The Lookout

Online baby-naming contest a hoax

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Lloyd (Belly Ballot/NBC)

Last month, a Web company announced the winner of a "Belly Branding" contest that awarded $5,000 to a woman who supposedly agreed to let online voters pick the name of her child. Now it seems the contest was a hoax.

Belly Ballot, an Austin, Texas, start-up that allows expecting parents to crowdsource their baby names with friends and family, launched the contest in January.

On Feb. 17, Belly Ballot founder Lacey Moler said that Natasha Hill, a 26-year-old art teacher from Los Angeles, beat out 80 applicants for the opportunity to choose her baby's name from a shortlist generated by the site's staffers and contest sponsors.

Moler pitched the story to dozens of media outlets, and plenty of them—including the Daily News, Daily Mail, Huffington Post, NBC Los Angeles and Yahoo News—picked up the story, linking to the mom-to-be's rather extensive Facebook page. But LAist.com noticed that Hill bore a striking resemblance to a local actress sharing the same first name:

Natasha Hill just happens to be a dead-ringer for Natasha Lloyd, an actress living in Los Angeles who is also a UCSB alum. On Lloyd's Facebook page (which was taken down in the last 24 hours) it says that she shares the same birthday as Hill. We don't know exactly what is going on, but we've reached out to both Natasha Lloyd and Belly Ballot for some sort of explanation.

On Sunday, Moler admitted the whole thing was publicity stunt: There had been a contest, but no one had entered it. She hired Lloyd to play the contest winner.

Lloyd, by the way, isn't even pregnant.

“We never thought it would get this big,” Moler told Today Moms.

The contest was controversial from the start, stirring debate among traditionalists who believe deciding on a baby name should be a personal decision between parents.

“This is crazy," one commenter on the Belly Ballot blog had written of the contest. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves for even considering this.”

As it turns out, no one had.

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