Since 2019, the most popular name for baby girls has been Olivia. In 20 years, you won’t be able to throw a rock without hitting a college junior named Olivia. Derived from the Latin word for “olive,” most people seem to agree that Olivia means “peace.” The name is also, quietly, very common among celebrities. Wilde, Munn, Newton-John, Rodrigo; as you are soon to find out, the list is long.
But some Olivias are more Olivia than others. Just like Jane connotes plainess and Alex (girl version) connotes cool, Olivia has its own energy. As an Olivia myself, I would love to say that the name is associated with grace and intelligence, but that is not the case if we look at the evidence. Based on which Olivias have gotten famous, it is a name that calls to mind a less smart Tracy Flick. She wants love and adoration, will stop at nothing to get it, but often ends up embarrassing herself in the process. Despite that, she usually winds up on top because she is aware enough to make one good joke about herself. Olivianess is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is usually an annoying one.
For some people, the name just fits. Olivia Wilde, for example, is a true Olivia. Jennifer Lawrence circa her Oscar win was also very Olivia, even though her name is Jennifer. Everyone turning on Anne Hathaway was a direct result of her having Olivia energy. On the other hand, Olivia Colman is not very Olivia, in the same way that Kate Winslet is not an Olivia. Are you keeping up?
If not, it will become clear soon. I have compiled a list of every famous Olivia, and rated them on a scale of how Olivia they are. Let’s kick off at the beginning.
Olivia (From Shakespeare)
The one who started it all. People (myself included) often claim that Shakespeare made up the name for the character in Twelfth Night, but this is not true. He just set things in motion so that 400 years later everyone would want to name their daughter Olivia. Shakespeare’s Olivia is the blueprint: she’s popular, beautiful, and kind of dumb. We all walk in her footprints.
How Olivia Is She: The most Olivia. All Olivias are judged against her.
Where even to begin with her? Being the progeny of a wealthy journalism dynasty is, unfortunately, very Olivia of her. So is changing her name from “Cockburn” to “Wilde” in an homage to the author — she definitely did not do it because Cockburn looks like it’s pronounced cock burn (It’s Coe-burn.). Also very Olivia? Thinking that your cut-rate Twilight Zone episode of a movie is actually a cutting treatise on women’s pleasure. Olivias are, as we will delve into more, delusional. See: this ridiculous Vanity Fair photoshoot where you can tell she thinks she’s serving.
How Olivia Is She: Really Olivia. You look at her and think, “Yeah, that seems right.”
This chica is in the tabloids a lot, and it’s never really clear why. In 2012 she was named Miss USA, and went on to be crowned Miss Universe. She parlayed that fame into dating Nick Jonas, which she did for two years before they broke up in 2015. In the seven years since she has been notable for dating athletes, including Ryan Lochte, Tim Tebow, and her current boyfriend Christian McAffrey. According to her Instagram bio, she is the co-founder of four different businesses including two restaurants in Rhode Island, a canned cocktail company, and a company that makes both masks and jumpsuits where the proceeds go to a non-profit battling period stigma. She now has a reality show on TLC with her sisters. She sure does work a lot for someone whose job seems to be hanging out and looking good.
How OIivia Is She: Sort of Olivia. A hallmark of being truly Olivia is at least pretending to have read a book in the last six months, which Culpo bravely isn’t doing.
No, Google, that is not what I meant. But unfortunately this does kind of sum up Newton-John’s deal. Despite being a four-time Grammy winner and massively successful pop star, to a large swath of (mainly straight) people she is always going to be Sandy from Grease. Sad.
How Olivia Is She: Despite a mountain of talent, she was always remembered for looking hot in black leather. This is the opposite of Olivia energy. In fact, over the course of the movie she transforms from an Olivia into, I don’t know, a Rizzo, I guess. Olivias are kind of jacks of all trades, masters of none. Newton-John is too talented, and known for only one of her accomplishments. She also loses points for being blonde (Olivia is a brunette name).
A genuinely smart, charming, and interesting Olivia? Now I’ve seen everything.
How Olivia Is She: Not at all. In fact, Olivia isn’t even her given name. It’s Sarah. That makes more sense, doesn’t it?
Now this is an Olivia. Claiming that your skin is good because you eat a lot of Japanese sweet potatoes? Olivia behavior. Meeting a guy right after he gets out of rehab and immediately getting pregnant by him? Olivia behavior. Playing someone named “Sloan Sabbith” on the second-worst Aaron Sorkin show? Massive Olivia behavior.
How Olivia Is She: In a shocking twist, Munn is somehow our most Olivia living Olivia, beating out Wilde. While they’re both overly confident in their abilities, Munn is a little more self-deprecating about it. All those Instagram Reels about how her postpartum body has not “snapped back” gives her the edge.
DISQUALIFIED. Tyler’s government name is Liv, named after Liv Ullmann. She is stealing Olivia valor.
How Olivia Is She: Not at all. A phony, a fraud, a faker.
A New York socialite of the Lauren Santo Domingo/Tinsley Mortimer generation, she is most famous in certain circles for bringing down socialiterank.com for publishing a letter they claimed was sent by her. It was such a big deal that New York Magazine wrote about the debacle in 2007. Now she has 7.5 million Instagram followers, a model husband, and is the founder of “the Olivia Palermo Group.”
“Olivia Palermo is an inclusive universe which inspires everyone to be the best versions of themselves through an evolving curation of the very best in fashion, beauty, travel, and lifestyle,” the OPG website reads. Nonsense! I love it. Whatever that means is between Olivia Palermo and God.
