Kansas City Woman Talks Changing Her Name From “Keisha” To “Kylie” After Being Bullied For Years

November 5, 2013  |  

Cristy and Keisha (now Kylie) Austin – Courtesy of Kansas City Star

If you ask me, I’ve never associated the name Keisha with anything really negative, probably because I knew quite a few very pleasant Keishas over the years. But for others, the name Keisha has become a new nickname for marijuana, and it has has been associated with struggle and promiscuity in music (see Kendrick Lamar’s “Keisha’s Song” and “Cashin’ Out” by Ca$h Out). One young woman in Kansas City named Keisha Austin says it also came with negative stereotypes from classmates, and even from a teacher who had the nerve to ask her if the ‘s’ in her name was a dollar sign. The 19-year-old biracial woman says that jokes about her name over the years (including folks calling her LaKeisha), and fear of further negative assumptions about her in the future pushed her to get her name changed from Keisha to Kylie. This move was something her mother didn’t understand, especially since she thought Keisha was a name to be proud of, but she supported her daughter’s decision nonetheless. Here’s what her mom, Cristy Austin, had to say about why she chose Keisha when speaking with the Kansas City Star:

“I saw it as a source of pride. I wanted her to have that.

It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it. 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.”

While mom saw the name as a gift, Keisha says it was something she didn’t want to have, not because she was ashamed of it, but because she didn’t feel “comfortable” with it (and her classmates didn’t help her confidence in it either).

“It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl. Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative.

It’s not something I take lightly. I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t believe you should just change your name or your face or anything like that on a whim. I didn’t want to change my name because I didn’t like it. I wanted to change my name because it didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t connect to it. I didn’t feel like myself, but I never want any girls named Keisha, or any name like that, to feel hurt or sad by it.”

So on this day, Keisha stands as Kylie Lenee Austin. The change cost $175 and is something the young woman feels a lot happier with. It might sound like a very dramatic move, but I have colleagues who have stated that they wanted to, or even tried to change their name (one named Tameka for example) or would ask people they meet to call them something else because they didn’t like the way it sounded or the connotations that came with it. It’s obviously a struggle for some people, but is it worth it to go through with changing your name, an identity that has been with you since birth? A name is what you make it, right? Let us know what you think.

 

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