I’ve lived most of my life to please everybody, but me. Most of my school years featured boy bullies, guerrilla-style mean girls and fake-laughing with people whose pop culture references flew right over my sheltered head. I desperately tried learning to walk, talk and dress a certain way to make you like me. To make you stop talking about me. To make you leave me the F#*& alone!! (Intense, much??) Aaaany way. . . it fueled an ambition to, someday, make them know, “I’m worth something.”
Over the years the drive to “be something” only intensified.
I wanted to go to Julliard School of Music.
The cooperate queen dream?
How about professional model?
Finally, a place that wanted me—a place I might fit in.
But fast-forward just a few years. The emails, whispers and demands to “fit the mold” from a past life found their way back to me. I’d found freedom, and wasn’t going back. So to keep it, I felt like I had to change my name.
“You might consider a stage name.”
I could hear mom’s sage advice echoing sometime back. Months past. Maybe a couple years, since I first took the contract with FORD Model Management.
During my three years in Miami, I took a handful of photos, I miiight. Not. Take. Again. . . had I been older. These were a bit revealing for a wholesome, Bible-belt, pastor’s daughter. Blackmail, scandal, job losses and dismissed business partnerships have been involved ever since. My family’s ministry was affected too.
There was a lot of hurt and uncertainty. We never found out who was behind the blackmail (sending my problematic pictures to various people trying to embarrass my ministry oriented family), except that the leading email was facilitated by a pastor’s wife.
Our family visited new churches every weekend (for Dad’s job). Mom and I never knew who we were hugging when we arrived. Everyone became a suspect. I threw on a thicker, happier smile, and hoped to make them like me—whoever “they” were.
Mom was right
Mom’s past advice hit me as I packed my bags in the posh model apartment on Miami Beach, and headed home to do “damage control.” Whatever that meant. I mean how does one “control” feelings of betrayal and excruciating hurt?
But at the time, it seemed like a smart idea. Mom and Dad’s ministry was my mine too, and always has been. It’s something I choose to own. Whether working for the church, or avoiding it, family ministry has always been a constant. If going home to be seen would help, surely it was the right thing to do.
I was never a “bad girl” while working in South Beach. I didn’t drink, work on God’s holy day of rest, do drugs or have sex. And incidentally, men found it some sort of a weird turn on. One even called me a “mystical unicorn.” Okay – whatever. I learned NOT to share certain pieces of that with them. Smh.
Seeking a new name
Nonetheless, the new name search began. I hoped to move on and get back to life with a stage name. I almost healed from the trauma multiple times, only to have my old wounds burst open as I watched my parents’ deep anguish and pain resurface like waves drowning our tight little family unit. They were silent, but I sensed their felt destruction was somehow far greater than my own had been. Each time they hurt, I relived the events. Each time we hurt, we restarted our healing processes again.
I would do anything for my parents not to endure that kind of pain again. I couldn’t come up with a model name I liked as much as the one Mom and Dad had crafted for me at birth. My model developer said the ones I kept picking sounded like a porn star. (Developer: noun, somebody who develops emerging models, both mentally and physically, into living products with higher success rates of succeeding in the industry.)
Irritated and impatient to move on, I finally thought of my middle name: equally as unique. Vanyce. No last name required.
Relief was in sight. I called my mother agent with the news. It was handled. However, implementing the name change was a greater struggle than I’d anticipated.
I systematically contacted photographers, MUA’s (makeup artists) and stylists, begging them to update all model credits, keywords, and even URL’s that had my name in them—and sometimes—also to remove certain images from their online portfolios. The name change created a loss to a career finally gaining traction.People couldn’t say my name.
“Venice, like Italy?”
“Van-cy, like fancy?”
“Van. Please just have them call me Van.”
Some agencies updated my name online. Others, on the phone:
“Kortnye—errr, uh, Van-cy. . . Van for short.” They’d start, stop and stumble. My choices stressed their booking convos.
I eventually let my name be and learned to find its massacre endearing from select people groups.
“I mean, what’s in a name?” I tried to rationalize.
Until that moment, I never grasped how much really is in a name; how much of our very identity is contained in it. The subconscious rampage for identity still tore at me. I just wanted to be me. Finally, I was signed with an international agency with no prior connection. They only knew me as Van.
I’d officially copped my father’s name.
Van. It felt so good! A fresh start. I mentally processed the name differently. Something about the way it sounded—the way it felt. Took a little bit for me to instinctively respond to it when called. I was so grateful to finally have rest and protection and a new identity. A part of me relaxed. It also created it’s own underlying identity questions when I realized that I behaved . . . differently. Not bad different. Feisty different. Happy different. Sweet, ambitious, adventurous, quirky—“different.” I was able to be the person I was underneath that I was too anxious to authentically show around certain people at various times and places.
Fast-forward to now. I’m producing and hosting a TV show! WOW am I pleased; but, I had zero intention to ever mess with my professional branding—my name— again. It was handled. I’d worked through this. And yet….?
Coincidentally, the people hiring me know my dad, and here I had stolen his name. I mean, how do you walk up to people he pastored or sat on committees with, and introduce yourself as him? (Though, I’d love to have seen their faces if I’d tried!!)
Yeah. . . about that name.
I’m a bit sad to part with it. I mean, come on! Van is a hot name on a chick. Just sayin’.
But seriously, I wish this blog had fewer words about me escaping from my past. I desperately want to tell you how you will 100% escape judging yourself by how you think you measure up to the girl in line at Starbucks, escape beyond the gossip mill on Facebook, and never again yearn to look like the person on the cover of GLAMOUR every time #MotivationMonday hits your Instagram feed.
Please let me know if you find out how. I still haven’t.
Here is the truth, I’m well aware that God gave me the job I am in. I wasn’t healthy enough to earn it on my own, and it can disappear faster than I can write these sentences.
Up until today, I’ve been emotionally working through my choice and how exactly to, once again, ask my agents to change my name, this time, back to Kortnye. I am going to be “me” again, because apparently you can’t run from yourself.
So now, I am back to being Kortnye. The girl who I spent all those years running from.
Am I scared sh#!^less?
But you know what? Right now, my face and name are plastered side-by side on social media and in print. I am allowed to be proud of who I am becoming, right?
I’ve lived most of my life to please everybody else. Today, I am trying to love me.
Kortnye is a commercial print model, TV host, and spokesperson. She holds a degree in communications and public relations, with a focus on marketing. As a Lyme survivor, Kortnye’s platform includes a strong focus on holistic wellness and the faith that keeps her strong. You can follow her on IG at RealKortnye