Predicting Momfluencer baby names with @emdoodlesandstuff
Because names are never just names
I first discovered the glory that is @emdoodlesandstuff on TikTok when a kind soul forwarded me Em’s video predictions about Ballerina Farm baby names, thinking I might be interested, and obviously being entirely correct.
I must admit to being embarrassingly late to the TikTok mom game, mostly because for book research, I restricted myself to Instagram so as not to write more than one book. But Em immediately grabbed my attention with her astute assessment of Hannah and Daniel selling meat and merch, sure, but mostly, “selling the idyllic vision of American homesteaders.”
Em points out that the exposed beams in the infamous thoughtless-window photo are an “intentional design choice that actually take more work and more money to put together” than, say, mere drywall. She also points out that Agnes the Aga stove might trick the casual viewer into seeing “authentic Utah farmhouse,” but Em posits that a typical Utah farmer’s kitchen is much more likely to look like this.
Em’s point in all of this is that aesthetics are everything. In momfluencer culture especially, aesthetics really. are. everything. We assume things about a momfluencer’s parenting philosophies, politics, diet, race, socioeconomic status, and personal style all based on her particular aesthetics. And because aesthetics are so recognizably coded, aesthetics can help us quickly assess whether or not we might want to follow a particular momfluencer or buy whatever she’s selling. With our dollars or emotional investment.
What else can indicate a momfluencer’s aesthetics according to Em? BABY NAMES.
In the case of Ballerina Farm baby names, Em thinks the girls’ names in particular emphasize Hannah’s aesthetic of “glamorized humbleness,” which she illustrates by drawing attention to Hannah’s frequent no-makeup looks.
Em notes that “we’ve been kinda conditioned to see a no-makeup face as a sign of vulnerability and bravery . . . but is this actually coming a from a place of humility or just working with mama gave you in a way that fits the narrative?” Hannah presents as conventionally or marketably beautiful with or without makeup. So choosing between presenting herself as one kind of beautiful (no-makeup or at least makeup that looks like no-makeup) and another kind of beautiful (makeup-makeup) isn’t really a difficult, vulnerable, or risky choice. Either way, Hannah is able to wield the valuable currency of feminine beauty, which is worth quite a bit in life and on social media.
Back to the names. Hannah and Daniel’s girls’ names are old-timey, yes. Frances, Lois, and Martha. But Em argues that they’re not “timeless classics” like the boys’ names (Henry, George, and Charles). Girl equivalents to these names, according to Em, might be Elizabeth, Mary, or Anne. And, Em posits, “If [Hannah] wanted American homesteader names that are still lovely and feminine, why not Lucy, Hazel, or Mabel?”
France, Lois, and Martha, Em explains, all indicate a sort of “grit, girth, and humbleness” that is noteworthy only when juxtaposed with the ultra-feminine. And the grit interlaced with femme-ness is really the secret sauce of Ballerina Farm. The juxtaposition that seems interesting, worthy of our second look. A beautiful ballerina wearing a pageant gown and tiara whilst milking cows in a dusty barn! How novel! How charming! How very humble yet glamorous.
To find out Em’s baby name predictions for the seventh Neeleman of Ballerina Farm, you gotta watch Em’s TikTok! It’s so good.
But in the meantime, please enjoy my conversation with Em. I’ve long been obsessed with baby names, but Em has taken a lay person’s obsession and translated it into an art form.
Em! When did you start doing momfluencer baby name predictions, and why?
I started doing momfluencer baby name predictions in August of 2021, but had spent many years prior just speculating about them in my own head! I would get totally wrapped up in coming up with my guesses, looking for clues, refreshing their feed when the due date was near, and all that time was asking myself, "Who can I talk to about this?!" When TikTok took over the social media scene, I saw it as a place where low-stakes, low-effort, funny videos thrive. After attending a baby shower where my - above average - interest in the topic of baby names surfaced again, I went home and made my first prediction video!
I need to ask you about Hannah’s “glamorized humbleness.” Can you expound on how you landed on that term to describe her vibe, her aesthetic?
When I use the term "glamorize humbleness", I'm imagining a timid and tiny grandma by her stove saying, "Oh, I'm just a little old me!" as she bakes another batch of cookies for the neighborhood children but then she pulls off her mask and she's actually a literal beauty pageant queen and we see the $20,000 price tag on the stove and that a photographer has been documenting an entirely staged cookie baking set up for Instagram content.
We associate the concept of boasting with those who flaunt their wealth and beauty. I think Hannah's content is, more or less, boasting that she's not boasting about wealth and beauty.
They are creating the appearance of a humble lifestyle and with that comes humble names to fit the narrative. An elegant, vintage baby name such as Vivienne feels like she could be immersed in a world of wealth and beauty (in Paris of course!) while Ballerina Farm daughters like Lois and Martha feel immersed in a world of grandmas stooped over stoves and muddy boots on the prairie.
