19-year-old Keisha Austin, from Kansas City, Missouri, will now and forever be known as Kylie Austin. Kylie’s mother, Cristy, chose the name Keisha because it represented a strong, beautiful black woman and she wanted to instill confidence and culture in her.
“I saw it as a source of pride,” Cristy says. “I wanted her to have that.”
But a source of pride isn’t what “Kylie” received growing up with Keisha as her name.
In an interview with The Kansas City Star, Kylie explains how growing up in a mostly white area made her resent her name because of the racist comments she would always receive.
From The Kansas City Star:
“It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl,” she says. “Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative.”
Even a teacher once asked if there was a dollar sign in her name, like the singer Ke$ha. If she couldn’t even get through a class without a teacher taking a cheap shot at her name, what would happen in a job interview?
The more she shared these stories with her mom, the more it became apparent that Keisha was serious about changing her name — not different from the way some Jewish people change their last names to avoid anti-Semitism and Asians sometimes take traditionally American names in addition to their given names.
Not everyone was in agreement with Keisha changing her name. A friend suggested that she could keep her name, and show people she’s not a stereotype. Even Keisha’s mother felt saddened by the name change.
“It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it,” Cristy says. “Keisha was the only name I ever thought of, and when I talked to her in my belly, I talked to Keisha. But she’s still the same person, regardless of her name. But her happiness is what is most important to me. I love and support her, and whatever she has to do to feel good on the inside, I have to be OK with that.”
As of a week ago, and $175 later, Keisha is now Kylie Austin.
One has to wonder if the name change was more of a self-esteem issue, rather than being teased about a name. There have been many times when I hated my name growing up as a kid, but that was because people wouldn’t pronounce it correctly. And then there was that song “Iesha”, by Another Bad Creation. I still can’t introduce myself to anyone without them mentioning that song. But did it ever dawn on me to change my name? Never. My parents gave me the name for a reason.
I hope in changing her name to Kylie, Keisha realizes that the ability to purchase a new name is easy, but self-esteem and pride can’t be bought, but that’s just my opinion.
Reprinted with permission from Clutch.