Celebrity Names Blog

Idris Elba: From Getting Picked On In School Because of His Name to Being A Golden Globe Winner (Take That, Bullies!)

Idris Elba: From Getting Picked On In School Because of His Name to Being A Golden Globe Winner (Take That, Bullies!)

The 2012 Golden Globes were so much more than just seeing what Angelina Jolie was wearing and if Brad Pitt was still walking with a cane. We were introduced to a rising star named Idris Elba, who took home the prize for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie for Luther, a BBC series about a troubled detective.

In trying to find out more about this newcomer today — we'll say relative newbie because he did have a six-episode arc on The Office in 2009 as well as a stint on cable's The Wire before landing Luther and the movie Thor — we discovered that he has quite an interesting name story. He is British, but his mother is from Ghana and his father from Sierra Leone, so they gave him the name Idrissa, which is an African name meaning "immortal." While his name was a beautiful tribute to his parents' heritages, his schoolmates found it a little too feminine and it started to cause him problems.

"The name I was born with is Idrissa," he told Jimmy Kimmel. "When I got to about 9 years old, I realized there was Melissa and Clarissa, and I had to get rid of that -sa at the end [of my name]."

He said he actually got into fights with kids in his London school who made fun of his name. "I realized Idrissa was not going to stick, so I had to teach people to say Idris," he said, motioning beating someone up until they got his new name right. "'What? Oh yeah — now you got it,'" he said, jokingly reenacting a conversation with bully in which he set them straight on his name. Quickly adding: "I don't condone violence."

When the actor and his ex-wife Dormowa Sherma welcomed their own daughter in 2002, they gave her the name Isan, which is an Indian name of Sanskrit origin meaning, “long-awaited gift bearer." The actor later tattooed those words, the meaning of Isan, on his arm in tribute to the girl.

Speaking of the Golden Globes, another big winner was none other than Octavia Spencer, whose name we profiled last summer soon after she appeared in The Help. Octavia is of Latin origin and means “eight” or “eighth" but the actress is actually one of seven children. And she told us that she was named after Octavia the Minor ("the most famous Roman Octavia").

Shailene Woodley, who is probably best known for her role in Secret Life of an American Teenager, was nominated for her role opposite George Clooney in The Descendants. We dug up a fun factoid about her name, too. "My mom saw the name Shay on a license plate when she was 18 and stuck in traffic... and she added endings to it, and that's how I got my name!"

Our last bit of name news from Sunday's show... We learned that Kelsey Grammer, who won for Boss, will have two more baby names to pick out. His new wife, Kayte, is expecting twins. His other children are Spencer Grammer, Greer Grammer, Mason Grammer and Jude Grammer.

Did you watch the Golden Globes? Were there any names of actors or actresses that you heard for the first time? If so , please share them with us. And what about Idris Elba's name story? Did anybody make fun of you about your name when you were growing up? Share your story.



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

January 17, 2012 12:35 PM
By Kay (not verified)

Peter Dinklage mentioned in his acceptance speech his new daughter. Any announcement on her name?

January 17, 2012 2:22 PM
By Jennie

I love this round-up of Golden Globes name news. And I am also curious about Peter Dinklage's baby name!

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