Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gwenevere Anne Sisco

Gwenevere Anne Sisco, 28, Actor/Stage Director, Brooklyn.

What's the story behind your name?

When I flew into my babygirl body, my parents picked out Jennifer Anne Sisco. The middle bit was after my Maternal Grandmother - I like that bit. She was a great woman. But since I was a little girl, I was frustrated with my first name. It didn’t quite feel like it was mine. It sounded like someone else’s. Jennifer. I was seven when I first found a book of baby names and looked up the name, Jennifer. “See Guinevere” was the answer. I was trying to understand why on earth, if the two are supposed to be the same name, WHY my parents would pick Jennifer. It seemed to me to be some sort of ridiculous clerical error. They got the wrong one. Then it turned out that every year in school I was one of about eight Jennifers. Apparently, the top name given to baby girls from 1970 to 1985 was Jennifer (according to the SSA). Not only was it overly complicated to be one of many Jens, Jennys and Jennifers, but it just felt horribly wrong. I knew at a very young age that I would not be Jennifer forever.

When I was eleven, and decided I was bound for stardom, I started deliberating over stage names. But I had nearly settled on just being called “Jen” forever until one day when I was fourteen. I was doing a guided meditation, and part of the grounding process was to state your name, and when asked - without a moment's thought or hesitation, Guinevere came out. Nothing had ever felt truer. Afterward, my friends in the room agreed that it sounded right, and started calling me Gwen or Gwenevere from that day on... and it spread slowly but surely, and then... it stuck.

Only family and very old friends still call me Jen. But she feels like a lifetime ago.

My last name, though - I don't ever want to change. There's not much left of the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi (Native Americans from Northwest Vermont), but my name, Sisco, comes from that history. Not that I feel I have the right to over-identify myself as Native American (I don't go around calling myself Gray Morning Star - which is the Indian name my father chose for me when my birth was the shiny point of an ugly foggy day), but I do believe in the power our ancestry has... and I take pride in having Vermonter blood that goes back beyond colonization.
So, with this highly Celtic first name, Gwenevere, the majority of my heritage is represented, and my Surname covers the rest - with homage to our family Matriarch in the middle. Perfect."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joshua Alan Conner

Joshua Alan Conner, 26, Non-profit arts salesman/bootleg stylist/catch-all crafty dude, Harlem.

What's the story behind your name?

"I was named, partially after my father. My middle name is also his. My first name apparently means everything from "Jesus is lord", "Obedience to the lord", and "salvation".

None of these meanings reflect who I am. Ironically, I'm very opposite to the meaning of my name. I don't believe Jesus is lord and I think obedience to the lord is ridiculous.

Salvation, however, I can get down with. I've lived a fairly rough and tumble life and from it, I've found that strength of character, acceptance, honesty, and the ability to appreciate even the hard times often leads me to a state of mind that I would consider to be very much like salvation. So perhaps my name isn't too inaccurate."

Heidi Heilig

Heidi Heilig, 30, Lyricist/Bookwriter, Prospect Heights.

What's the story behind your name?

"My married name is Heidi Heilig, which sounds like something no parent would ever do to a child, and it wasn't. I picked this.

I was born Heidi Yuk Hung Hansen-Young, or Hansen-Young, Heidi, according to the attendance list at school from which they drew the seating charts. It was Mother's Last Name-Father's Last Name, Mother's Favorite Dog. I was told that to get my Chinese middle name, my grandmother paid an old monk at the Kaneohe Buddhist Temple to throw the bones, and that it meant "Jade Angel," but when I ask people who actually speak Chinese about my middle name they look at me quizzically, their heads tilted, much like Heidi the Dog in the old photos my mom keeps, and say it means nothing.

But that last name, though, that meant something. In Hawaii where I grew up, my mom had become a famous artist, and so no one knew me as Heidi; they knew me as Diana Hansen-Young's daughter.

It also meant something else. It meant that in Trig, Shakespeare 1 and 2, and US History -- basically every class that had a seating chart -- Hansen-Young, Heidi was sitting right next to Heilig, Bret.

I didn't have to change my name when we married. My mom hyphenated hers, and I like to think that I'm a feminist. But after being Diana Hansen-Young's daughter for so long, I thought, why not take a name that no parent would ever dream up? Why not take a name that I had to create myself, out of Romeo and Juliet and a squared plus b squared and General Sherman's march to the sea? Why not take a name that meant something?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

William Brasington

William Brasington, 24, Dinner Theater Actor, Los Angeles CA

What's the story behind your name?:

"It's not spectacular, but my parents were debating about naming me David or William. As soon as I was born, the doctor asked, "What's his name?" And even though my mother was exhausted by childbirth (she had four kids, but refers to women who didn't enjoy birthing their kids "wimps"), she sat up and said, "William!" Because I looked like a William and she didn't want my Dad to say anything else."

