The relatively rare name Aissa started appearing in the U.S. data in the early 1960s:
- 1963: unlisted
- 1962: 5 baby girls named Aissa
- 1961: 6 baby girls named Aissa [debut]
- 1960: unlisted
- 1959: unlisted
Looks to be John Wayne’s daughter Aissa (pronounced ie-EES-ah), who was born in 1956 had a short acting career in the early 1960s. Her first and most notable role was that of Lisa Angelina Dickinson in the movie The Alamo (1960).
Photographs of Aissa also occasionally appeared in the newspapers. Perhaps the most prominent photo of her was the one on cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in March of 1961. It was their “diamond jubilee issue” (marking their 75th year in print) and, according to the caption, Aissa was “wearing $850,000 in Cartier diamonds.”
Aissa’s mother was John Wayne’s third wife, Pilar, and her two full siblings were named John Ethan and Marisa.
I know the story behind John Ethan’s middle name — it came from the character John Wayne played in The Searchers (the movie that launched Pippa) — but I don’t know the story behind “Aissa.” Perhaps the Waynes found it in the 1951 movie Outcast of the Islands, which featured an exotic character named Aissa (played by French actress Kerima)…?
In terms of etymology, “Aissa” comes from the French name Aïssa, which is based on the Arabic name Isa, a form of Jesus.
The name saw peak usage in the U.S. in the early 1990s:
- 1994: 10 baby girls named Aissa
- 1993: 20 baby girls named Aissa
- 1992: 58 baby girls named Aissa [peak]
- 1991: 20 baby girls named Aissa
- 1990: 11 baby girls named Aissa
Aissa Wayne’s name was in the news a lot during 1992 due to legal troubles. In April, she testified in court against her ex-husband (a physician who had hired two assailants to attack her in 1988 amid their child custody battle). The ex-husband was convicted in May and sentenced in July. In December, Aissa won full custody of their 5-year-old daughter, Anastasia Pilar.
What are your thoughts on the name Aissa/Aïssa?
- Coburn, Marcia Froelke. “Legend’s Child.” Chicago Tribune 23 Feb. 1992.
- Pinsky, Mark I. “Full Custody of Girl, 5, Goes to Aissa Wayne.” Los Angeles Times 9 Dec. 1992.
- Pinsky, Mark I. “Gionis Found Guilty in Assault on Wayne.” Los Angeles Times 12 May 1992.
- “The John Wayne Family.” Independent Star-News 10 Jan. 1960: 107
P.S. Here are several more “delayed” celebrity baby name debuts, i.e., celebrity baby-inspired names that didn’t appear on the charts at the time of birth.
P.P.S. John Wayne’s second wife was named Esperanza, nicknamed Chata. His first was named Josephine.