In 1973, from February 27 until May 8, American Indian Movement (AIM) activists and Oglala Lakota occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
The standoff lasted 71 days, and both the activists and the federal government were armed. Gunfire wounded several people on each side and ultimately killed two of the occupiers.
The first victim was 48-year-old activist Frank Clearwater, who had hitchhiked to Wounded Knee with his pregnant wife Morning Star, 37. They arrived on April 16, Frank was shot in the head on April 17, and he died in the hospital on April 25. The news of his death was widely reported.
The same year, the baby name Morningstar appeared on the SSA’s baby name list for the very first time:
1978: 6 baby girls named Morningstar
1977: 9 baby girls named Morningstar
1975: 9 baby girls named Morningstar
1973: 8 baby girls named Morningstar [debut]
(The SSA omits spaces, so some these babies may have been named “Morning Star.”)
Supporters of the Indian movement extolled Frank, who had claimed to be Native American. The 1973 folk song “The Ballad of Frank Clearwater” refers to Frank as an “Apache who longed to be free.”
But this was probably not the case. Frank Clearwater, born Frank Clear in the state of Virginia, is listed as “white” on various documents (including arrest records and the 1930 U.S. Census).
My guess is that Morning Star’s name was similarly invented — coined as a sign of solidarity — and that she was also not Native American. I’m not sure what her real name was, or what became of her (or the baby) after 1973, but her assumed identity lives on in the baby name data…
One of the pop culture baby names we’re keeping an eye on right now is Misty, which may have gotten a boost in 2015 thanks to ballerina Misty Copeland.
But before we find out about Misty (in a matter of days!) let’s talk about Gelsey, which debuted in 1979:
1979: 5 baby girls named Gelsey [debut]
The inspiration? American ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, whose first name is pronounced with a hard g, like Gilbert and Gertrude.
Gelsey Kirkland started dancing at the age of 8. She was asked to join the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1968, at the age of 15. She was promoted to soloist in 1970, then promoted to principal dancer (the highest rank possible) in 1972.
In the mid-1970s, she left the NYCB to join the American Ballet Theater and begin her famous partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. They danced together in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and most famously in a televised performance of The Nutcracker, which aired in late 1977.
In May of 1978, Gelsey — dressed as Kitri from Don Quixote — was featured on the cover of Time magazine. This cover is likely what gave her name the exposure it needed to land on the SSA’s baby name list in 1979.
[She might have had an even earlier impact on the charts had she performed alongside Baryshnikov, as planned, in the dance movie The Turning Point (1977). Instead the part was played by ballerina Leslie Browne, who received an Oscar nomination.]
Sadly, Karac died of a stomach infection in 1977 while Led Zeppelin was on tour in North America.
In 1979, Led Zeppelin released the album In Through the Out Door, which included a tribute to Karac called “All My Love.” At least one high-profile magazine, People, mentioned Karac in its write-up of the album. My guess is that this and other press mentions are what caused the baby name to debut in ’79.
(For the record, several U.S. babies named Karac before 1979. And I found one born in London in 1977 named “Zeppelin Karac.”)
In September of 1987, musician M.C. Hammer welcomed a baby girl named A’Keiba Monique.
But the name Akeiba didn’t debut until 1992, when A’keiba was four years old:
1994: 5 baby girls named Akeiba
1993: 6 baby girls named Akeiba
1992: 49 baby girls named Akeiba [debut]
M.C. Hammer wasn’t famous in 1987. (“U Can’t Touch This” didn’t become a hit until 1990.) So A’Keiba’s birth wouldn’t have affected the baby name charts that early.
But why did it suddenly hit in 1992?
Because A’keiba was in the spotlight several times that year.
Various publications ran a photo of A’keiba and her father attending the American Music Awards together in January, for instance, and Jet put Hammer and A’keiba (and her name, sans apostrophe) on the cover in May.
Delayed celebrity baby name debuts still occur these days, though less often — at least relative to the sheer number of celebrity baby name debuts that we now see on the charts.
