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Mattel in dispute with Frida Kahlo descendant over doll

| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 6:09 p.m.
This product image released by Barbie shows dolls in the image of pilot Amelia Earhart, left, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and mathematician Katherine Johnson, part of the Inspiring Women doll line series being launched ahead of International Women’s Day. (Barbie via AP)
This product image released by Barbie shows dolls in the image of pilot Amelia Earhart, left, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and mathematician Katherine Johnson, part of the Inspiring Women doll line series being launched ahead of International Women’s Day. (Barbie via AP)

MEXICO CITY — Toy-maker Mattel was in a dispute Thursday with a distant relative of the late Mexican artist Frida Kahlo over rights to a Frida Barbie doll released as part of the company's Inspiring Women series.

Kahlo's great-niece Mara de Anda Romeo said Mattel doesn't have the rights to use Kahlo's image.

Pablo Sangri, a lawyer for de Anda Romeo, said his client doesn't seek money, but wants Mattel to talk about redesigning the doll.

“We will talk to them about regularizing this situation, and by regularizing I mean talking about the appearance of the doll, its characteristics, the history the doll should have to match what the artist really was,” Sangri said.

Critics complain the doll doesn't reflect Kahlo's heavy, nearly conjoined eyebrows, and they say its costume doesn't accurately portray the elaborate Tehuana-style dresses the artist wore.

That is, it's more Barbie-like than Frida-like. Barbie is an American icon that has often been criticized as promoting an unrealistic body image and consumerist lifestyle. Kahlo was a life-long communist who died in 1954 before the doll was introduced.

Mattel said in a statement that it worked with the Panama-based Frida Kahlo Corp., “which owns all the rights.”

“The Frida Kahlo Corporation actively participated in the process of designing the doll, Mattel has its permission and a legal contract that grants it the rights to make a doll of the great Frida Kahlo,” the company's statement said.

The corporation said it got the rights through Kahlo's niece, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, more than a decade ago.

The corporation said in a statement that it “celebrates the ideological contributions of Frida Kahlo which have transcended the borders of art and which will influence new generations as a world icon through the Frida Kahlo Barbie, which conserves the essence of Barbie and the legacy of Frida Kahlo.”

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