The name Damita first appeared in the SSA’s baby name dataset in 1950:
- 1953: 33 baby girls named Damita
- 1952: 7 baby girls named Damita
- 1951: 18 baby girls named Damita
- 1950: 5 baby girls named Damita [debut]
- 1949: unlisted
It saw peak usage in the early ’60s:
- 1963: 74 baby girls named Damita
- 1962: 102 baby girls named Damita
- 1961: 117 baby girls named Damita [peak]
- 1960: 49 baby girls named Damita
- 1959: 20 baby girls named Damita
(In fact, the name Damita would have entered the top 1,000 in 1961 if the six-way tie between Barrie, Callie, Damita, Freida, Staci, and Tonda — ranked 1,000th through 1,005th — hadn’t included a B-name and a C-name. As it happened, only Barrie made the cut and Damita technically ended up in 1,002nd place.)
So what was the influence?
Singer Damita Jo DeBlanc, born in Texas in 1930 and known simply as “Damita Jo” for most of her decades-long career.
Though she was most successful during the early ’60s — her highest-charting songs were 1960’s “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” and 1961’s “I’ll Be There” — her first solo singles (like “Believe Me” and “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere”) were released in 1950 and 1951, and she spent the rest of the ’50s performing and recording with the R&B group Steve Gibson & the Red Caps. She also appeared on, and won, an episode of the TV talent show Chance of a Lifetime in 1952.
In 1960, Jet magazine defined Damita Jo DeBlanc’s name as meaning “little lady of white” in “French and Spanish.”
My wild guess is that she was named after French-born movie star Lili Damita, whose Hollywood career began in the late ’20s. The Spanish word damita does indeed mean “little lady,” but Lili Damita’s claim that it was a nickname given to her by King Alfonso XIII of Spain is harder to prove.
Speaking of namesakes, several of Damita Jo’s namesakes became famous in their own right. There’s Damita Jo Freeman (b. 1953), the memorable Soul Train dancer. There’s Damita Jo Nicholson (b. 1953), “Miss Miami Beach 1972.” And, most notable of all, there’s singer/actress Janet Damita Jo Jackson (b. 1966) – yes, Michael’s sister. Janet even put out an album called “Damita Jo” in 2004 — the year of her infamous wardrobe malfunction.
Do you like the name Damita?
- Damita Jo – AllMusic
- Damita Jo DeBlanc – Wikipedia
- “Damita Jo Wins Rich Radio-TV Contest Prize.” Jet 6 Nov. 1952: 57.
- Diary of an Ex-Soul Train Dancer Presents: The One and Only Damita Jo Freeman
- Room, Adrian. Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins. 5th ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2010.
- “Singer Damita Jo Rising Fast.” Jet 14 Jan. 1960: 59.
Image: Cover of Jet from July 24, 1952