For some celebrities, a name change is all part of cultivating a persona (think Lady Gaga). For others, there’s a practical reason behind choosing a new moniker.
Tom Cruise changed his name on his manager's advice.
David Bowie, who was born David Jones, didn’t want his name to clash with British singer Davy Jones.
Others, like Bruno Mars, took on a childhood nickname.
Here's a list of 25 famous people and their real names, and why these male and female actors and singers go by stage names.
Some of these celebs had their names changed then they were kids, others did it as adults. Some only changed their first name whilst others took pseudo names for their middle and surname as well!
25. Calvin Harris
The DJ calls himself Calvin Harris when he’s spinning discs, otherwise Taylor Swift’s ex is known as Adam Richard Wiles. His stage name came about due to its “racial ambiguity” he told Esquire.
24. Nicki Minaj
The rapper’s stage name is more or less a condensed version of her real name: Onika Tanya Maraj.
23. Vin Diesel
Born Mark Sinclair, the actor used his mother’s maiden name Vincent as inspiration for his first name. As for his fuel-driven surname, Diesel has said it was a nickname that came about because of his energy.
22. Jennifer Aniston
From her stage name to her “Rachel” haircut, Jennifer Aniston had little input for the names in her life. Born Jennifer Linn Anastassakis, the Friends star didn’t make the change to her from real name to Aniston. Her father and US soap star John changed their surname.
21. Charlie Sheen
Like his actor father, Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen was born with the surname Estevez. Carlos Estevez adopted his father’s stage name in his pursuit of an acting career. His brother, actor-director Emilio Estevez, made no such changes.
20. Meg Ryan
The actress’s name rolls off the tongue now, but not so much when it was changed from Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. Ryan is her maternal Grandmother’s maiden name.
19. Lady Gaga
No, her parents didn’t dub her the unusual name Lady Gaga. The future pop star was named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta before she took inspiration from the Queen song, “Radio Ga Ga” for her professional name.
18. Diane Keaton
Diane Hall changed her surname to her mother’s maiden name, when she discovered there was another actress by that name.
17. David Bowie
Born David Jones, the late singer-songwriter changed his name to avoid confusion with British singer Davy Jones (later of the The Monkees). David Bowie’s new name came from the 19th-century US pioneer James Bowie.
16. Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde was born Olivia Cockburn before she chose the surname of one of her favourite authors/playwrights, Oscar Wilde, for her stage name.
15. Katy Perry
In forging her roaring pop career, Perry stepped away from her Pentecostal upbringing—and her name. She was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson (her real name would have also clashed with that of actress Kate Hudson).
14. Miley Cyrus
Born with the unique name of Destiny Hope Cyrus, she based her stage name on her childhood nickname, “Smiley.”
13. Nina Dobrev
Call it a micro version of the Belgium actress's real name, Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva.
12. Jamie Foxx
Before he was Jamie Foxx he was Eric Marlon Bishop. According to Yahoo, the stand-up comedian chose the more-feminine sounding name because female comedians were often called up first to the stage at comedy clubs.
11. Michael Keaton
As a budding actor, Keaton already had a famous name—Michael Douglas. He changed it to enter an actors' union in the US.
10. Natalie Portman
Born Neta-Lee Hershlag, the actress took her grandmother’s surname for reasons of privacy.
9. Alicia Keys
She’s not bad on the keys—and her chosen name reflects that talent (and her love for the instrument). Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook. She does not use her middle or original surname when it comes to her career.
8. Cary Grant
Yes, name changing is not a modern phenomena. Hollywood legend and Hitchcock favourite Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach.
7. Audrey Hepburn
According to The New York Times, the Breakfast at Tiffany’s star was born in Belgium as Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston. (Audrey is the English equivalent to the Dutch name Edda.)
6. Elton John
Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight. He changed his name in honour of blues legends Elton Dean (a saxophonist) and singer Long John Baldry.
5. Marilyn Monroe
The legendary Monroe (whom Elton John sings about in his “Candle in the Wind”) bid goodbye to her birth name of Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1956 as part of her Hollywood rebranding. Marilyn was chosen by a 20th Century Fox exec, while Monroe was her mother’s maiden surname.
4. Bruno Mars
The singer, who was born Peter Gene Hernandez, took on the nickname his father gave him as a 2 year old. “Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life,” he told Latina magazine.
3. Tom Cruise
Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, his agent recommend he drop his surname (and the Roman numerals) to create the stage moniker that would become one of the most famous and loved names in movie history.
2. Joaquin Phoenix
Phoenix and his late brother River didn’t change their surname, that was their parents’ doing. The reason might be in the surname itself: Bottom.
1. Whoopi Goldberg
Speaking of such, Goldberg, who was born Caryn Elaine Johnson, got her first name from the cushion of the same title. “If you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go,” the comedian and actress told the The New York Times. “So people used to say to me, ‘You’re like a whoopee cushion.’” Goldberg is her mother’s maiden name.