Princess Ka’iulani by artist Ellen Bellerose
First name: Tiana. No, I am not African American.
Middle name: Kai. No, I am not Japanese or German.
I am a white girl who was lucky enough to be born in the beautiful island of Hawai’i. I was born on the actual island of Hawai’i, not Oahu or Maui, but Hawai’i Hawai’i. My Mother and her siblings were born and raised on Oahu, moving to the mainland in their late 20′s. My Father is also an island child, but from La Isla del Encanto… that’s right, Puerto Rico! My Family then moved from Hawai’i to an island off of Miami called Key Biscayne—Island Paradise. I lived on an island my whole life until I was 18 to attend University at Loyola New Orleans.
My Mother thought that she would miraculously be able to name me as soon as she laid here pretty blue eyes upon me… nope, she went blank. I was basically nameless for two days in a little town in Hawai’i. After a few family meetings I was named Tiana Kai. Tiana, so that Americans and Latinos could easily pronounce it and Kai, meaning ocean in Hawaiian, after the last Princess of Hawai’i—Princess Ka’iulani.
There is a beautiful movie about the the last Princess’s life, called Princess Ka’iulani. I highly recommend watching it, especially if you are American. It recounts the love the Hawaiians had for their people and land, the Princess’s kind heart and short life, and the sorrowful future the Americans laid before them.
My high school graduation in Miami, fully adorned with all types of leis flown in from Hawai’i.
I’ve met Germans and Japanese named ‘Kai,’ which may be the reason why people first assume I am Japanese before they meet me. Some have thought I was African American, even before the movie Princess and the Frog came out in 2009. There is actually a porn star with a very similar name to mine. So if you Google me and you find pictures of a naked woman, that’s her not me. There are so many interesting meaning and origins of Kai here.
So, that’s my name and I’m happy that my family took two days to come to a conclusion, thanks Auntie! Don’t rush a name, it’s such an important part of one’s identity. In my dreams I can hula, but unfortunately can only salsa.