Kalliopi was one of the nine Muses of Greek Mythology, the Muse of Epic Poetry. My mother always says that every name keeps a story inside of it. Nomen est Omen. Kalliopi in Greek means beautiful face, beautiful voice, beautiful eyes.
My grandmother’s name was also Kalliopi. She was fierce and smart and powerful, a real lion. If she was born in a different time she would have definitely become a president, or a team captain, or a CEO. During the war that my grandfather was away she managed to run his entire law office, while being a mother of four. The name “Kalliopi” got a very dominant substance because of her.
I got my name from her, and along with that I inherited some elements of her personality. But growing up there were times I felt that my name was standing for more than I could carry. There were times I was wishing my name was Mary, because if you are a Mary people don’t expect that much from you. But I wasn’t meant to be a Mary.
Growing up I was using a lot of different names. At age four I was once at the airport with my parents and we met my dad’s high school friend. It was the first time he was seeing me so he asked me in a very sweet way.
“What’s your name, you beautiful girl?”
Without hesitation and with my resting face on I said.
My number one choice for years though was the name Alice. It was the name of a Greek movie star. It was powerful enough since she was a leading lady, but it was also girly and sassy, and in my mind it sounded like spring flowers. I liked the essence of flowers, because it was giving the name a much more lighthearted feeling. A Kalliopi could never be lighthearted, and I was feeling much more commercial than my intellectual family.
Growing up my mother used to take me with her when she had to travel to attend conventions. It was typical that the people there would issue me a nametag as the ones everyone had. My go to name for that situation was always Margarita Skourtou. Margarita is the daisy flower in Greek. I got that name again from a movie character. She was a smart and beautiful, powerful and charming young woman. Exactly how I was picturing myself at my pre-school age. Skourtou is my mother’s last name. I was never in peace with my own last name either. I remember feeling so significant wearing that nametag on, as if the whole convention was my movie set.
Probably my last try to change my name started during my teenage years. I was thinking very seriously of become a pop singer and the name Kalliopi Chaska in my mind seemed unacceptable. I had extensive talks with my family and friends about it, but they didn’t really seem to empathize with my severe concerns. Maybe if I was to become an opera or a jazz singer I could use that name, but Kalliopi is not pop, and the idea of a Hip Hop artist rapping my name was just wrong.
A few months before coming to America to study music I was determined that it was my last chance to get an artist’s name. I wanted something that could stand on its own, without a last name, something pop and girly, but not very far from my name. Because even if I was whining about it, I was Kalliopi my entire life and I couldn’t just become Jessica the next day. So I got the idea that my name should become Kylie. It was close to mine, it was very commercial and as carefree as it could get. I thought it was genius.
So a few days before leaving I was out one night with my mom and my boyfriend for ice cream. They are both very supportive of my decisions so they had to be the first to know my idea.
-“Sooooo, you both know I am trying to find an artist’s name.” I said hesitantly. “I think I found the one. My new name will be Kylie.”
There was a small pause, they looked at each other and my mom said.
“My love, that is such an ugly name”
“Yes, it’s really bad.” he agreed.
And then they started a whole conversation about how beautiful and unique my name is and how great it is for an artist’s career.
To this day I still don’t agree with them. I don’t think Kalliopi is a commercial name for a pop career. But the truth is that it is really hard to find a new name and stick with it, a name that describes your character and your goals, a name that it’s so you that you will never again in your life feel the need to change it. It is like making a huge tattoo in your chest. You cannot really regret it later. And I have to admit I am not that much of a decisive person. I am so indecisive that I couldn’t even do a tiny tattoo on the back of my neck. So I made the decision to keep my original name, and because I have no other option I’ll try to make it a great name for people to have it after me.