In a recent interview with Sananda Maitreya, the artist formerly known as Terence Trent D’Arby, his people instructed writer Kate Mossman to not use that name because it brought him too much pain. Over the course of the interview, he refers to D’Arby in the past tense, and says that this person died at the age of 27. D’Arby’s first album sold over nine million copies, and drew comparisons to the likes of Sam Cooke, Prince and Michael Jackson. Due to personal changes, challenges and choices that he describes in the piece, his follow up album Vibrator didn’t sell as many copies. Almost 30 years after his debut, he’s still performing and releasing albums under the name Sananda Maitreya, including 2009’s Nigor Mortis, which is my official new Twitter name for Halloween.
Names can help us tell new stories about ourselves. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson. 2 Chainz worked under the name Tity Boi for over a decade before changing his name and seeing his popularity skyrocketed. In my case, a name change isn’t about putting on a new professional persona, but rising to meet the name I was born with.
When I started blogging and using Twitter, I was a 26-year old assistant dean at a college in Philadelphia who wanted to keep my personal life and my professional image separate. Freedom Reeves came from an inside joke with a supervisor. I like that it had part of my real name and that it was aspirational. I wanted the freedom to say, post and write what I wanted to say.
Fast forward to 2013, a numerologist friend did a reading of my name. He said that Chakka E. Reeves was the name that is connected to fulfilling my destiny. The E is Elizabeth, a middle name that I share with my grandmother. I asked him to tell me what he saw for Freedom Reeves. The results were less impressive.
Two years later, I’m ready. I’ve decided that 33 (which I turn tomorrow) will be the year that I create under my birthname, across all platforms. It will be a gradual shift, but a necessary one.
Your turn: When you create, perform or otherwise operate professionally, what name do you use? Reply to this email or on Twitter using the hashtag #HWNames