Celebrity Baby Names: Measuring the starbaby effect
We talk a lot about the influence of celebrity baby names on the general population of baby namers, but just how potent is that influence in actuality? I thought it might be useful to take a closer look at some celebrity choices and see if there was some way to quantify their impact.
Of course there are, inevitably, other factors involved in whether celebrity baby names become popular. For instance, how high-profile is this celeb and how much has her child been seen in the media? What are other influences surrounding the name? A popular character in a movie or TV show? Is this a name that would have risen anyway, just as part of the zeitgeist or is it one that was never—or hardly ever—even heard before? Is it a vintage name that had been stored in the attic until it was brought out and sprinkled with some stardust?
Here are a few specific examples, giving the child’s and his or her celebrity parent’s name, the year of birth, and where the name ranked before, during and after its arrival.
AVA is an interesting case. Previously seen as an outdated, elderlyish name, it first showed signs of a revival when used by Aidan Quinn in 1989, but he didn’t seem to have the voltage to elevate the name above the 800’s on the Social Security list. Next came Heather Locklear, a major TV star at the time of her Ava’s birth in 1997: the name subsequently rose from #737 in 1995 to 259 in 1999. But it was following the more highly publicized arrival of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe‘s Ava-named daughter in 1999 that the name shot up to #133 two years later—and then all the way to #5 (and probably rising) last year.
HAZEL was another name that seemed to have little potential for a comeback when chosen by Julia Roberts for one of her twins in 2004. It wasn’t even on the list in 1997, was at 681 when little Hazel Moder was born, but had risen to 359 three years later.
IRELAND is a clear-cut example of a name created by the celebrity culture, as it was unheard of when the daughter of Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin was born in 1995—a time when place names were heating up. By last year, there were more baby girls named Ireland than there were named Tess, Tia or Tanya.
JADEN is another proof of the Starbaby Effect. The son of Jada Pinkett and Will Smith was given this spin on the biblical Jadon in 1998, when it ranked #328; five years later it had zoomed to #82. Jaden’s sister Willow’s name is also on the rise.
JAYDEN. This spelling was already quite trendy when Britney Spears and Kevin Federline picked it for their son in 2006, but the maelstrom of publicity swirling around Britney and her boys surely contributed to this version of the name reaching its current standing of #11.
KINGSTON. Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale had personal reasons for their choice of Kingston for son #1, but that didn’t prevent others from following their lead in a big way. At the year of his birth in 2006, there were fewer than 200 Kingstons born in this country, last year there were 1,519.
ROCCO. Another name that wasn’t in the top thousand—viewed as a somewhat dated, strictly ethnic choice—when Madonna chose it as her son’s name in 2000. It jumped onto the list the following year. Now? It’s sitting pretty at #418.
SHILOH. Another Jolie–Pitt success story, and a nod to the couple’s combined superstardom. Nowhere in the Top 1000 when daughter Shiloh was born in 2006, it, predictably entered the list the following year and is now at #650.
VIOLET. The daughter of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck was born in 2005, when her name was beginning to morph from a rather faded, old-fashioned appellation into a more modern-sounding option. Two years prior to her birth, it was at 588, two years after # 229, and presently at 184.
Any other ideas?
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on December 15th, 2009 at 1:35 am
I think Seraphina and Matilda are on their way to popularity as well. Hopefully Peanut will not follow suit:)
on December 15th, 2009 at 1:37 am
Oh, also Ruby, but I don’t know if Toby Maguire and Charlotte Church actually have enough clout to be able to take responsibility for that or not.
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on December 15th, 2009 at 7:30 am
I love seeing calebrity baby names but I’m always praying they don’t pick a name I love so it won’t become really popular and ruin it for me.
on December 15th, 2009 at 9:13 am
I’m waiting for some celebrity to discover “Tamsin” (if it hasn’t happened already). It’s been a personal favorite of mine ever since I discovered it in Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. It’s only a matter of time before it bursts onto the scene, I reckon.
on December 15th, 2009 at 11:27 am
I’m not ENTIRELY convinced that it’s just the celebrity factor. I know that Violet was on its way up before the Garner-Affleck baby was born, and Hazel and Ava were already favourites with some of the NE crowds. I think this effect is part celebrity and part celebrities picking names that are just beginning to be fashionable.
