Helga From Hey Arnold Was Based On A Truly Iconic Woman

Photo: Nickelodeon/Photofest
Hey Arnold! is to this day one of the best kids' shows ever made (this is a fact, don't try to dispute it). It taught us kids of the '90s about the importance of friendship, why bullying is wrong, and why individuality is something to be cherished. And perhaps no character embodies that last point more than Helga Pataki, the yellow-haired gal with a distinct unibrow.
Though she was sometimes a bit callous to the other kids, Helga had a good heart and some serious art skills — building a bubblegum sculpture of her "football head" crush couldn't have been easy! But it turns out there's another amazing reason to love the pigtailed tween. According to Yahoo, Series creator Craig Bartlett recently told El Estímulo that Helga's adorable appearance was inspired by iconic artist Frida Kahlo.
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Bartlett also shared the news on his Instagram account back in August (can't believe he snuck this under the radar), by posting a photo of young Kahlo with the caption, "#tbt little Frida #helgagpataki."
She's even got a huge bow!
The more that I think about the correlation, the more it makes sense. According to the biography posted on the Frida Kahlo Foundation website, Kahlo was a child of the Mexican Revolution. In her earliest years, she and her family were subjected to horrible circumstances, often falling asleep to the sound of gunfire. As a teen, Kahlo took up boxing and joined a gang, later falling for its leader.
While Kahlo's circumstances were much more dire than the ones Helga endured in the hit series, it's easy to see how the artist's youth could inspire the strength and sometimes bullish nature embodied by the character who fell for the coolest kid in school. Other traits of Kahlo's seem to present themselves in Helga, too. For instance, she celebrates her unique traits and isn't eager to conform to society's beauty standards for femmes and girls.
During one episode, "Helga's Makeover," she shaves part of her unibrow and applies a lot of makeup before realizing that there was nothing wrong with her appearance in the first place. Triumphantly, she proclaims that she won't wear a face mask and tosses her high heels aside. Who knew cartoons from the '90s could be so progressive?!
I wonder what fun feminist surprises Helga's got up her sleeves (you know, in the t-shirt under her signature pink dress) in the Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie. Whatever it is, it's sure to be fun.
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