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Why Are There So Many Asian American Women Named Connie?

I thought my story was special. Little did I know it was the story of a generation.

What gave her some comfort, though, was seeing Ms. Chung on TV. Here was a woman with a face like hers, with great taste in clothes, who wore beautiful makeup and had stylish hair, yet asked aggressive questions of powerful people, most of whom did not seem to treat Ms. Chung any differently because of her appearance.

Connie Chung was trusted and respected — qualities that my mother herself had enjoyed in China. So when I picked my name, my mom readily acceded. What more could she hope for from her own Connie?

What my family didn’t know was that a version of the same scenario was playing out in living rooms and hospitals across the country. Asian American families from the late 1970s through the mid-’90s — mostly Chinese, all new immigrants — had considered the futures of their newborn daughters and, inspired by one of the few familiar faces on their TVs, signed their own wishes, hopes and ambitions onto countless birth certificates in the form of a single name: Connie.

Today, it’s common to join an organization, take a new job or attend a conference and meet an Asian Connie; at every workplace I’ve been one of a few. And with each of them, I’ve found it’s always the same story: No, it’s not short for Constance. Yes, they grew up watching Connie Chung on TV. And, yeah — it is weird, isn’t it, that they’ve never met a non-Asian Connie their age either?

Because Connie is not a popular name — not now, not when I chose it and not for many decades prior. According to the Social Security Administration, “Connie” peaked in the 1950s, when it was the 40th most popular name for girls. In 1987, the year I was born, even “Priscilla” was more popular. And still, I’ve had an enormously difficult time securing social media handles, usernames and company email addresses.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I’m part of a phenomenon: Generation Connie. By now, I’ve talked to dozens of Connies within this sisterhood, and learned we have a remarkable amount in common — that it is not by chance that our families and, in particular, our mothers, all gravitated toward the same name. We all have our own stories about how our families came to the United States, and why they chose the name they did. But we’re also part of a larger story: about the patterns that form from specific immigration policies, and the ripple effects that one woman on TV prompted just by being there, doing her job.