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Because we had two sets of male names for Boys Names from the Australian Football League and Boys Names from the National Rugby League, we need to have two sets of female names to keep the numbers even. As the spring fashion collections are out now, and ladies are getting frocked up for the spring racing season, it seemed a good time of year to feature women’s names from the world of Australian fashion.
Bambi Northwood-Blyth is a young up and coming model from Melbourne. She became known once her photo started being seen in tabloids partying with her surfer boyfriend who owns a fashion label, and soon became an internationally known “it” girl. At 5 foot 7, Bambi is unusually short for a fashion model, has a very distinctive look with heavy dark eyebrows, and sports tattoos and facial piercings. Bambi is a diminutive of the Italian word bambina, meaning “girl child”; English equivalents of Bambi might be Babe or Lassie. A girl named Bambi (real name Francesca) is the heroine of 1914 novel, Bambi, by Marjorie Benton Cooke. It recounts the romantic adventures of a lively young society girl in New York, and seems an entertaining enough read. However, it’s been overtaken in the public consciousness by a male deer called Bambi, hero of a novel by Felix Salten which was made into an animated Disney movie. Since then, Bambi has taken on connotations of being doe-eyed, long-limbed and generally adorable, like a baby deer. Bambi is usually a nickname or stage name in real life, and this case is no exception: Bambi Northwood-Blyth’s real name is Stephanie.
Cheyenne Tozzi was raised in Sydney, and is the type of blonde bikini babe which makes her suitable to be the face of Mambo Goddess and Just Jeans. She’s been hailed as “the next Elle McPherson”, and seems to be dating someone new every time you open a gossip magazine, from Kanye West to Mickey Rourke to Brandon Davis to our own Taj Burrow. Cheyenne is the name of a Native American people from the Great Plains region. Their name is what the Dakota Sioux called them, and means something like “the people of an alien language” (literally, “red-talkers”). One of their most famous members was the chief Black Kettle, who tried to make peace with the American settlers, and was killed by General George Custer. It’s pronounced shy-AN, and seems to be have been first used as a name in 1950s TV western, Cheyenne, about a cowboy called Cheyenne Bodie. It’s now seen as a primarily feminine name, and you should be aware that many Native Americans find using tribal names as personal names culturally insensitive or even offensive.
Demelza Reveley is from Wollongong, and won the fourth series of Australia’s Next Top Model. Despite winning the show, judges said she lacked the sophistication to be a top model, and was just young and pretty. She has posed for Cosmopolitan and Vogue, and is currently the face of Sydney’s fashionable Strand Arcade shopping centre. Demelza is the name of a Cornish village said to mean “fort of Maeldaf”. The name Demelza was used for a character in the Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, and it became well known after the novels were turned into a TV series in the 1970s; the part of Demelza Poldark was played by Angharad Rees. Part of the success of the name at the time may be because, in the story, Demelza is told that her name means “thy sweetness”. Demelza Reveley’s parents obviously like unusual names – her sister’s name is Tanith.
Elle Macpherson (pictured) was born in Sydney, and first modelled in New York as a teenager to raise money for her law degree (soon abandoned). She became known for her girl next door looks and magnificent figure, which earned her the sobriquet of “The Body”. Elle became part of the generation of supermodels in the 1980s, and went on to control many business interests. Today she is a multimillionaire businesswoman with her own fashion label, and is the face of Revlon cosmetics. She lives in Britain with her two sons. Elle’s name is short for her real name of Eleanor. Elle is the name of the world’s largest fashion magazine, founded in Paris in 1945. At one time, Elle Macpherson appeared in every issue of the magazine for six years in a row, and at the age of 21, married its creative director, Gilles Bensimon. The magazine’s name is the French word for “she”.
Miranda Kerr was raised in the country town of Gunnedah in New South Wales before her family moved to Brisbane. She won the 1997 Dolly magazine contest at the age of 13, became a swimwear model, and relocated to New York. She is the first Australian to become a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model. She is married to actor Orlando Bloom, and is the mother of Flynn Christopher Blanchard Copeland Bloom. The name Miranda was created by William Shakespeare for his play, The Tempest; Miranda is the teenage daughter of the duke Prospero, and the two of them have been exiled on a remote island since Miranda was a toddler. Miranda’s name is derived from Latin for “admirable, miraculous” – Prospero is a magician, and perhaps chose a rather magical sounding name for his daughter. Miranda seems to be a popular name in Australia, at least in fiction; there seems to be a lot of Mirandas in films and television shows, including the beautiful schoolgirl Miranda in Picnic at Hanging Rock, based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. As this movie is very mysterious, it adds up to Miranda being a remarkably magical and mystical name.
