When 17-year-old Rebecca Martin submitted a note to PostSecret, one of her favorite blogs, back in 2008, she never envisioned that her moment of vulnerability would later be passed off as the words of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do," the Canadian teenager wrote.
She typed the words and stuck them onto a postcard, along with an image of Kahlo she tore out of a magazine — which seems to be where the confusion began.
Today, Martin, now 31, is sent social media posts from friends and family members who are familiar with the quote’s true origin. She concedes that the ongoing misattribution of her words remains “surreal” and “bizarre.”
Most recently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York tweeted the quote, attributing it to Kahlo, alongside one of her self-portraits.
“Honestly, I'm a little embarrassed by the quote,” Martin told BuzzFeed News. “I love that people love it, and I'm really happy to see it appear, but it's also a very teenage version of myself that's strange to have so out there.”
Back in 2008, shy teen Martin became a fan of the early internet blog PostSecret. The platform welcomed people to share their innermost thoughts under the protection of anonymity. “The Sunday that I sent it in, it was posted at the very top of the PostSecret blog,” she said.
Martin added, “I was so excited about this, and there were lots of people who commented and said they felt the same way. That was just a really nice thing, and it made me really happy. I forgot about it until probably around six years ago.”
Scrolling through Facebook six years ago, Martin spotted a post shared by an acquaintance. There were her words, but they were credited to Kahlo. After doing some googling, she found that the quote had inspired a 2015 comic strip by Australian cartoonist Gavin Aung Than.
The comic, titled “Strange Like Me,” featured a young girl with features similar to Kahlo’s, struggling to fit in.
Martin said she reached out to Than to clarify the source of the quote. When she was unable to prove it herself, the cartoonist enlisted the help of Quote Investigator, a fact-checking platform that looks into the origins of popular quotes.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Than confirmed this encounter, which led him to reattribute the comic to Martin.
“After months of research and deliberation with the Frida Kahlo estate, I have found that this quote has been misattributed to Frida Kahlo,” he wrote in blog post in March 2016.
Yet the quote continues to be bungled, with the MoMA — where three of Kahlo’s famous self-portraits are on display — tweeting it on Nov. 22.
“Frida kahlo didn't say this, my friend becky wrote this on a picture of frida kahlo and sent it to postsecret in 2008 and it's been attributed to kahlo ever since!!!!” wrote Twitter user @trophyhuman, a friend of Martin’s.
In a follow-up post, the MoMA appeared to correct itself, writing, “The quote in this tweet is erroneously attributed to Frida Kahlo.” But the original post is still up.
“It was pretty funny when they posted it,” Martin said, pointing out this was the most high-profile institution that has posted her words.
Despite her efforts to gain ownership of the quote, Martin conceded that it now “has legs of its own.” She hopes that moments like her friend’s viral tweet correcting the MoMA serve as an opportunity to correct the record in a public way.
“I think people really like to believe that Frida Kahlo said it because she's such a powerful figure and the quote is really very vulnerable and soft, and it's asking for connection and I think people like to feel connected to Frida Kahlo in that way,” Martin said. “I think it's less exciting to feel connected to me.”