Celebrity Baby Names: Measuring the starbaby effect

December 15, 2009 Linda Rosenkrantz
Celebrity Baby Names

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  Previously seen as an outdated, elderlyish name, it first showed signs of a revival when used by Aidan Quinn in 1989, but he didn’t seem to have the voltage to elevate the name above the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.

KINGSTONGwen 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.

MADDOXMaddox was nowhere to be seen on the list when he was named by the Jolie-Pitts in 2002; this year, at #208, it has been fully integrated into the mainstream.

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.

RYDERMedia darling Kate Hudson’s choice of this name for her son in 2004 definitely contributed to its spike in popularity.  It was #723 two years before his birth, 257 two years later, and 203 now.

SHILOH.  Another JoliePitt 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.

There are several other celebaby names we expect to see demonstrating their star power in the next few years—a group that could include Harlow, Clementine, Valentina, Kai and Magnus.

Any other ideas?


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