Myfanwy Shepherd is from Cairns; she auditioned for the fourth series of Australia’s Next Top Model, but was rejected, as judges didn’t believe she had what it takes. A few months later, she was on the runways of New York, London, Paris and Milan. Myfanwy is a medieval Welsh name revived in the 19th century. It is often translated as “my fine one” or “my rare one”, but this seems to be an imaginative gloss, as it is more likely from the Welsh for “beloved”. A 14th-century legend tells of Myfanwy Fychan, who was said to be the most beautiful woman in Powys, and vain enough to love nothing more than hearing her appearance praised. She took a fancy to a penniless bard because he could compose poems extolling her loveliness. Fickle as well as vain, she soon dumped him for someone richer and better looking, and the bard was left to wander around sadly composing poetry to his lost love. This rather unpleasant character’s story was turned into a popular song by Joseph Parry in the 19th century. The name is pronounced muh-VAHN-wee, however Australian Myfanwys have a range of pronunciations, including like Tiffany with an M at the front. Like Myfanwy Shepherd, they all seem to use Myf (said MIFF) as the nickname.
Pania Rose is from Perth in Western Australia; she was discovered during a national teen covergirl contest. She’s posed for Marie Claire and Spanish Vogue, and is most famous for her 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition appearance. The name Pania is one from Maori mythology; Pania of the Reef was a beautiful sea maiden. She fell in love with a handsome son of a chieftain, and the pair became secretly married. These mortal-to-sea creature love affairs always seem to go horribly wrong in tales, and this one is no exception. Pania stayed with her husband every night, but during the day she needed to be in the sea in order to survive. Her frustrated husband got tired of not having a wife around during the day, and tried to force her to remain on land against her will. Horrified that he would risk her life, she fled from him into the ocean. There is a statue of Pania on the city of Napier’s Marine Parade that is sometimes compared to that of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. The name is said PAH-NEE-AH, and it may mean “polished”.
Tabrett Bethell was born in Sydney, and was a teenage model and cheerleader for the NRL Cronulla Sharks. After this she trained as an actress, has been in several films, and played a key role in the US fantasy TV show, Legend of the Seeker, where she gained a fan following. Tabrett’s unusual name came about because of an argument her parents had about what to name her. Her mother had chosen the name Siobhan, but her father preferred the name Murray. Her dad left the hospital and went for a drive, where he saw a sign for Tabrett Street. He drove back to the hospital, and suggested Tabrett instead, which her mother proved equally enthusiastic about. Tabrett is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and for many years, Tabrett was told her name was Welsh. I have read that it is derived from the Hebrew word tofe, for the hand drum that is used to praise Yahweh, and is interpreted as meaning “celebration”. Although Tabrett’s surname is Welsh, meaning “son of Ithel”, by coincidence it looks similar to the Hebrew for “house of God”, so there is some odd Welsh-yet-Hebrew/Hebrew-yet-Welsh theme to her name, I think.
Tahnee Atkinson is from Perth, and is the winner of the fifth series of Australia’s Next Top Model. Tahnee has a curvaceous figure, and her weight was sometimes an issue during the course of the show. As part of her prize, she received a contract with Maybelline and a spread in Harper’s Bazaar, which retained exclusive rights to her for six months. Tahnee is a name that has long been a favourite in Australia; the oldest Tahnee I know is in her late fifties, and the youngest was born last year. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but Australians often fondly believe it to be Aboriginal or Maori in origin. Most likely, it just a variant of Tania; it is pronounced TAH-nee (like tardy with an N in it instead of a D).
Valli Kemp was born in Kenya to British parents, moved to London when she was seven and to Sydney when she was twelve. She was chosen Miss World Australia in 1970, and seen as the epitome of early ’70s glamour, with bedroom eyes and full lips. After moving to London for the Miss World finals (Grenada won), she became part of the “beautiful people” scene, and appeared in a few films, most notably cult horror flick Dr Phibes Rises Again, opposite Vincent Price. After moving back to Australia in the 1980s, she became a full-time artist and art teacher. The name Valli means “creeping plant” in Tamil, which refers to either a sweet potato or a yam; both of these grow on vines. Valli is a Hindu goddess in the mythology of South India and Sri Lanka. In the stories, a chieftain and his wife prayed for a child, and found a baby girl amongst the vines in the forest; they raised her as their own and she grew up to be princess of her tribe. She became the wife of Lord Murugan, the most loved deity in Sri Lanka – a brave warrior who protects even the most humble.