What’s In A Name?


I’m at the age where it seems like everyone else is getting married. I was actually just at a close friend’s wedding earlier this month. It was a wonderful wedding and I had the greatest time there. But while I was attending various wedding related events like the engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party; one topic kept coming up. Whether or not my friend is going to keep her name or take her husband’s name.

In the group of women at these events, it was a pretty even mix of industry and non-industry people. And it almost seemed to be a split where the non-industry people either took their husband’s names or plan on doing so when they get married and the industry people were much more hesitant. Some women had no question in their minds and took their husband’s name because they didn’t like their maiden name. But most of us debated the idea back and forth.

I’ve almost had to change my name over a decade ago. I had booked my very first commercial when I was in college and I thought I was going to end up being must-join for SAG (this was before the merger). Back then, you could not have a name that was already taken in SAG and since there was already a Jen Levin I would need to change my name. It was weird trying to think of a new name for me, but after discussion with my family I had picked out an alternative name. I ended up not needing it as I was not must-join for SAG and when I joined AFTRA they didn’t have the same rule (and when the unions merged my name stayed the same). In case anyone is curious, the alternative name I had picked out was Jen Elliot (Elliot is my brother’s middle name and I wanted to keep my name somewhat family related).

I’m single now, but I’ve thought about if I would change my name when I get married. It’s a tough question. Nowadays, people are getting married later in life and most have established careers when they do marry. I understand wanting to have the same last name as your kids if you have kids, but if you’ve built a reputation or empire under your maiden name it can be a tough choice to change it. I’ve joked that it would be such an ordeal to change my email, twitter, websites, and other social media platforms to not have me listed as “Jen Levin”. I’m sure whatever married name I would have it already taken everywhere online. Plus, I’ve been Jen Levin my entire life and it would be so weird to go by any other name.

My experience when I was thinking I would need to change my name was when I was in a much different place in my career. This was before twitter, before I had a website, and before I had a real career. Then it would have been so easy to change my name and not have it be a big deal. But now, I can see why all my married industry friends either haven’t changed their names or hesitated to do so.

Obviously, you can legally change your name but keep your original name as your professional one. You can hyphenate your last name to have both names so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. And if you do change your name, maybe it isn’t as big of a deal as we all feel like it would be. It’s not something that most women think about until they are engaged and everyone starts asking them if they will keep their name or not. But now that I’ve been to several wedding related events for several friends where this topic has come up, I debate back and forth on my own on if I would ever change my name.

I’d love to hear from you all (married or not) on your thoughts about changing your name when you already have a career going. Did you find it difficult to re-introduce yourself to the industry? Did you just keep using the same professional name even if your legal name was different? Did your husband take your last name instead (that happened with a friend of mine)? I’d love to know your stories and how you feel about this idea in the comments!