A California woman expecting a baby in September has agreed to allow online voters name her child in exchange for $5,000.
Natasha Hill, a 26-year-old art teacher from Los Angeles, won a contest launched by Belly Ballot, an Austin, Texas-based startup that allows expecting parents to crowdsource their baby names with friends and family.
Hill was one of 80 women to enter the site's Belly Branding contest. According to Belly Ballot, voters will be presented with a list of 10 names—five boy names and five girl names—selected by the company and advertisers sponsoring the contest. According to Belly Ballot founder Lacey Moler, product names or names that are “too crazy" will not be allowed.
Hill said she plans to use the cash to pay down credit card debt and start a college fund for her unborn child.
“I’m so excited to have won!” she wrote in a post on the Belly Ballot blog. “The whole Belly Ballot concept is so social and fun, and can’t wait to see what everyone votes for!”
Online voting takes place March 18-22, and the girl and boy names with the most votes when the ballot concludes will be one that Hill's baby will legally have—at least until he or she turns 18.
The contest has stirred debate among traditionalists who believe deciding on a baby name should be a personal decision among parents.
“This is crazy," one commenter on the Belly Ballot blog wrote. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves for even considering this. What are you going to tell your baby when they ask you how you chose their name? Don't do it, you will regret this.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I could use the money," wrote another. "But this sounds a bit outrageous."
"This might not appeal to everyone, and we definitely respect parents who choose to keep their name and the baby naming process more private," Moler told SheKnows.com. "However, we are allowing baby naming to become more social, and a lot of parents love being able to include their friends and family in the process."
Hill—who had previously considered names including Katorah and Winter—told NBC Los Angeles she won't be monitoring the online vote.
“I’m afraid if I look at them I’ll get my favorite one,” Hill said. “And then I’ll be disappointed.”
Update, March 4: Moler now says the contest was a hoax, and that Hill is an actress who was hired to play the "winner." She isn't even pregnant.