The best internet-era example I can think of is Kailand, son of Stevie Wonder and fashion designer Kai Milla (Karen Millard-Morris). He was born in 2001, but his name didn’t debut until 2005 — the year he started showing up to fashion shows (one in February, another in December) with his parents.
Can you think of any other celebrity baby names didn’t debut on time?
Update, 5/1/16: Forgot to add Shangaleza to this list! Baseball player Dock Ellis welcomed a baby girl named Shangaleza in 1969, but her name didn’t debut until 1971. Why? A mention in the August issue of Sports Illustrated (“On the Lam with the Three Rivers Gang“):
Dock Ellis, the hottest-talking, hottest winning pitcher in the National League, explained that his one-year-old daugher’s name, Shangaleza Talwanga, meant “everything black is beautiful” in Swahili.
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If you exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired at whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed a baby girl named Romina. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street sign.
In October of 1958, actor/singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fifth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.
(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
The baby name Kebrina, in terms of cheesiness, does not disappoint.
It debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1979, and usage peaked in 1993:
1995: 7 baby girls name Kebrina
1994: 7 baby girls name Kebrina
1993: 50 baby girls name Kebrina
1992: 30 baby girls name Kebrina
1979: 5 baby girls name Kebrina [debut]
Kebrina Kinkade, the original “psychic to the stars.”
She was already hobnobbing with celebrities (David Hasselhoff, Bruce Jenner, Dick Van Patten, Lorne Greene, etc.) in the late 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1979, the year she appeared on several TV talk shows, that she achieved enough visibility to influence the baby name charts.
Her name did not make the charts during the ’80s, but it pops up in magazines and newspapers throughout the decade. She’s mentioned in a 1982 People article about a missing person investigation, for instance. (They misspelled her name Kabrina Kincaid.) She also came up in a 1987 newspaper article about how the predictions made by America’s “38 top astrologers and psychics” the year before were mostly incorrect.
Expectant parents didn’t take notice of her name again until the infomercial for “Kebrina’s Psychic Answer” — a psychic hotline that costed callers $3.99 per minute — started airing on television in 1992. The spot, hosted by actors Erik Estrada and Jenilee Harrison, ran until 1994.
I’m not sure what Kebrina Kinkade is up to these days, but I’m sure she’d be happy to know that she’s got dozens of namesakes. (I wonder if she could have predicted it…?)
What do you think of the name Kebrina?
Blodgett, Ralph. “A few hits, many misses in seers’ 1986 predictions.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 Jan. 1987: 17.
Gioia Diliberto, Gioia. “A Soldier Disappears, and His Family Launches a Nine-Year Investigation That Ends in Grief” People 11 Jan. 1982.
In 1978, the names Astria, Astrea and Astreia all debuted on the SSA’s baby name list, and Astra saw its highest-ever usage:
What caused this sudden interest in the name Astria?
A Saturday morning cartoon called The Space Sentinels (originally titled The Young Sentinels). It premiered in September of 1977, and the main characters were a trio of teenage superheros that represented three different racial groups:
Mercury (Asian) “the amazing athlete who can match the speed of light”
Astria (African-American) “able to assume any living form”
Hercules (white) “empowered with the strength of a hundred men”
Astria was one of the few African-American superheroes on television around this time. (The Super Friends character Black Vulcan was another.)
Like Hercules and Mercury, Astria’s name was taken from a figure in ancient mythology: the Greek goddess Astraea.
Though I’m writing her name “Astria” here, I have to admit that I don’t know which spelling was used in the cartoon. Every source I checked seemed to use a different variant (Astrea at Wikipedia, Astraea at IMDb, etc.) and none of the episodes I watched on YouTube showed her name on-screen.
Speaking of episodes, not very many exist: only 13 aired before The Space Sentinels was cancelled. Was the mixed-race cartoon too ahead of its time to survive? Hm…
So which of those three debut spellings do you like best — Astria, Astrea or Astreia?
Source: Terrace, Vincent. Television Introductions: Narrated TV Program Openings since 1949. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2014.