Kurt Cobain took his own life on April 5, 1994, shocking the world.
The Nirvana frontman left behind a wife, Hole singer Courtney Love, and a daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. For years, we heard little about Frances; while Love’s exploits frequently received attention from tabloids, Frances stayed out of the spotlight.
Now, that’s starting to change. A talented visual artist, she recently produced a documentary about her father’s life, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. The film received numerous accolades for its honest portrayal of its subject. Frances has also started a modeling career, and for the first time, she’s giving regular interviews.
At 24, Frances Bean Cobain has had an unusual life.
She was named for Frances McKee of The Vaselines. Her middle name was her father’s idea; he remarked that she looked like a bean on ultrasounds, and the nickname stuck.
But while Love was pregnant with Frances, tabloids began reporting that she was using drugs. Love insisted that the rumors were false. Still, child welfare services stepped in, prompting a long, costly legal battle that saw Frances removed from her parents’ care for a short time.
Frances visited her father on April 1st of 1994.
Four days later, he was dead. Frances was two years old.
The next several years were tumultuous, as Courtney Love faced near-constant tabloid speculation regarding her alleged drug use. Frances maintains that the tabloid stories were mostly false, and she says that she was hurt by the allegations.
In 2006, Frances modeled for Elle magazine, wearing her father’s brown cardigan and pajama pants.It was her first foray into modeling; she’d later appear in Harper’s Bazaar, and in 2017, she was hired as the face of the Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2017 campaign.
Still, Frances shied away from some publicity.
She reportedly turned down the role of Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2009, choosing instead to focus on her art. Cobain debuted her artwork in 2010, then announced a solo exhibition in 2013.
In 2015, Frances worked on Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, aiming to show her father as he really was: a tortured voice of a generation, but also a deeply troubled, vulnerable, and sometimes hurtful person. She’s spoken out against what she sees as the glorification of his death, and she admits that she was never a fan of Nirvana (although she loves several of their songs, including “Dumb” and “Territorial Pissings).
“I would have felt more awkward if I’d been a fan,” she told Rolling Stone in 2015. “I was around 15 when I realized he was inescapable. Even if I was in a car and had the radio on, there’s my dad.”
“He’s larger than life and our culture is obsessed with dead musicians. We love to put them on a pedestal. If Kurt had just been another guy who abandoned his family in the most awful way possible…But he wasn’t.”
“He inspired people to put him on a pedestal, to become St. Kurt. He became even bigger after he died than he was when he was alive. You don’t think it could have gotten any bigger. But it did.”