What are some momfluencer baby name predictions you got pretty close to nailing (if you did correctly predict any, of course, let me know!)? Which momfluencer baby names totally shocked you (and why)?
When Colleen Ballinger had twins last year, I got one of their names correct! Her "TWIN BABY NAME REVEAL" video has over 3 million views and specifically talks about my prediction as part of their story. It's wild!
Nabela Noor just named her first baby Amalia, but calls her "Ami" which was one of my predictions.
A smaller influencer "Pretty In the Pines" I also got correct (and it's one of my favorite prediction videos to date. I make myself laugh every time).
And another smaller influencer, Amanda Pahls, after a long and thorough journey that Amanda and I truly went on together, I EVENTUALLY guessed the right name!
Which of your momfluencer baby name prediction TikToks have gotten the most traction? Why do you think that might be?
Aspyn Ovard's name prediction was probably the earliest one with the biggest traction, with a few factors I suspect to be the reason:
Her fans are very young; young people prefer TikTok! I know that many of the people who watch my videos are teenagers and they are most excited for the influencers they adore. They don't know the original blogspot bloggers at all!
Aspyn was the first influencer to interact with the video I made about her. Never in a million years did I expect these influencers to see my videos, let alone comment and give insights! Aspyn said, "Nope try again!!" and her fans went into a name-guessing frenzy in the comment section of my video. Now it's the norm that the influencers comment on my videos and it's still wild to me every time!
Even larger than that, the Julia Berolzheimer video has had the biggest traction of all. I think we all felt a little bit like Nancy Drew with that one with the "clues" picked up. I believe my videos get good traction because people are just DYING to leave a comment with their own idea: I could be wrong, but maybe they'll be right! It's a thrill for every single person.
Do you have any personal momfluencer faves that you find yourself particularly obsessed with? Why?
I truly love Amber Fillerup. I've been following her for the past decade and it's apparent she has become so much more comfortable in her own skin, owning her own thoughts and beliefs, and leaning into it all without batting an eye towards the haters. She's a great example of stepping away from "momfluencing" and putting her power into her business(es) instead of showcasing her family as content.
What can baby names communicate about personal style, socioeconomic status, and one's particular alignment with a particular "group?" If any specific momfluencer examples come to mind, that'd be incredible!
Baby names are completely, absolutely, 100% insight into how the parents wish to be perceived by others. In other words, a baby name tells us nothing about the baby. It tells us everything about the parents. Hannah of Ballerina Farm is a perfect example of this with daughters named Frances, Lois, and Martha. Of course those fit the narrative of being a rural pig farmer. Contrast that with Rachel Parcell, within an hour's drive of Hannah's farm, with a home rivaling the White House. Her youngest is named Stanford, despite having no connection to the esteemed university. The family dog's name is Duke. Her sister Meg's baby is Dean; it would have been Ivy had it been a girl. To me, the "vibe" they're presenting is ivy league education, upper class, white columns and Roman bust statues, and the socioeconomic status that comes with such.
When did you first start noticing "baby name culture" as something worth paying attention to? Why are baby names more than just names to you?
In the last decade, many influencers have perfected the art of making their Instagram feed like their own miniature Pinterest board. If their aesthetic is a modern day one room schoolhouse (I'm thinking mother of five Amanda Pahls, who I recently did a prediction on) you can scroll on and on and only see white, every shade of beige, and creaky old rocking chairs. It's fascinating to me how resilient they are to stick to exclusive color pallets and textiles in every post. Baby name culture gets interesting in this context where we can look at an Instagram aesthetic and predict what type of name fits the feed. Aesthetic is everything.
If you have anything else to add (or feel like you have something to say that momfluencer obsessives might be interested in), feel free!
A whole other side of the topic that fascinates me is the way they tease out the baby name reveal for engagement. I mean, I don't blame them because I completely understand how effective that is! Fans are circling like hawks for any and all baby name content from a pregnant influencer they love.
This video about the Jurgys is a good example of how a baby name can be teased out in a way that actually hurts their brand. It was too much!!!
So what do you guys think for the seventh Neeleman baby of Ballerina Farm? I’m going with Mildred which can conveniently be shortened to a less gritty, slightly more cutesy Millie.
Thanks for reading, and as always, I’d so appreciate you sharing this with anyone you think might enjoy it! AND I’m gonna experiment with some new content next week (in addition to the regular Friday newsletter), so keep an eye on your inboxes! If you’re reading this (and enjoying reading this!) but haven’t subscribed yet, here’s a convenient little subscribe button.
Happy Friday! Maybe we’ll have a new baby name to discuss next week :)