San Antonio artist and fashion designer Rebecca Medina, known for her mega-sized doll heads, died Sunday in downtown San Antonio. She was 56. 

Featured in celebrations throughout San Antonio, Medina’s trademark dolls honor her Hispanic heritage and represent a legacy her friends and family have called on the city to preserve.

Medina’s best friend of 35 years, Richard Sánchez, would like the City of San Antonio to create a mural to honor Medina’s work and for local museums to display her mega-sized doll heads in her memory. 

“The art community of San Antonio has lost one of its finest,” said Sánchez.

Medina was a Southtown hairstylist who fell in love with art as a little girl. What began as a love for Barbie dolls as a child grew into much more when she began sewing clothes for her dolls. 

She later created mega-sized doll heads in the likeness of Frida Kahlo and made several as mariachis and catrinas. Her work was often spotted at the San Antonio Public Library Foundation’s annual Catrina Ball, KSAT’s Fiesta Porch Parade and at the San Antonio Zoo.

Perhaps her best-known work is a doll of the legendary Tejano singer, Selena, in her iconic purple cutout and flared jumpsuit, which is on display at the Pearl.

She also was part of the creative team — led by her sister, Mary Alice Medina — behind the avant-garde clothing featured in Agosto Cuellar’s groundbreaking “Runway en la Calle” shows in 2018.

One of her last events was the Fiesta WEBB Party, which Sánchez said Medina was so proud and “over the moon” to be a part of. For the event, themed “Celestial Dreams: A Night in the Zodiac,” Medina and her team created elaborate custom-made designs representing astrological signs. 

Sánchez said Medina’s dream was to open an art school for the Hispanic community on the South Side. 

“She was very, very committed to teaching people, speaking about, displaying her heritage culture, her Hispanic culture,” said Sánchez. “She was very involved with the Hispanic community.”

Medina’s four children, Danielle DeLeon, Bethany DeLeon, Defranco Sarabia and Michael DeLeon, most of whom are artists, are left mourning the loss of their mother, who Bethany DeLeon said was the “best artist they ever knew.”

Artist and fashion designer Rebecca Medina is at work creating a fashion piece in her studio.
Artist and fashion designer Rebecca Medina at work creating a fashion piece in her studio. Credit: Courtesy / Bethany DeLeon

DeLeon recalls her mother letting her children be creative in any way they wanted to. Whether it was through hair, clothes, or music, DeLeon said she and her siblings were free to express themselves. 

“Even our food. … She would let us play with food [in] the kitchen or just even play with our mashed potatoes or whatever,” said DeLeon. 

“She was simply extraordinary,” said Danielle DeLeon.

Bethany DeLeon said her mother’s favorite thing was to create something out of nothing. 

She said that almost every day, Medina worked in her home garage-turned-studio, late at night and into the morning. She blasted music and worked on multiple projects, including the doll heads and work commissioned by others.

One of the last projects Medina worked on, a Rosie the Riveter doll head, will be featured in Pride San Antonio’s “Pride Bigger than Texas” parade on Saturday.

“The way that she impacted the community was vast and beyond the scope that I can even comprehend,” said DeLeon. “I know that there are people out there that I haven’t even met, that my mom has touched their lives in such a way that has literally changed their lives, and had them inspired to create, aspire to try different things, inspire to live their life to the fullest.”

Public visitation at Medina’s funeral will take place Monday at noon at Mission Park Funeral Chapels South, 1700 S.E. Military Dr. The funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Family has asked the attendees to wear “Rebecca Fashion: Fiesta, Frida, and big, bold, bright attire.”

Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.