Krystal Katrina Fragante Banzon

Krystal Katrina Fragante Banzon, 25, theater director/multimedia artist, Jackson Heights, Queens

What's the story behind your name?:

"My middle name is fraught with dislocation. When I was little I asked my parents what my middle name was, and upon hearing it, I complained about how strange sounding it was and whined until they named me something "better." So, growing up, I was Krystal "Katrina" Banzon. As I got older, and the memory of my youthful impertinence faded, "Krystal Katrina" was the name I believed was mine, stamped on all the markers of my growing autonomy - my driver's license, my college checking account, my first credit cards. Then as a young adult, moving out of my parents home going through old files and finding my birth certificate, I discover that "Fragante" actually sits between "Krystal" and my father's history, as per Filipino tradition, where the child inherits the mother's maiden name as their middle one. It's funny that "Katrina" was used to appease me, a parental white lie told by immigrants to their American children. It's only fitting that now I know the reality of my name, when I am old enough to appreciate and respect its tradition - the fragrance of heritage joining me and my ancestors."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Felice Kuan

Felice Kuan, 27, Math Teacher, Upper Eastside

What's the story behind your name?:

"When I was 14 years old, I sent a letter full of parenthetical statements and P.P.P.P.S.'s to my favorite author detailing why we should become friends. Near the beginning, I wrote:

My name is Felice. I like it because it's Italian, it means happiness and good fortune, it's really a boy's name, people think it's pretty, it's got some connection to "felis," there's enough room for it on SAT forms, and it fits in with Alice, Alicia, delicious, luscious, malicious, and all the other words in that category (how would you describe it?—and not including "suspicious"—that's a broader category) that are so wonderful to say. I don't like it because it has "-lice" in it, reminding me of head-lice, and because people always spell it wrong (it's become the standard of intelligence that I judge people by—harsh or no, would you say?).

And it goes on like that for six single-spaced pages. I called it an honor to be the first author I'd ever written to. I even congratulated her for writing in a style and on subjects that agreed with me.

She wrote back. She said my letter was bumptious and boastful, that there were no ties of blood nor friendship between us, and that next time I should cut my letters--and myself--short."

Mkhululi Mabija

Mkhululi Mabija, 24, Adjunct Professor at Tisch, South Bronx

What's the story behind your name?:

"Mkhululi- Liberator. Zandile- To multiply. Mabija- To cover. Oh I forgot to mention that my Papa named me Mkhululi because he got hired at a diamond mine the day I was born."

Emma Fisher

Emma Fisher, 26, Medical student, Brooklyn

What's the story behind your name?:

"That is an awesome name story. I don't think this is more kick-ass, but it is my story. My parents originally wanted to make my legal name Emma, but my grandmother, who was an English teacher, hated Jane Austen's character by that name. They thus named me Emilia, after my great-grandmother Augusta Emilia and proceeded to call me Emma from birth."

Mark Vashro

Mark Vashro, 24, Actor/Filmmaker/Photographer, Astoria NY

What's the story behind your name?

"My full name is Mark Daniel Vashro. Mark is the name of my grandfather on my mothers side, Daniel is the Name of my great grandfather (Papa Dan) and Vashro is my Dads family name.

Now I have never really focused much on the sentimentality ...of family, partially because I don't know much about them. I love my grandfather and my father but the name that seems to really motivate me is Daniel. Papa Dan lived till he was 97 years old. Up till 3 months before he died he was playing golf and living his active social life, and looking good too. My mom did a calculation about how long she and I would live if the trend of old age lived in our family and she would live till 100 and I would live till 125. SO here's to hoping that I get that old and look and act as good as my Papa Dan."

Alessandra Rizotti

Alessandra Rizotti, 25, Post Production Assistant at Family Guy, Silverlake CA

What's the story behind your name?

"My parents were watching Rocky in a movie theater. The credits rolled and my father thought the sound designer's name "Alessandro" was cool. My mom told him that wouldn't work because they were having a girl, so he added an "a" to the end of the name and called me "Alessandra." It means "The Great," like "Alexander the Great." My last name, Rizzotti, means "Rice." And, my middle name, Julia, means "Hairy" or "Youthful." So, I'm the great youthful hairy rice.

Actually, there's a small town in Sicily called Rizzotti and as I was riding a bus one day, an Italian man told me that there are a lot of coffee shops and car dealerships called "Rizzotti" in Sicily because it represents "wealth." That, I am not, but in spirit, I can be."

John Bravo DeMicoli

John Bravo DeMicoli, 29, artist / small-businessman, a couch in Harlem.

