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Defy Convention (Or Be Forgotten)

January 24, 2021
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A few weeks ago I saw this tweet from Johnny B. Truant:

If I were Frida Kahlo, I would have painted myself without a unibrow. Or at least have become aware I needed a pair of tweezers.

Johnny made me smile. Then he made me think.

Would we remember Frida Kahlo today if she hadn’t had the audacity to leave her eyebrows natural, and sport a wisp of a mustache across her upper lip?

We might. Her artwork is memorable and intensely personal. She’s considered by many to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

But from what I’ve read, Frida was too smart to leave her fame and reputation to chance.

She went against the conventions of the day and left her brows and upper lip au naturel in order to stand out. Those were, of course, just a few elements of the overall style that made her unforgettable. Everything about her — from her appearance to her paintings to her personal life — worked together to create a powerful message.

You can do the same thing, and there’s no eyebrow pencil required.

Start with the truth

When Frida was in her teens, she was riding a bus that collided with a trolley car. She broke her spinal column and pelvis, and shattered her right leg. She suffered severe pain for the rest of her life, and was in and out of the hospital for surgeries from then on.

She spent a lot of time alone, and began painting to fill those hours. She was confined to a bed, so she painted what she had at hand — herself.

Painting helped relieve the boredom and loneliness she experienced. It gave her a mode of expression, and helped define her life.

As writers, we bring our life experience to our keyboards. Our best work comes from tapping into our emotional lives and sharing some of it when we talk to our readers.

Frida painted her pain, her joys, and her frustrations. She would have made a fascinating blogger.

Are you sharing some of your life experience with your audience? You don’t need to over share (really!). But expressing some of your inner struggles can help forge a stronger connection with the people who read your work.

Take a stand

Frida’s paintings could have easily been eclipsed by her famous husband’s. Diego Rivera was a beloved muralist whose projects appeared around the world. Kahlo and Rivera had a tumultuous marriage that was marked by deep respect for each others’ work.

As a woman living in the mid-20th century, she might have had an easier road if she’d simply basked in the reflected glory of her husband’s successful art career. But she knew she had something to say. She wanted to be memorable in her own right.

What does your writing stand for? Are you willing to devote yourself to your ideas despite the odds?

Because as your readers, we can tell if you’re passionate about your topic. It comes through in what you write and how you write it.

Choose your style

For all the raw, honest emotion she shared through her paintbrush, there was one aspect of Frida’s life she consistently lied about. According to her official birth certificate, she was born in 1907. But according to Frida, she was born in 1910.

If she wasn’t vain about the unibrow or the mustache, why shave three years off her age?

Apparently, it was in solidarity to her native Mexico. The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 and signaled the birth of a new government. Frida shaved three years off so she could say she was born at the same time.

She also made a decision as a young woman to dress exclusively in native costume, and continued to use this elaborate style of dress her whole life. Photos show her confined to a hospital bed decked out in multiple colorful layers of fabric and jewelry.

She created her own style of art, and dressed to communicate what mattered most to her. Her costumes reflected her passion, her message, and her life experience.

Does your site have a style? What’s it based on? Is there a connection between your visual style and your overall message?

Creating a visual style that’s memorable and communicates your message will help your audience keep you at the top of their minds.

No unibrow required

I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. ~Frida Kahlo

You don’t need a unibrow, pink hair, or a bad-ass attitude. But you do have to share your unique voice if you want us to remember you.

Don’t be afraid to express passionate opinions. Find a way to communicate them that’s unique, both in content and delivery.

Maybe you feel powerless and broken, like Frida might have after her life-changing accident. You might think everyone around you is more talented. It might seem like the odds are against you.

But if you share your passion and your inner life in a way that’s remarkable, people could still be talking about you 100 years from now.

How will you stand out and be memorable?

Source: Defy Convention (Or Be Forgotten)


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