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Good times, bad times with an unusual name

Most of us get along pretty well with the names we were given but some people have to put up quite a fight if their parents choose something way outside the usual names chart.

Take Marijuana Pepsi (pictured). She’s just been awarded a PhD and she’s been talking in the US about living with the name of a recreational drug and a global soft drink brand.

American media and the BBC have reported that Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck refused to change her name despite being bullied a school. The 46-year-old has used her experience to research black names and how they affect the education of children in the United States.

Recalling a conversation as a child with her mum about why she had been named Marijauna Pepsi, she says: ‘My mother told me that your name will take you around the world.’

Marijuana was nine years old when she first realised she had an unconventional name. At school in Wisconsin she says it wasn’t just the other children who made fun of her but the teachers, too.

My mum hit the roof

‘They would ask to call me Mary, and at first that was fine until I won a school spelling bee. I came home with my certificate, and my mum hit the roof when she saw the name on it read Mary Jackson.

‘She told me never to let them call me Mary ever again and then she went up to the school and demanded they change it. She wasn’t playing.’

This summer Marijuana received her PhD in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin following her dissertation, ‘Black names in white classrooms- teacher behaviours and student perceptions’.

‘Even though I had issues with my name I had never given much thought to how it might affect others’, she says.

‘We’re human and when we first hear a name, we form opinions, and make judgements. It’s the next thing that one does that makes a difference.’


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