I've been wanting to write this post for a while, and I finally found time even with all the rehearsing for the Latin Burlesque Festival and Pulp Friction. One's burlesque moniker is serious business even if the name itself is humorous. Of course you can always change it, but I've found that once you're known by one name, it's hard to get people to call you by another. You want something that pops and sticks while representing yourself. While there are many helpful resources on-line, the process requires some deep introspection. I went through a lot of deliberation before settling upon "Hana Li" even though the name has been with me for nearly a decade.
Before I proceed, let me clarify on the pronunciation: "Hah-nuh Lee". There's no accented syllable and "Hana" rhymes with "wanna", not "banana". I had been worried about mispronunciation, but the name had everything else I wanted: a reflection of my heritage as well as my nerdy side, versatility, and a connection that would help me actually answer by it.
As a writer and a cosplayer, I always have a list of names at my disposal. I even considered using either my cosplay handle or my steampunk persona's name, but one was even more difficult to pronounce and both didn't feel completely like me (no wonder they didn't catch on). It made me think I wouldn't naturally respond to them.
"Hana Li" was a blogging alias from college that also didn't catch on. Later it became the name for a character who basically represented me in short story. The name came from "Lithium Flower", the ending theme to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I absolutely love the woman described in the lyrics and the main character in the anime.
"Hana" means "flower" in Japan and "Li" is the chemical symbol for lithium. "Li" is also a Chinese surname. Therefore, "Hana Li" reflects my Chinese ancestry, my science background, and my love for Japan (where I wound up living for a year) and its pop culture.
Originally I wanted to use something based on my real name since that was how I originally made myself known in the burlesque scene as a fan and a student. However, my first name is too common, and I have too many mixed emotions about how Americans have punned off of my surname (which has been butchered by Westerners for so long that my family and others who share the name just go with the mispronunciation).
I had thought of some other names, but they lacked the versatility. Because people don't usually catch the science or anime reference right off the bat, "Hana Li" potentially sounds like a real name. On the flipside, the other candidates were puns and made it very obvious that I wanted to be seen as nerdy and/or edgy. While I liked having both of those qualities, I didn't want to people to automatically assume that I'm a nerdlesque or neo burlesque performer. One was just straight up impossible to Google without drawing up porn sites, and as sexy and sexual as burlesque is, that was not something I wanted to be associated with.
None of them felt more right than "Hana Li", and because I used it for an author surrogate, there's yet another layer of myself in it (if only I could work in a connection with my love of action sports). Even with the challenges in getting people to pronounce it right or call me by it, "Hana Li" has become who I am and is the name I want to be known as. Hey, I even have it spelled out in rhinestoned letters now. You can't get anymore burlesque official than that.