Vélizy Hills 78140

There's a generation of kids in the Parisian banlieues with American TV names.

Valeria Costa-Kostritsky

Photos by Guillaume Belvèze

In the mid 80s, France, high on coke and unemployment, started giving American names to its children. Today, hundreds of thousands of young people answer to the name of their parent's favorite film and TV heroes and heroines, and quite a lot of them are to be found in Paris's western suburbs. Hanging out outside Vélizy 2, the biggest shopping center in the metropolitan department of Yvelines, we asked them what it felt like to be named after people they'd only seen on TV, a long time ago.

Heather, 14 years old, Vélizy.

VICE: Where does your name come from?
Heather: From Heather Locklear, an actress who starred in a series my mom liked. She was looking for an original name.

Oh yeah, she played Amanda in Melrose Place! Did your name ever cause you any problems?
No, apart from when people can't pronounce my name and say "Eder" or "Ezeur."

What are you doing now? Just hanging around Vélizy 2 with your mates?
Yeah, we're shopping. Then we're going to see Journey to the Center of the Earth 2.

Brenda, 14 years old, Levallois.

Why are you called Brenda?
Brenda: My mom used to watch Beverly Hills and in it there was this girl called Brenda. She's the one who's also on that show Charmed. I guess she found her pretty.

Have people picked on you because of your name?
Yeah, people laughed at me a bit because of the "Brendon and Brenda" ad. You know, that ad for the scratch cards you get in cafés, the one with the cowboy?

I know it. If you ever have children, what would you like to call them?
I'd give them American names, too. I like Tyrone, Taylor and Ashley.

Where do those names come from?
American shows. Ashley was a teenager who liked boys like me and didn't care much about school. School isn't very interesting for us. We'd rather be outside.

Kevin, 18 years old, Levallois.

Why are you called Kévin?
Kevin: Because of Kevin Costner. My mom liked him.

He's a good actor and he was good looking. But the name's kind of ordinary now. I know at least six or seven Kevins born in 1994.

Have you seen Dances with Wolves?

Does your mom like the United States?
Yes. Her dream is to go over there, because over there, there's everything. She's always liked the American way of life, not so much because of the health system, it's not as good as it is over here, but because people are nicer over there.

Brandon, 14 years old, Levallois.

Why are you called Brandon?
Brandon: Because my mom used to watch a series called Beverly Hills. She thought that the guy called Brandon was really nice and she thought I'd be nice like him.

Did it work out?
She seems to think so.

Have you ever watched Beverly Hills?
Yeah, I wanted to see what it was, it intrigued me. It was still on [French TV channel] TF1 when I was little. I used to watch it, but then I stopped. It was for younger people, for my mom when she was young. If I had been a girl, she would've called me Brenda.

Does your mom like the United States?
Yes. We have family over there. We went to see them for a couple of weeks in Englewood, New Jersey. It's eventful over there. Here it's sad. Well, she thinks so.

If you have children, what would you call them?
I've also been watching a series I like a lot, Smallville, and there's a character that's from another planet, called Kal-EL. I like that name.

But do you think it's a real name?
Not at all. But then he'll be unique.

What are your middle names?
Paul, Henri, and Gérard. They're from my step-dad.

Are you happy with being called Brandon?
Honestly, yeah.

Jennifer, 16 years old, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges.

Where does your name come from?
When my mom was pregnant, she didn't really know what to do. She would watch TF1. She found Jennifer in The Young and the Restless. She said: "Yeah that's nice, that's different, that's not French."

Did you watch the show?
No, it gets boring in the end. It's always one character who dumps another and ends up with a third one.

Do you have middle names?
Jacqueline and Nicole. They're my two grandmothers.

What will you call your children?
Salina if it's a girl: it's Spanish. And if it's a boy, Kenzo. It's the name of a perfume and I like it.

Sonny, 24 years old, Créteil.

Where does your name come from?
From the white cop in Miami Vice, Sonny Crockett. When my mother was pregnant, she broke up with my dad who was Italian, Sicilian. He wanted to call me Anthony. I think my mom chose this name because it was out of the ordinary and she wanted to show her ex-husband who's boss.

Have you ever had any problems because of your name?
None, on the contrary. Me, I like it because it's unusual. It stands out straight away and people remember me that way. And this way I've never had any lame nicknames, people have always called me Sonny! However, when my mom went to register me in Fontenay-sous-Bois in 1988, the officials refused the spelling she wanted: "Sony." Something about the patent I think. So she put two "N"s. Because of me, there was a procedure, and a year later, people were allowed to call their kids "Sony."