: nothing great to share w. mine
me: thats okay. john: my dad wanted to name me galileo my mom wasnt having it me: hahha. really?3:35 AM john: yeah, so i got my grandfathers name me: where did john come from? john: and charles is my dads name thats my middle name bravo is my moms maiden name, i use it to rep my PR side3:36 AM aaaaaanyway


What's the story behind your name?:

"My dad is an engineer, a huge science history buff, and very proud of his south european upbringing, so he REALLY wanted to name me Galileo Galilei. My Nuyoriquan, not-sciencey mom wasn't having it so they went with plan B: naming me after my dad's father (John / Giovanne) and using my dad's name for my middle name (Charles / Carmello). When I was 24 - finishing 6 years of elite whitebread private colleges, and attempting a short-lived run for NY City Council in East Harlem / South Bronx - I finally went through my mixed kid identity self-acceptance stuff.

I took on my mom's maiden name (Bravo) to represent the other side of my family and to remind myself and others that in addition to being white(ish, i never identified with the culture), I'm also Sorta Rican. It was a relief and instantly felt right, now I just have to make it legal.

The last few Bravo generations are almost entirely women, so I'm the only (straight) man in the family still with the name. It's nice to carry on the Bravo legacy; that it's such a good name is double bonus!

If i wanted to get really Latin and use all four surnames I'd be John Charles Suarez Buttigieg Bravo DeMicoli, which I might do just to see on a drivers license commemorating my personal Venn diagram nook between 4 families."

Leta Tremblay

Leta Tremblay, 26, Director/Producer, East Village

What's the story behind your name?:

"My name comes from the ending of Spanish names such as Carmelita or Rosalita. "Lita" was the nickname of my mother's High School Spanish teacher whose given name was Amanda and who played an important role in my mother's childhood. Mom always thought the name should be spelled "Leta" based on the English grammatical rule that we learn in 1st grade: "the a makes the e say its own name." Lee-tah.

Round about Middle School, I started mumbling and slurring my name together so that it sounded like "Leda" and this lasted through College. Thusly, most of my closest friends call me Leda. But that's not the name that my mother gave me. I'm reclaiming the my name, Leta, with pride and enunciation in my adult life."

Laura Wiese

Laura Wiese, 26, Voice Artist, San Francisco CA

"My full name is Laura Ann Wiese. There doesn't really seem to be much to special about it, but its actually the most mundane piece of the name that has the crazy story attached to it.

My middle name was originally supposed to be Catherine, but while my mother was pregnant with me my aunt took a turn for the worst with a nasty form of bone cancer. The family didn't believe she would live much longer. In turn, I was given the middle name Ann in her 'to be' memory. ...Turns out my aunt never had bone cancer. She told everyone that in order to swindle some money from the family.

She is still alive and I still carry her name.

As an added bonus, I was named Laura after the iconic 1980s General Hospital soap opera love pair, Luke and Laura.

I once met a guy who was named 'Luke' for the same reason I was named Laura...too bad he was only 5' 3", that would have been a match made in 80s pop culture heaven!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meryl Ballew

Meryl Ballew, 24, Associate Production Coordinator/ Freelance Stage Manager, Astoria NY

What's the story behind your name?:

"My story isn't any better but it's kind of funny: My parents wanted to call me Beryl (which is a gemstone referred to as the heart of the ocean). However, my family has "thicker" genes and my aunt was worried that if I ended up being heavy, kids at school would call me Barrel (like the round item you put wine in). So my parents went to a name book to find the next best thing (Meryl which refers to a blackbird). Now I love my name although it causes a lot of spelling errors. And I would like to say that Meryl is my actual name unlike Meryl Streep who changed hers so that she could be as cool as I am...haha"

Aviva Pressman

Aviva Pressman, 24, Actor/Administrative Assistant, Washington D.C.

What's the story behind your name?:

"Aviva means Spring. My parents gave me that name because its really Jewy and a palindrome. When I was born with a full head of curly hair everyone would pull on it and go "Spring!" when it sprung back up. That's when they knew it was the right choice.

Funda Buthelezi

Funda Buthelezi,
21, college student for physical therapy, Mount Vernon NY

What's the story behind your name?

"Funda means read and thuto my second name means education/knowledge. I was named funda because my mother had me when she was young and instead of focusing on school she had me so my grandmother named me funda as a reminder to my mother. but i think it goes deeper than that."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Melania Valverde

Melania Valverde, 24, Career Counselor, Upper Eastside NY

What's the story behind your name?:

"My mom named me after her favorite psychology professor in college. My name means dark-skinned though, nuff said! =P"

Diana Oh

Diana Oh, 24, Actress/Singer/Playwright/Librettist/Songwriter, East Village

How the hell did this blog happen? All I wanted to do was share the story behind my name on my lame-ass website Then all I wanted to do was hear about other people's stories behind their names and this blog was born. Here's what I originally posted at: