Arts, Culture & Media

When Alina Simone (not her real name) met Alina Simone (not her real name either...)

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Credit: Andrei Konst

Singer Alina Simone in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Russia.

At a party two years ago, a man I didn't know came up to me and delivered an extraordinary piece of information: his friend was legally changing her name to mine. I was a singer, and it turned out this friend had wandered into a recent show, seen my name on a record album, and literally left the venue calling herself "Alina Simone."

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My friends thought it was funny that another woman my age, who lived in the same city, would change her name to mine. I thought it was funny too, but for a different reason; Alina Simone wasn't my real name. I'd switched from my father's last name, Vilenkin, to my mother's, Simone, when I was 24, after receiving an envelope addressed to one "Alina Vileskin." Alina Simone was a better stage name, I decided, and besides, I'd grown tired of spelling my weird last name, and constantly explaining where I was born, and how it was that I'd come to America, which was hardly the most interesting thing I could think of to talk about.

At the end of the year, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to find the "other" Alina Simone and ask her out for a drink. We met at a bar in Midtown and she told me her story. She'd just been through a traumatic divorce when she happened upon my name. The man who she'd moved to this country to marry — leaving her family, her language, her country behind — had left her for another woman. She felt unmoored, but was ready to make a new life for herself. She'd moved to a new neighborhood, started running marathons and, after more than a decade in America, decided to finally become a US citizen. Now all she needed was a new name.

I came away inspired by the new Alina Simone, dazzled by the power of self-invention that a new name can help bring about. My only advice to her — one Alina Simone to another — was that if anyone ever accused her of stealing her name from the singer Nina Simone, to tell them Nina was born Eunice Waymon.

Do you use a pseudonym?

If so, why'd you change your name?

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