego Rivera and become his next wife. When Frida made it clear she wanted a lover, not a husband, Murray withdrew from their affair, which lasted on and off for ten years. They remained good friends until Frida’s death in 1954.
3. Isamu Noguchi
As the years with Diego went on, Frida caught wind of one infidelity too far – her husband was having an affair with her younger sister Cristina. Frida and Diego separated, and though they later reconciled, they agreed to live separate lives. It was during this time that Frida met and fell in love with Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese American sculptor traveling through Mexico. Though their affair was brief, it was passionate and the two remained friends until Frida’s death.
4. Leon Trotsky
Frida and Diego remain dedicated communists regardless of their relationship turmoils, and when the Spanish Civil War breaks out in 1936, the two join the Mexican section of the Trotskyite International Communist League. They back Mexicans fighting back against Franco’s forces. Frida and Diego go so far as to help gain Leon Trotsky and his wife asylum in Mexico when they are exiled from the Soviet Union.
Trotsky and Frida grow very close and engage in an affair behind their spouses’ backs. You have to get it to her – how many of us manage to smuggle our faves into our own country for political asylum and then hook up with them?
5. Dolores del Río
Frida has been tied to Dolores del Río, though rumor and hearsay are all we have left of this chapter in history. The two were seen together and were friends, with Frida eventually painting for del Río on commission. The intimate relationship may have been more or less than we suspect, but is it hard to tell due to the stigma tied to homosexuality in Hollywood, then and now. Del Río was the first major crossover Mexican actress, making waves in American media as a beautiful starlet.
6. Chavela Vargas
Frida’s time with Murray with dotted with other important affairs, including one with Chavela Vargas. Vargas with known for singing ranchera music while dressed as a man, often singing in a low raspy voice. She was not shy about her sexuality at the time, and it was generally known she was having relationships with women. Though Vargas did not officially come out as a lesbian until she was 81, her autobiography also dedicated an entire chapter to an affair with Frida.
In a letter reported to be written by Frida Kahlo to poet Carlos Pellicer, she writes of meeting Vargas:
Today I met Chavala Vargas. An extraordinary woman, a lesbian, and what’s more, I desire her. I do not know if she felt what I did. But I believe she is a woman who is liberal enough that if she asked me, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to undress in front of her…Was she a gift sent to me from heaven?
Maybe, Frida, maybe. Vargas would go on to describe as “my gran amor” for the rest of her life.
7. Georgia O’Keeffe
Though letters between Frida and Georgia O’Keeffe are very intimate, the ones Frida candidly wrote about O’Keeffe hide much more tantalizing secrets that suggest a romantic relationship between the two. One such piece of evidence is a letter Frida wrote on O’Keeffe that stated:
O’Keeffe was in the hospital for three months, she went to Bermuda for a rest. She didn’t make love to me at that time, I think on account of her weakness. Too bad.
Despite O’Keeffe’s famously sexual paintings, androgynous looks, and independent manner, her close friend and neighbor Maria Chabot and her former housekeeper Jerrie Newsom flatly refute that O’Keeffe ever had any sexual relationships with women.
So did Frida just have an awful crush or a bright hot affair with a love that dare not speak its name?
8. Josephine Baker
While in Paris in 1939, Frida had the chance to meet entertainment icon Josephine Baker. Rumors have circulated across the internet in our modern day and age that the two were lovers, but no citation in either woman’s historical accounts corroborates this dreamy, albeit poorly sourced, rumor. At best, we have historical accounts of both women being romantically and sexually interested in women in general, but nothing in specific linking them to each other.
All we have is this tantalizing photo and some fan fiction added for drama in the Frida biopic starring Salma Hayek.
9. Herself, in drag
Frida was known to dress dapperly as a man on occasion, and there are even photographs of her in full suit with family members. The untold number of lovers and crushes she could have piled up while posing in a suit and unrecognizable is far beyond what we might know.
In the end, we just have a lot of burning questions after reading up on our favorite gay Latin American revolutionary communist artist. Was she all over that Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower? Did Josephine Baker dance with her secretly cheek-to-cheek in the weak Paris moonlight? Did Trotsky get his butt handed to him by his wife when she learned about revolutionary studies he was sharing with Frida in bed?
The world may never know.
But that’s never stopped us from speculating, and hey – we’re still allowed to dream! Let us know if there’s someone else you suspect might be on this list.
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