Have you gone through name changes in your career?
Have you agonized on what to call yourself as an Artist,
your pen name?
We look at some of the most iconic artists who had those BIG names that just stand out, and wonder,
How did they do it?
Was it the NAME that brought them so much fame?
We get so much advice around our NAME, and sometimes, wouldn’t it be nice to just ASK our audience…
does this matter?
Do you ever wonder if your own name is enough?
What’s in a Name anyway and how does that really play into growing your audience?
I’m asking because today is a big day…I’m actually at the Motor Vehicle office right now as you are reading this doing something I didn’t think I would EVER do again….and I wanted you to be one of the first to know.
I’m changing my name.
I remember when I got engaged the first time. I was 21 and had stars in my eyes. I was in my second to last year in college and preparing to move to the city and pursue my career full time as a professional performer.
I had grown up with Peterman as my last name, and had never really felt much connection to it. Especially as an actress, I didn’t think it had that “ring” to it.
My soon to be married name? That had flair!
It sounded exciting, a little dangerous, and edgy. Nikól Peterman was going to become Nikól Wolf and I couldn’t wait to go into my first audition with this name.
I got new headshots, created my resume and moved to New York City, booking work so much I was turning it down. This new name was GREAT!
Until it wasn’t….I started to really struggle with so many aspects of the industry. The rejection was starting to wear on me, feeling like I had to have it all together all the time, constantly comparing myself to other dancers….and then even with my husband, who was also an actor.
He was a natural comedian, and even though I usually got cast as the funny character…I doubted myself. My husband was the funny one, not me. I had taken his name….this wasn’t mine.
I even created a personal email address that was “the other Wolf”…..I really wasn’t owning it.
I remember a teacher telling me,
when you walk in the room with your red hair and bright voice, people expect you to be funny!
I knew he was right….and it terrified me…because I didn’t think I was. I was starting to put up a mask, saying everything was ok, when it really wasn’t. I started to panic.
And then the man who I changed my name for left me.
The name disgusted me….
It felt like something dirty I wanted desperately to wash off. I had to wait for nine months before my name would officially change back to my maiden name, and in the meantime, I went by my middle name, changing my social media to:
When the divorce was legal, I started the very long and arduous process of changing my name…it took YEARS. For months, I would walk around with my divorce papers in my bag because everyone seemed to need to have them faxed, scanned, or look at to change my name.
With all the hassle, I swore I would never change it again.
And then something magical happened, I started to really get to know who Nikól Peterman was….who she had been, and who she wanted to be.
Out of the fog of extreme loss and pain, I started auditioning again, with headshots and a resume that had the name I had for the first 22 years of my life.
And I found out something radical….
She was funny
No, I mean she was REALLY funny!
And she was strong, quick, powerful.
She actually didn’t have to compare herself to anyone, because she was now clear what made her stand out.
And it had nothing to do with her name. It actually had to do with something far deeper….something that was constant no matter what name she had…..
I remember getting my new drivers license with Nikól Peterman on it, and being so taken by the wide smile of peace on my face. I showed it to my therapist who asked to see my license picture that had been taken just months before my divorce. She looked at the two pictures and said,
Wow, there’s a big difference. The old picture you look so foggy. In this new one I can actually SEE you.
Yes……in my new picture I was clear. My eyes were bright staring straight into the lens with confidence. Why?
Because I was no longer afraid to be seen….all of me. I knew it didn’t matter what others thought…I knew who I was.
And it took re-connecting to my birth name to realize it never WAS the name. I just needed to discover that I actually had all I needed within.
So, ironically, I was cast a TON with the new name. I was cast as hilarious characters and stepped onto the stage OWNING my voice. Broadway directors gave me free rein to PLAY, and I loved it. There was no more mask.
In releasing the mask, I found peace in Peterman, and launched my company ZenRedNYC.
And then I met Chuck. And I fell in love. Things were getting serious, and the question arose,
Will I change my name again?
I really took my time with this. When we got engaged, I stared at the ring and opened the possibility. I found myself remembering the headache of contacting endless platforms and providers to change my name…the pieces of mail that were STILL coming with Wolf on them and how I hated seeing that.
Maybe I would just stay with Peterman….
Then in June, I went on this epic trip to Alaska with my family to go bird watching, and started to have strong reactions to smells. I spent a day in bed because I didn’t feel well, and my father looked at me and said,
I think you’re pregnant.
My hopes skyrocketed, and my fiance and I went to get a test….which was negative, and then I got my period. But something about feeling the possibility of life stirred something even deeper.
The next day, we were at the main gift market in Anchorage, and I looked straight at Chuck and said,
I want to take your name.
His face lit up like a Christmas tree. He had never asked me to do this, but clearly, this was his vision. And I knew it was mine too. My vision has always been a family name.
And now that I knew who I was, it didn’t really matter what my last name was.
On September 16th, I stood in front my closest family and friends and vowed to love Chuck every day, eyes open and awake…..much like that photo taken of me after my divorce.
In truth, this was the vow I made for my LIFE.
And that is what allowed me to finally be at ease in front of any audience of any size, and grow globally. That is what allowed me to connect to you.
So, what about you?
What does your name mean to you?
Have you made it more than a name?
Who are you REALLY as an Artist and are you claiming that and owning it?
As we approach the end of the year, take stock.
Change is constant. What do you really need to grow your audience in 2019?
This is deeper than the “perfect” name, or a Facebook ad, or learning the latest algorithms.
Because at the end of the day, you are able to grow your audience when you are clear who YOU are.
So, I’m excited to announce and share with you this special moment.
Hello, my name is Nikól Rogers, and I’m so grateful to see you.
Truly SEE you.
Eyes open and awake.
Photography by: Dag Photography