Frida by vibio
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”
I’m reminded of this quote from Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. A book that I read for literature class in secondary school, actually one of my favourite subjects back then (I know my fiancé will be truly surprised).
Does the name really not hold any meaning? We could call a rose a skunk, just to be extreme, and it would smell as sweet. I don’t remember what my notes were 20 years ago, but while I would have agreed in literature class 20 years ago, today, I probably will not. At least not in this case.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo, better known as Frida Kahlo, was a Mexican painter famous for her folk-art style paintings. Revered years after her death as a pioneer feminist, her unibrow – a masculine feature – which she left untouched, exaggerated, in her self-portraits, became a symbol of raising your middle finger to beauty standards. Though she lived a life of physical pain and heartache, she led it her way, on her terms – becoming a strong icon for what it means to be an independent female.
To name something or someone Frida, is to bear a great responsibility to other womxn whom your path would cross with. Alma Ramírez Acosta and Patricia Cervantes, Spain natives and best friends since they were toddlers, are co-founders of vibio, the company that created Frida, an app-controlled wearable vibrator that is anatomically designed to fit where it’s supposed to.
“Do you fight a lot?” I ask. My fiancé is my best friend, we work together on everything, and many times I get mad at him even for giving me useful advice, so my question is not a light one. “No”, Alma says. “It’s great having that support, especially during tough days; we really trust each other, and when one of us makes a mistake, we know it’s not coming from a bad place.”
Successfully funded on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, Frida was originally called Ella. When the name Ella was chosen in 2018, there were no other Ellas on the market. Since then, other Ellas have popped up onto the scene, including an Ella by giant player LELO. Not wanting for their brand name to be diluted, Alma and Patricia asked their Vibe Tribe for help. One of their users suggested to name the vibrator after Frida Kahlo who was openly bisexual, uniquely beautiful and fiercely feminine.
A woman way ahead of her time, it felt like Frida was the perfect name for a tech product, made by women, to stir the pot and raise taboo-breaking conversations about sex and sexuality. Ella was thus named Frida; the name change also set the precedent for all female toys made by vibio thereafter to be named after feminist icons.
It is fitting that one of the founders is named Alma, which means “soul” in Spanish, too. I had a brief interview with Alma via Zoom, who told me that when she had always worked for startups, and moved to London because it is the tech hub of Europe – she knew she would eventually create her own business. When Alma had the idea for vibio in 2018, she sounded Patricia out about it, who immediately left her taxing corporate job with Accenture to move to London to start working on vibio. A former product manager, Patricia takes charge of operations and app development, and is the link between the vibio product and software. Alma runs point on strategy, sales, partnerships and fundraising.
I asked Alma if she’s always been open about pleasure and sexuality, she smiles and says yes, that she’s always been the one in her group of friends who’s perhaps the first to experiment with toys. Friends who have given her a judgmental eye for it have come back to her years later to ask for recommendations. In her family, only her grandparents still to be comfortable with her career, “perhaps due to a generational gap”. Her parents are open-minded and support her work – “I hope my mom will try mine (the Frida) – that would make me very proud,” Alma says.
In the future, sticking to manufacturing teledildonic devices, vibio hopes to cater to men as well; their target customer is one who is in a long distance relationship, experiencing loneliness and a lack of physical intimacy, and in that sense, it seems unfair to give women all the pleasure – the duo sees purchases of Frida by men for their partners and they want an equivalent toy too.
Wait, maybe Frida be for male pleasure too? Perhaps a name does hold more meaning that we think.
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