I was named after a beauty queen ― Leannza Chia
AUG 10 ― Many people find it surprising that my name actually has an origin, let alone that it came from a beauty queen.
Leanza Cornett was Miss America 1993 and the first beauty queen to adopt HIV/AIDS prevention as her year-of-service theme. Her parents were teachers.
She lives in Los Angeles with her “Entertainment Tonight” correspondent husband and two sons. She won her Miss America title at 22, and Miss National Sweetheart, a pageant for Miss America runner-ups, when she was 19.
I am 19, named Leannza, and interning at an online news portal. My grandparents were teachers; my parents are insurance agents. I live in Malaysia on the other side of the globe, separated by three seas, a 12-hour time difference, and 22 years of age.
I am 1.6 metres of awkward teenage sarcasm and uneven tan lines — It would be a joke if I joined a beauty pageant.
Our short, cropped hair is the only similarity between us.
My mum was five months along with me when she saw Cornett win the Miss America crown on TV. She noticed the unique name and wanted to name me “Leanza” as well.
But she worried that with Malaysians’ bad habit of mangling English names, rather than pronouncing it “Lee - anne - za” like the commentator had, most people would pronounce it as “Leen- za.”
Her solution? The extra “n”, so that it would be more identifiable as “Lee - anne - za.”
Nineteen years on, I can safely say the extra “n” did not help much.
The “Leen-za” pronunciation comes up frequently. Spelling-wise, somehow it becomes either “Lenza” or “Leanzza.” I still have no idea how people can even think of a name with two “z”s.
On Facebook, there are only 25 other people in the world with the exact same first name as me. Unique, as my mum wanted.
Maybe because my name is uncommon, I was curious about its meaning. According to Oxford’s Dictionary of American Family Names, Leanza is an Old Italian surname that means “loyalty” and a reduced form of a female personal name, Allegranza (no meaning provided).
The funny thing is my name does reflect a part of my personality. I am absurdly loyal, especially once I connect with the subject. Like with Android and my favourite high school clubs. Italian? Beyond liking pasta, there’s not much that I can relate back to the roots of the name.
And am I anything like my namesake? No. But I don’t regret my name. Can’t imagine being named anything else (Imogen for example). It’s also funny to see people’s faces when they try to pronounce it.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.