I felt like I had to fit in. I needed to keep up with the joke and keep up with people calling me by the wrong name.
When I was in year three I joined a new school and they called me up to the front and they were like , ‘What is your name?’ I said: ‘Chinemelum”, and I was really standing there proudly. The teacher was like, ‘What was that?’ I said: ‘Chinemelum.’
She said to the whole school: ‘If you don’t know how to pronounce that, just call her chicken lemon.’ From that day literally everybody was calling me chicken lemon. I just felt a bit small, like nobody was taking me seriously. I felt I needed to keep up with the joke and keep up with people calling me by the wrong name just so my friends wouldn’t leave me basically.
After that I decided to go by Mel. It’s all just rooted in a lot of discrimination and prejudice I guess and people’s opinions towards people of colour in general. I feel like a lot of the time when people pronounce my name correctly the first time, I feel so happy but then I feel like that’s the bare minimum, that’s my name. I just really feel like people should put more of an effort into it.
I wanted to change the narrative of what it was and like that was a big trauma I think and now it’s something I can laugh at instead of thinking bad about it.
I am going back to my real name because that’s my identity, that’s my pride, it’s my country, my culture, my language. I feel like names have power and I’d be losing a lot of that power if I kept going by Mel basically.
Chinemelum Anyamene has had to live her entire life in the UK, using a shorter form of her name because people could just not bring themselves to pronounce her name correctly. However, Chinemelum has decided to take back her identity and reclaim the name she refused to use.
Rather than be ashamed of what people chose to call her by in the past, Chinemelum has started a food blogging, called ‘Chicken Lemon’ in memory of standing up for her identity.