After years of bullying and racist jokes, 19-year-old Keisha Austin decided to ditch her Black-sounding name for something more neutral. According to reports, the Kansas City, MO teen officially changed her name to Kylie.
“It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl,” she told the Kansas City Star. “Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative.”
The paper reports that kids in her predominantly White neighborhood would ask if there “was a ‘La’ or a ‘Sha’ in front of her name,” and a teacher “once asked if there was a dollar sign in her name, like the singer Ke$ha.”
Her mother Cristy, a Caucasian woman, said she named her biracial daughter Keisha because to her, it represented a “strong, feminine, beautiful black woman.”
“I saw it as a source of pride,” the single mom said. “I wanted her to have that.”
Unfortunately for Keisha-turned-Kylie, she never found pride or cultural significance in her birth name. She said Keisha was a beautiful, but it just didn’t fit her.
“It’s not something I take lightly,” she said, fighting back tears. “I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t believe you should just change your name or your face or anything like that on a whim. I didn’t want to change my name because I didn’t like it. I wanted to change my name because it didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t connect to it. I didn’t feel like myself, but I never want any girls named Keisha, or any name like that, to feel hurt or sad by it.”
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Cristy decided to make her daughter’s wish come true as an early Christmas present.
“It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it,” she said. “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.”
She added, “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 okay with that.”
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