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19-year-old Keisha Austin, from Kansas City, Missouri, will now and forever be known as Kylie Austin.  Kylie’s mother, Cristy, chose the name Keisha because it represented a strong, beautiful black woman and she wanted to instill confidence and culture in her.

“I saw it as a source of pride,” Cristy says. “I wanted her to have that.”

But a source of pride isn’t what “Kylie” received growing up with Keisha as her name.

In an interview with The Kansas City Star, Kylie explains how growing up in a mostly white area made her resent her name because of the racist comments she would always receive.

From The Kansas City Star:

“It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl,” she says. “Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative.”

Even a teacher once asked if there was a dollar sign in her name, like the singer Ke$ha. If she couldn’t even get through a class without a teacher taking a cheap shot at her name, what would happen in a job interview?

The more she shared these stories with her mom, the more it became apparent that Keisha was serious about changing her name — not different from the way some Jewish people change their last names to avoid anti-Semitism and Asians sometimes take traditionally American names in addition to their given names.

Not everyone was in agreement with Keisha changing her name. A friend suggested that she could keep her name, and show people she’s not a stereotype. Even Keisha’s mother felt saddened by the name change.

“It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it,” Cristy says. “Keisha was the only name I ever thought of, and when I talked to her in my belly, I talked to Keisha. But she’s still the same person, regardless of her name. But her happiness is what is most important to me. I love and support her, and whatever she has to do to feel good on the inside, I have to be OK with that.”

As of a week ago, and $175 later, Keisha is now Kylie Austin.

Kylie, though?

One has to wonder if the name change was more of a self-esteem issue, rather than being teased about a name. There have been many times when I hated my name growing up as a kid, but that was because people wouldn’t pronounce it correctly. And then there was that song “Iesha”, by Another Bad Creation. I still can’t introduce myself to anyone without them mentioning that song. But did it ever dawn on me to change my name? Never. My parents gave me the name for a reason.

I hope in changing her name to Kylie, Keisha realizes that the ability to purchase a new name is easy, but self-esteem and pride can’t be bought, but that’s just my opinion.

  • Kianga

    This story makes me think of my experience when I use my nickname Kiki. I used it while ordering food at a Black-owned restaurant and the person said no I cant use it,what is your real name. I thought that was rude! What if Kiki was my real name. So what! I left out but unfortunately ended up at a non Black establishment.

  • rey

    I’m a black biracial woman who is proud of her black heritage. But then again – I’m not the decider of all things black – like you.

  • rey

    Most of the “Keishas” I have ever known were white, not black. So I don’t understand had one name is more black than the other anyway. But changing her name to a more “white” sounding one is not going to change the fact that most white people will see her as black. But she’s young, so she will learn.

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