What's In a Name?

My mother says Lela translates to “dark beauty” in a language neither of us know. She spelled it L-E-L-A because she wanted it to be unique. Now when people call me Lee-luh instead of Lay-luh, my mother considers the different ways that she could’ve spelled my name. Layla, Leila, Leyla. But she chose Lela.

Chiere is my mother’s first name. Her older brother named her after a girl who lived in the neighborhood. My mother grew up spelling her name C-H-I-E-R-E, then found out it was C-H-I-E-R-I on her birth certificate when she got older. No one ever reads Chiere and says, Sher-ree. Maybe Cherry, even Chee-air once. Chiere.

Owens is my father’s last name. It is his father’s last name, too. It’s all that connects me to my father on paper. It is the only part of my name that may one day change. Owens. Straightforward and simple. No confusion, no misspellings, no mispronunciations. Owens.

My name tells a story. It carries the eagerness of two young people in love, dreaming of a daughter who would be special enough to deserve such a name. My name is my mother and my father. My name is their history, and therefore my own. My name is Lela Chiere Owens.


Lela Owens