About “the Nae”

What is “the Nae”?

Anytime I am introduced to someone new by one of my longtime friends, they invariably give the poor stranger my nickname, Nae Nae, which usually registers on the newcomer’s face as puzzlement and disbelief. In these situations, I am always quick to offer a friendly handshake and an apologetic explanation that my name is actually Shannon, but that most of my friends just call me “the Nae“. (Of course then we typically hear anecdotal evidence from the friend who details various and sundry other names to which I’ll answer. Friends. Pffft. AmIright?)

But recently someone threw off the rhythm of that practiced routine by insisting on hearing more about the origin and evolution of my whimsical alter ego, and since they seemed genuinely curious and not just politely interested, I endeavored to recount the drug-addled, alcohol reeking, dear-GOD-I-was-young-skinny-and-fabulous setting in the mid-1990’s during which the diva-esque sassy side of my personality was bequeathed the name, Nae Nae 2’Shae.

Here’s what everyone should know about “the Nae”.

For those old enough to remember, there was already a drag character made famous on television at the time by Martin Lawrence called Sheneneh (spellings vary). That loud, confrontational, impolitic character was actually the foundation upon which my nickname was built. A close friend at the time said that I often reminded him of “2 parts Sheneneh, 1 part Wanda (another TV drag character from In Living Color played by Jamie Foxx), and just a dash of Harvey Fierstein“. Hmm. Sassy, sexy, self-confident, funny, talented, and rich? I’LL TAKE IT!

What started off as a closely held inside joke spread to bigger and bigger circles of friends until around 2001 rolled along, and my 10-year high school reunion went down. I had fallen out of touch with just about everyone from high school, much to my dismay, and the moment they got wind of a secret identity, it became the only name of any meaning when referring to me, and before long the only time anyone addressed me by Shannon was when they were being very serious (or needed for me to be very serious for a change).

Over time, “Nae Nae” got shortened once again to a term of familiarity and implied endearment, as those on the inner circle of my orbiting friends began simply calling me “Nae”. Those who considered themselves just as inner circle as any of those other brown-nosing, naeme-dropping bitches also insisted on using “Nae” to bolster their rank in the orbit. Before long, I was just Nae. There are actually people, recent acquaintances I’ve only known for a few years, with whom I interact on an almost daily basis who probably have no idea what my full legal name actually is, and wouldn’t be able to identify me by anything other than the infamous nom de plume I now embrace as my own.

“What’s in a Nae?”, you ask? A rose by any other Nae would not smell as sweet, I assure you. There are other Nae Naes and Nay Nays, some Shanaynays or Shenenehs, and of course one very famous NeNe out there to be sure. But you will never find anything approaching the ridiculousness and charismatic self-deprecation disguised in vainglory and narcissism that is the one – the only – the Nae. I gay-rawn-tee it.

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