The baby name Vanna only saw a smattering of usage every year until the early 1980s, when it suddenly became trendy:
- 1988: 58 baby girls named Vanna
- 1987: 87 baby girls named Vanna
- 1986: 111 baby girls named Vanna [peak]
- 1985: 71 baby girls named Vanna
- 1984: 39 baby girls named Vanna
- 1983: 21 baby girls named Vanna
- 1982: 7 baby girls named Vanna
- 1981: 8 baby girls named Vanna
What spurred all this interest in the name Vanna?
If you owned a TV set during the ’80s, you already know the answer: Vanna White, hostess of the popular game show Wheel of Fortune.
Vanna White was chosen out of a field of 200 hopefuls to join host Pat Sajak on the show in December of 1982. (The original hostess, Susan Stafford, quit in October.)
Her job essentially consisted of walking in front of a puzzle board — sometimes right to left, sometimes left to right — and turning tiles to reveal letters as contestants made their guesses. (Today she still walks back and forth, but the puzzle board letters are touch-activated.)
Wheel of Fortune became the highest-rated syndicated show on television in the mid-1980s. As a result, Vanna White became “TV’s most improbable cult heroine.” She became so popular, in fact, that the press dubbed the phenomenon Vanna-mania.
(Several years after peak Vanna-mania, one reporter noted that it “was one of the oddest phenomenons of our time, bestowing superstar status on a woman whose only obvious skill was turning letters on cue.”)
By early 1986, Vanna White knew she had multiple namesakes:
“I’ve gotten tons of fan mail,” she marvels. “Love letters, marriage proposals, children being named after me, which is quite an honor. Every year on Sept. 4, I get a picture of this adorable little Vanna.”
So, where did the original Vanna get her unusual first name?
[T]he name Vanna came from my grandmother’s next-door neighbor. Her name was Vana Woorell … and she spelled her name with one n … my mother liked the name so much, she said, Well, I’m gonna name my daughter Vanna with two n‘s.
What are your thoughts on the name Vanna? Would you use it?
- Core, Leopoldine. “An Interview with Vanna White.” Believer Magazine 1 May 2018.
- Richmond, Ray. “Vannamania is over, but White still turns, and gets, letters.” Chicago Tribune 20 Mar. 1992.
- Salam, Maya. “Vanna White Takes a Spin as ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Host After 37 Years.” New York Times 9 Dec. 2019.
- Vanna White – Wikipedia
- Wheel of Fortune – Wikipedia
- Zoglin, Richard. “Video: Game Shows Hit the Jackpot.” Time 24 Feb. 1986.