Life

The Ups and Downs of Sharing Your Name with a Famous Person

“Every time my namesake pops up in the press, I tend to get a lot of misdirected tweets giving me stick."
17 May 2020, 8:00am
What's It Like to Share Your Name with a Famous Person?
Photos courtesy George Osborne (the one we interviewed, not the former chancellor) and via Wikimedia Commons. 

It’s mad to think that how badly some parents fall at the first hurdle of raising a child: choosing a name for your offspring that won't leave them open to years of taunting in the playground. And yet, as the Am I the Arsehole? post written by a woman who can't believe her husband won't let her name their newborn son "Gaylord" proves, some people really do miss the mark.

But what happens if you choose a name for your child, and they end up sharing it with a famous person? On the plus side, they might be able to bypass the waiting list for a fancy new pasta place, or spend less time waiting on hold than their counterparts with a non-famous namesake. But with celebrities often come scandals, and there's no guarantee that their name twin's reputation will stay clean.

I spoke to people who share their name with a famous person about the ups and downs of it all.


LISTEN: "Why Does Everyone Call Me Carlos?" – a podcast about how race and class play into whose names get remembered from the VENT Documentaries series, produced by VICE UK and the young people of Brent.


ANDY KING, FYRE FESTIVAL PRODUCER

"I had been looking forward to watching the Fyre Festival documentary, as I’d found out about the whole debacle via that photo of a cheese sandwich, and it just seemed insane. Then a guy pops up with my name and I’m like ‘aha.’ Next thing you know he’s saying he would suck someone off to get a load of water and then I’m like ‘oh really?’ I kind of rate him for that though, to be fair. That amount of dedication to your job is actually admirable. My partner thought it was hilarious, so did I. I was paranoid for a bit that friends and colleagues were laughing about it and making jokes behind my back. I managed to come away from it relatively unscathed, thankfully."

GEORGE OSBORNE, FORMER CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER

"Every time my namesake pops up in the press, I tend to get a lot of misdirected tweets giving me stick. Lots of time they'll insult me or call me a horrible person. Mostly, it's fine and I crack a joke about them through a quoted retweet and usually get an apology. The only time it gets to me is when someone doubles down and has a go at me for their mistake. Yes, it does happen. And yes, it's weird. I have also been on TV and radio to talk about it. A friend says that I’m apparently marked in the BBC's database as an 'expert in mistaken identities'.

Sharing a name definitely has some perks in real life. It's useful to answer, 'It's George Osborne' when on the phone. If you leave a pregnant pause and the other person gets confused, it can get you through a call centre queue surprisingly quickly."

MATTHEW KELLY, TV PRESENTER

"Matthew Kelly's TV career started at the same time as my schooling. My stepdad was in the RAF, so we moved around a lot which meant a new school every 18 months. Every new school meant a whole new bunch of dicks, including teachers, who thought they were hilarious by reciting his many catchphrases to me. When he got Stars In Their Eyes, my nan bought me a sweatshirt with "Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be..." on it for Christmas. It was dishrags by Boxing Day.

Matthew Kelly's abuse scandal wasn’t great for me either. [In 2003, Kelly was arrested by police over child sex abuse allegations. He was later cleared of all charges.] One evening, I was lying in bed, with the radio on when they announced the breaking news. I called out to my then-wife and said, 'He's only been arrested for kiddy fiddling!' I didn't even have to say his name, that's how much a part of my life it was. The next morning, I went to the shop and was faced with a rack of newspapers all with my name on them and everyone at work thought it was hilarious too. All except my colleague, John Leslie, whose TV namesake had just had rape charges brought against him. He was sympathetic, but also delighted that it was someone else's turn. I said at the time that if he was found guilty, I'd have to change my name – and I would have done."

LUCY WATSON, 'MADE IN CHELSEA' CAST MEMEBER

"In the very early days of Made In Chelsea, people used to tweet me by mistake or try to add me on Facebook but sadly, there were no actual benefits from it. I've booked appointments for the opticians or the hairdressers over the phone before, and they would be disappointed when I turned up. I’ve had them tell me they were hoping it was the Lucy Watson when I called. She’s at the level of fame where she just might have been getting highlights at Blue Tit in Dalston, but I couldn’t sound less like her on the phone. I have a northern English accent, so it wasn’t going to be likely."

@nanasbaah

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