How Olivia Is She: Comically Olivia. As I said earlier, Olivias stay winning, for better or for worse. If you were writing a movie about a socialite from the early aughts who managed to stay relevant in a post-Gossip Girl world, you’d name her Olivia.
On paper, Olivia Jade is a classic Olivia. A pretty brunette beauty vlogger? That’s an Olivia for the present day. Unfortunately, she became a household name because her parents bought her way into USC — she didn’t even want to go! A true Olivia would be able to rise above this and use the scandal to become even more notable, which I can’t in good conscience say that she’s done. She has a capacity for shame that her peers do not. As a person, this is a wonderful trait; as a famous Olivia, it is not helping.
How Olivia Is She: She is a mediocre Olivia. Where is the Culpo-style reality show? The Palermo-esque beauty brand? The faux intelligent feminism of Wilde? Being an Olivia is about debasing yourself for fame
Remember this girl? She played the best friend in Juno and everyone was like, “Who is that?” We loved her! She has continued to work steadily since then, though never popping as much as when she said “honest to blog.” Recently she was in both The L Word: Generation Q and Y: The Last Man; she loves letters. In huge news for all Olivias, she is going to be one of the 1,735 white people in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. I think she plays the bomb.
How Olivia Is She: Not a lot of Olivia vibes here. We are, despite all of our faults, usually pretty memorable — or at least capable of sticking around. This girl had the world in the palm of her hand in 2007 and didn’t seize her opportunity, not very Olivia of her.
This Olivia is really hot right now. She’s been around for a minute (Thoroughbreds fans make some noise!), but is popping off at the moment as the star of House of the Dragon. If you do not engage with high fantasy, you might know her as the other person in the “negroni… sbagliato” video. She’s the one who says, “Oooh, stunnin’.”
How Olivia Is She: It’s too soon to tell with her. As with Colman, her Britishness throws off the scale, and we just don’t have enough data yet. For now, I’ll say she is average amounts of Olivia.
“Olivia” (From The One Direction Song “Olivia”)
For the purposes of this list, we will act as if this Olivia is a real person. According to the boys of One Direction, this chick is incredible. They’ve been idolizing the light in her eyes. Harry thinks the butterflies, the summertime all belong to her creation. Liam is crying out to be with her. She is some kind of god to these men.
How Olivia Is She: Being an Olivia is not about being a muse, but it is about being beautiful. With that in mind, she is fairly Olivia.
She played Priscilla Presley in Elvis, and did a good job of it at that. Like Colman and Cooke, she seems to have her sights set on being a respected actress and not embarrassing herself. That’s really all there is to say here.
How Olivia Is She: We know nothing about this girl. Living up to full Olivia potential means making sure people know way more about you than they should. For that reason, she is meager amounts of Olivia.
Olivia (The Singer)
The G-Unit rapper’s Instagram handle is @only1olivia, which as we all know is not true. If this list has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t be a mononymous Olivia. It barely worked in 2005 when “Candy Shop” came out, and it certainly does not work in 2022. For a while, she was the top result on Urban Dictionary when you searched “Olivia.” She has since been dethroned by an entry that defines “Olivia” as “Olivia has a beautiful personality. You can listen to her talk all day long. She has eyes unlike any other, and it is a common fact that she has gorgeous, curly hair. She's super attractive.” I have to agree.
How Olivia Is She: Thinking that you can just go by Olivia is actually a very Olivia choice. She passes with flying colors.
Olivia de Havilland
A legacy Olivia, and probably the oldest Olivia to ever live. She died at 104 as one of the most respected and beloved actresses in cinema history, earning two Oscars out of five nominations. In one of her more Olivia moments, she sued Ryan Murphy when she was 101 for using her likeness in Feud: Bette and Joan without her permission. She lost, but not before appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court.
How Olivia Is She: Despite being a British citizen, de Havilland was a definitively American Olivia. She was a true star who managed to keep her name in the headlines until her dying day, and that is what being an Olivia is all about.
The rare non-actress Olivia. Nuzzi rose to fame during the Trump presidency for being friendly and sympathetic to enough dirtbags that they would tell her all kinds of things, and then she would print them in New York Magazine. In some circles she’s notorious for an Instagram page filled with photos of her and her fiancé, the MeToo’d reporter Ryan Lizza.
How Olivia Is She: This one is tricky. On the one hand she is able to keep her name in people’s mouths (very Olivia), and on the other she is blonde and works hard (not very Olivia). Ultimately she is not very Olivia, because a true Olivia wouldn’t partner up with someone who has to grow his hair out in a sad attempt to remain youthful.
I’m starting to understand that being an Olivia in the United Kingdom means something totally different than it does in America. Here we have another talented actress who keeps to herself. She’s playing Camilla R on The Crown right now, and was in Rushmore, An Education, and The Father (with fellow Olivia, Colman). Basically, if you’re a British Olivia, you just keep your head down and work.
How Olivia Is She: By British standards, very. By American ones, not at all.
One of the millions of Gen Z Olivias, Rodrigo might herald a new breed of the name. She does not fit the typical Olivia mold. The most Olivia Olivias on this list are all desperate to be cool, but for Rodrigo it comes effortlessly. She does not have to work to be likable or relatable, unlike some of the women mentioned so far. Is this what the zoomer Olivias are like? If so, I look forward to their domination.
How Olivia Is She: Only time will tell. Perhaps she is the most Olivia of them all, and we just don’t have the framework for it yet. It’s too early to decide.