The Arrival of L’Tanya

L'Tanya Griffin, 1950s, fashion designer, baby name
L’Tanya Griffin w/ daughter L’Tanya.

In the late ’40s, long before the name Tanya (a diminutive of Tatiana) reached peak trendiness in the ’70s, some specific Tanya-based names started debuting:

YearLatanya usageLatonia usageLtanya usage
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950
1949
1948
1947
1946
67 baby girls
31 baby girls
24 baby girls
12 baby girls
9 baby girls
13 baby girls
7 baby girls
6 baby girls
7 baby girls [debut]
.
10 baby girls
9 baby girls
8 baby girls
6 baby girls
8 baby girls
.
.
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
.
32 baby girls
22 baby girls
11 baby girls
5 baby girls
.
5 baby girls
9 baby girls [debut]
.
.
.

Latanya and Latonia first appeared in ’47. Ltanya followed in ’49. Latonya popped up in 1951, and other variants appeared later, including the intriguing LaTanga.

What influenced the usage of these names?

My guess is Hollywood-based African-American fashion designer L’Tanya Griffin.

She started to become famous during the second half of the ’40s. Her name began appearing newspapers around 1946, and it was often spelled “LaTanya” and “La Tanya.” (Her birth name was Julia Bernice Hilbert, incidentally.)

In mid-1949, a specific event made L’Tanya Griffin front-page news: Her estranged husband Earl tried to assault her with a beer can full of lye at racetrack in Atlantic City. She was uninjured, but her friend Marshall Miles (former manager of boxer Joe Louis) and several other people suffered first degree burns. Worst off was Earl himself, as the lye had splashed back into his face. It got into his eyes and blinded him (not permanently, turns out).

L’Tanya was at the height of her fashion-fame during the 1950s. She was even on the cover of Jet in mid-1954. The magazine sometimes ran pictures of her young daughter L’Tanya as well.

I’m not sure what became of L’Tanya Griffin after her fame waned in the ’60s, but I did discover that one of the babies named “LaTanya” in 1949 was none other than Samuel L. Jackson’s wife LaTanya Richardson.

Do you like the name L’Tanya?

Sources:

  • “Acid Toss by Hubby Backfires.” New York Age 20 Aug. 1949: 1.
  • “Fashions by L’Tanya” Ebony Aug. 1947: 24.
  • Kirkham, Pat and Shauna Stallworth. “”Three Strikes Against Me”: African American Women Designers.” Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference, ed. by Pat Kirkham, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, 2000, pp. 123-144.
  • LaTanya Martinique, Los Angeles, California, ca. 1945
  • “Lye Hurled at Pretty Designer.” Pittsburgh Courier 20 Aug. 1949: 1.

Image: © 1954 Jet

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