April Rayne is not my legal name, but that doesn’t make it any less ‘real.’ This is not a persona I wear, it’s who I am. April Rayne is the name I have chosen to represent me.
Names are important because of the meanings we give them. Stage names can come with as much or as little emotional baggage as we choose. Perhaps you want to start your performance career by remaking yourself in a specific image of who you want to become. Maybe you want to honor something from your non-performance life that has helped shape who you are. Or maybe you just want a name that’s classic/cute/sexy/strong/etc. and doesn’t have any particular meaning behind it — a blank slate on which you write your story. All of these are valid choices. The point is to find the name that you can make your own.
When I was about sixteen-years-old, I scribbled the name April Rayne on a piece of paper. I wasn’t sure how I was going to use this name, or when, or for what purpose, but I knew that I would use it for something because this name resonated with me.
There is a poem by Ogden Nash that I particularly love entitled, “Always Mary An April Girl.” This poem tells me that my mercurial temperament is not only acceptable, but potentially desirable. So why not celebrate my fluctuating nature? Weather in the month of April can be cold and harsh some days (so can I) or sunny and warm (me, too!) or even change throughout a day (story of my life). Rains in April can be cold drizzle, warm sprinkles, sun showers, or thunderstorms. April often sees substantial tornado activity. Just like the weather of my birth month, I can be unpredictable. I’m a little bit of everything and it’s hard to know what I’ll be at any given moment.
Fast-forward to the age of twenty-nine, three days after my first pole dance class, I was going through some things stuffed in the back of a drawer and what should I find but a scrap of paper with “April Rayne” written on it. It was then that I finally knew why I had saved it — it was my stage name.
In thinking about this topic, I talked with a pole friend who was kind enough to share her story:
APRIL RAYNE: I know that your name, Madelyne Hatter, comes from your love of “Alice In Wonderland.” What is it about “Alice In Wonderland” that speaks to you?
MADELYNE HATTER: I have always really enjoyed the playfulness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and it’s a book that I have been able to appreciate at any age. When I was younger, I thought it was a fantastically silly story. I related to Alice- having a wild imagination, being a bit out of the ordinary (I’m still that way!). I asked a lot of questions when I was younger, constantly asking why things or people were the way they were or how things worked. It drove my parents a bit mad I think. As I’ve gotten older, I also enjoy the fun logic games and insightful quotes from the books, as well as the movie/cartoon/play adaptations (examples below).
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
‘Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.’
‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
AR: How did you come to choose the Mad Hatter character to derive your name?
MH: I wanted to pick a name that wasn’t exactly Alice related, but had an obvious reference, and the Mad Hatter was one of the easier ones to adapt. I have a Cheshire Cat tattoo, which makes me think of the quote, “We’re all mad here.” I’ve also always loved the name Madelyne (or Madeline- blame it on another childhood favorite, hmmmm maybe the takeaway is I’m still a kid at heart). I think Madelyne is a beautiful name, and that the nickname Maddie is cute.
AR: How does your name reflect (or impact) who you are?
MH: I think now it is a reminder to myself to remain curious about the world and to maintain a sense of silliness and playfulness. Everyone’s realities and expectations are different, and asking people questions about themselves can lead you down interesting rabbit holes.
AR: Madelyne is a unique spelling — what led you to choose it?
MH: I chose this spelling for two reasons:
- My mom’s middle name is Lynne and mine is Lynn, so I chose the spelling as a hybrid of the two, and a bit of a tribute to her. She is a strong woman who has inspired me in many ways, and I’m forever grateful to the support she has given me over the years. She’s one of my biggest pole fans, and I love that she shares my videos with her friends.
- There is an X-men character named Madelyne Pryor, and I thought it’d be a fun nerdy reference. I really enjoyed this quote about her from the creator: “Asked about his intended plans for Madelyne’s character, Claremont said: The original Madelyne storyline was that, at its simplest level, she was that one in a million shot that just happened to look like Jean Grey, [a.k.a. the first Phoenix]! And the relationship was summed up by the moment when Scott says: “Are you Jean?” And she punches him! That was in Uncanny X-Men #174. Because her whole desire was to be deeply loved for herself, not to be loved as the evocation of her boyfriend’s dead romantic lover and sweetheart.”
I think this quote sums up part of what I really love about pole dancing — it’s helped me to really embrace and love who I am (and who others are), and I love that it’s such an accepting and positive community — pole is for people of any size, race, gender, identity of any kind. To me, every person has their own unique style and strengths, and I love that there is the freedom to explore and flow between these things.
Madelyne and I have very different stories about how we came to our stage names, but they share the theme of self-perception. When we name ourselves, we are taking responsibility for who we are. As pole dancers we have to own our choices or we wouldn’t be pursuing a still-stigmatized endeavor. A stage name doesn’t hide who you are, it announces you to the world.
Hello, world, I’m April Rayne.
Who are you?