How’d You Get Your Playa Name?

Nothing against mom or dad, but names like Steve and Cindy tend to be flung off at this time of year in favor of playa names like Steverino and Cindiana (real examples). Others are inspired by playa-magical incidents or people to transform themselves with names such as “Sexy Bacon”, “Hooty” or “Headwound”.

Like many rituals or customs at Burning Man, a playa name is a way Burners experiment with new identities or ways of being. Playa names are also accompanied by a range of beliefs and practices.

Some believe you must be named by someone else; others see no problem in christening themselves. Some stick so religiously to using their playa name that you never find out their real one, while others oscillate between using their real name and their playa name. And there are a bunch of people who never bother with them.

So what’s your playa name and how’d you get it? You folks out there told us how you came to be called something far more fun and zesty than what the ’rents chose for you. ¡Viva la playa name!

HoneyBee (a.k.a. Kate Russell, San Jose, CA): “The volunteer coordinator at Center Camp Cafe, Helen (a.k.a. DangerAss) told me a few years ago that she was going to name me HoneyBee because I’m so sweet and I work so hard (and sometimes my stinger comes out).”

Slacker (a.k.a. Willie of Milwaukee): “Camp mates thought I needed to chill out, relax, enjoy my Burn, camp will be fine if I get away … It’s ok to be a slacker for a bit.”

Angel (a.k.a. DeeDee): “I gave it to myself. I have always been annoyed that people thought I was the ‘good girl.’ I look very innocent, and folks thought I was innocent as well. All the fun naughty folks just didn’t wanna play with me … Now I’m older and wiser and realize that this angelic/innocent impression I give is really a beautiful part of who I am. I am now a nurse and love this side of myself.”

Sexy Bacon (a.k.a. Trent from Menlo Park, CA): “My wife and I were putting on sunscreen one morning and a campmate asked about it. My response was that when I get out in the playa sun, I sizzle like bacon. He started laughing and said, ‘Bacon …  you’re Sexy Bacon!’ It stuck.”

Amethyst (a.k.a. Rod from Omaha): “It was my first Burn, and on my first night my eyes came upon the most beautiful young woman and we locked onto each other’s gaze. We kissed and sparked; it was a thrilling energy felt between us for the entire week. It felt like it was meant to be. She had not been to Burning Man for several years and this Burn was incredibly important. You see, her brother had passed earlier that same year and he was a Burner. Before he passed, he asked her to take his ashes to Burning Man for one last Burn and place him in the Temple. I felt deeply connected to her and this responsibility of love and devotion to her brother. We enjoyed many deep conversations and heavy emotions as she struggled with his loss. Through our time together, we became emotionally connected and she helped me awaken and realize my true self. During one of our many conversations she mentioned that she had once worked for a jeweler and became knowledgeable of gems. As we were discussing this, she said, ‘You are a real gem to me.’ I asked her which gem specifically and she replied without hesitation ‘Amethyst.’”

Mythic (a.k.a. Brian Ellis of Mountain View, CA): “I rarely spend much time in camp, tending instead to make new friends in my wanderings across the playa. Last year my camp contained some folks I hadn’t met before the Burn, and although they kept hearing my name and seeing my stuff, I was never in evidence. When one of my campmates finally met me some time on Tuesday, she immediately called me Mythic (short for ‘my mythical campmate’). I loved the name, and it stuck.”

Stitch (a.k.a. Jim Phillips of San Francisco): “After my first Burn, I created mini cross-stitch portraits of my campmates for their birthdays. Someone suggested ‘Needlepoint’ as a playa name. Fearing that could go wrong in so many ways, I countered with ‘Stitch,’ which everyone liked immediately.”

That’s Okay (a.k.a. Holger from Munich): “I’m not a native English speaker, therefore I sometimes do not get everything when making conversation. One evening I was operating the camp’s beer bar and already was a good customer by myself. One tall guy stepped in. I welcomed him at the bar; he bent over to give me a hug. As we hugged, he started to tell me something; he obviously had some drinks, too. I didn’t understand anything, but it sounded like a sad story, so I continued the hug, petted his shoulders and sait to him ‘Well, that’s okay, man.’ Immediately he opened his arms, stepped back, stood straight, and said very loud and clearly understandable: ‘Hey, That’s Okay, nice to meet you. My Name is Steve.’ And so this name came to me.”

Tempest (Krista Bowers of Salt Lake City): “I was born during a storm and have loved ’em ever since! When I became a Ranger, the playa name I had used for seven years wasn’t approved, so I had to choose another. Kinda fitting, since after seven years every cell in the human has been regenerated; after seven playa years, becoming a Ranger was a kind of rebirth, a different level of commitment to BRC. And since I am rather a Force of Nature, it seemed only fitting.”

Hooty (a.k.a. Laurent of Seattle): “I got rope-suspended in the air and flew all around. It seems that I made some sort of adorable hoooot hooot sounds while enjoying this. Next thing I know, my playa name is Hooty!”

WYFL (a.k.a. Robbie of Seattle): “I did a big art project last year with five other people called Soul Seat. It was three large fins with a six-sided rotating heart inside. One of the couples coming with us asked me what I liked to go by. I replied, ‘whatever you feel like,’ and explained that people always seem to come up with their own unique nicknames for me. Sam said ‘Whatever you feel like is a little long’ and Steve chimed in, ‘We could say WYFL for short.”

Headwound (a.k.a. Jordan Laboucane of Edmonton): “I fell jumping around on vehicles and structures around camp. When I hit the ground, I struck my head against a toolbox. With a 1″ gouge behind my ear and a good amount of crusted blood, I told my story of the previous night to some friends. They named me Headwound, and it stuck.”

The Baptist (a.k.a. Trace Richardson of San Diego): “I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I had to take a piss as we were ascending a mountain. I looked down as I enjoyed the beautiful view and jumped when I realized I was pissing on a rattlesnake. Because I absolved that wicked serpent of his sins, I became the Baptist!”

Sauté (a.k.a. Diana Ries Sheldon, Alpharetta, GA): “I’m a foodie, love to cook … bonus, this name works well with my twin sister, who is Sizzle.”

War)'(ol (a.k.a. Franklin Call of Pickering, Ontario): “Back in 2006, I forgot my mug at home, so I used a Campbell’s soup can … bartender at the G-spot didn’t flinch! Filled it to the top and then called out, ‘Warhol, your drink is ready!’”

Flying Tortuga (Candy Van Cleave of Springfield, Ohio): “I am a 62year-old woman and have watched the Burning Man web cam for several years. I have cried every time as the Temple burns. It was a dream of mine to one day join my daughter. But some health issues made it seem impossible. But being lucky enough to have a daughter Epiphany and her significant other, last year was my first year at Burning Man. I was with a group of women who were welcoming me into Bus Camp. I hadn’t thought of any playa names yet and when someone asked me what it was, I looked surprised and said, ‘Turtle.’ It just felt like I had heard my soul name for the first time. I told them of how I had visited Burning Man many times in my dreams during spirit flights. Someone said ‘Flying Tortuga’ and we all agreed that IS who I am.”

About the author: Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello

Mia Quagliarello is Burning Man Project's Digital Community Manager. She went to Burning Man for the first time in 2006 (seven months pregnant, no less) and immediately wanted to leave. (She didn't know dust storms were a thing.) But 24 hours after that initial shock, she fell in love with it, and it's been a part of her life in big and small ways ever since. On playa, you'll usually find her camping in Kidsville, riding Bahamut the dragon, or hugging a speaker because she loves music so much.

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