That being said, I still hope that celebs keep well away from my favourites.
on December 15th, 2009 at 12:36 pm
No, I LOVE Tamsin and hope it doesn’t become too popular!!! I think it’s interesting how celebs can positively and negatively affect our choices. For example, I was due at the same time as The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck and I was terrified she’d use the same name as me. Luckily she didn’t, though her choice of Isaiah is cute. I agree also that some of this is just part of the zeitgest with Ava and Violet just reflecting what is already going on.
on December 15th, 2009 at 12:52 pm
I’m curious as to how Angelina and Brad Pitt’s Vivienne will do. Vivian was the name I had picked out for my daughter but ended up not using.
People always said it was old-fashioned, but I can’t see how it is any more old-fashioned than Olivia.
on December 15th, 2009 at 2:32 pm
I wondered what effect Jessica Alba’s choice of Honor would have – it’s a virtue name, etc, but also as Honor’s grown from baby to adorable toddler I wonder how much that impacts people’s impression of it.
on December 15th, 2009 at 3:46 pm
I am still battling with myself over this…my top choice for a girl is Hazel. I LOVE it so much. But I’m really afraid people will be thinking that I stole the idea from Julia Roberts. Especially since the middle name I love for Hazel is Juliana. Arghh….
on December 15th, 2009 at 4:13 pm
I hate to see Shiloh on this list. 🙁 It’s been a family name for years and I’ve always loved it (it started as the name of my Grandfather’s church, Shiloh Baptist, which is even weirder considering ‘Shiloh Baptist’ was Angelina’s decoy name). And although I won’t be having children for several years, I’m almost scared to use it – but maybe I can squeeze in the middle?
What do you guys think, will Shiloh still be associated with Brangelina 5 years down the road, and will it continue to rise in popularity?
on December 15th, 2009 at 7:43 pm
Don’t forget Ella, Stella, Lucy, Lola, Lily and Lila!
Even Vivian/Vivienne is making a comeback thanks to Angelina.
on December 15th, 2009 at 8:41 pm
Any idea as to the popularity of names of star’s kids from born in prior decades?
on December 15th, 2009 at 11:43 pm
I am extraordinarily bummed that Angelina picked Vivienne, since Vivian has been our #1 girl’s name for several years. We’ll use it anyway if we have a girl, but still… I was hoping it would stay a bit lower key. I think my husband and I both swore when we heard the names of those twins!
on December 16th, 2009 at 12:44 am
Jax. I never heard people like this name (let alone mention it) until Garcelle Beauvais-Nilson chose this name for one of her twin boys. Lola also comes to mind, because until Madonna chose to call Lourdes “Lola,” I really never heard it on babies. I’m really hoping that Helena doesn’t become popular now because of Kelly Rutherford’s baby girl.
Great blog! 🙂
on December 16th, 2009 at 1:02 am
Jill, I wouldn’t worry about Helena. It’s had solid usage over the year’s and I don’t think many people have even heard of Kelly Rutherford.
on December 16th, 2009 at 1:03 am
And Stacy, the same for Vivian. The name is not as unusual as Shiloh (or Knox for that matter), so I don’t think Brangelina necessarily owns that name.
on December 17th, 2009 at 1:16 pm
I don’t think stars set the trends. I think they happen to select a name just as it’s beginning to rise in popularity, the same way they might select an oufit, hairstyle, or beverage etc. that has all the right elements for popularity, simply because it’s one they like. It would be interesting to see if people steeped in celebrity culture (agents, business managers, producers) but who are not well-known to the public also, tend to choose about-to-become trendy names for their children. If so, I’d say it looks like people in New York, L.A., etc. are at the start of a trend, but not the cause of it.
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