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Robyn Rihanna Fenty (Rihanna)
When Rihanna hit the music scene with her debut single "Pon de Replay" in 2005, she joined a long list of divas known by their first name — Madonna, Cher, Shakira, etc. — but she wouldn't have been able to do that with her real first name, Robyn, which, of course, was already taken by the "Dancing On My Own" songstress in the '90s. Still, the Barbados-born singer is embracing her family heritage in other ways, using her surname for her cosmetic line, Fenty Beauty, and her sportswear collection, Fenty x Puma.
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Kimberly Alexis Bledel (Alexis Bledel)
Long before fans knew her as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls or Beth Dawes on Mad Men, Alexis Bledel was Kimberly Alexis Bledel, a child model from Houston, Texas. Though she has remained mum on the reason, the actress nixed her first name when her acting career began in her 20s. (Fun fact: Bledel is an actual "Gilmore" as her paternal great-great-grandmother was born Rebecca Richardson Gilmore.)
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Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra (Meg Ryan)
Before Meg Ryan was a household name, she was Margaret Hyra. Ryan changed her name while registering for the Screen Actors Guild. She chose to go by Ryan instead, which was the maiden name of her maternal grandmother.
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Demi Guynes (Demi Moore)
Demi Moore was only three months old when her mother married Dan Guynes, and although Guynes was not her biological father, Demi was raised with his last name. When she was just a teenager, she married musician Freddy Moore, and although that marriage didn’t last, the last name did — she took Demi Moore as her stage name as her acting career took off.
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Destiny Hope Cyrus (Miley Cyrus)
Miley was always destined for stardom — just look at her given name! Her childhood nickname, though, was Smiley, which was eventually shortened to Miley. In 2008, at the age of 15, the Hannah Montana star legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus, an homage to her childhood nickname and her father Billy Ray’s middle name.
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Maurice Joseph Micklewhite (Michael Caine)
Caine was actually born with the exact same name as his father: a fish market worker named Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. When he was cast in a stage production of Wuthering Heights in 1953, he adopted his first stage name, which was Michael Scott (half a century before the Steve Carell character). He moved to London a year later, only to discover there was already an actor named Michael Scott performing there. While on the phone with his agent, Caine turned around and noticed that the cinema across the street was playing The Caine Mutiny, and informed his agent he would go by Michael Caine from then on.
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Joaquin Bottom (Joaquin Phoenix)
Joaquin Phoenix has gone through a few name changes. As a child actor, he went by Leaf Phoenix in order to have a nature-themed name like his siblings River, Rain, Liberty, and Summer, but his name at birth was Joaquin Bottom. When his family left the Children of God religious group when Joaquin was just 4, they changed their last names to Phoenix to signify their rebirth and a new beginning.
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Tanner Schneider (Elle King)
There’s nothing funny about Elle King’s talent — she burst onto the mainstream music scene in 2015 with the bluesy rock track “Ex’s & Oh’s” — but she does have comedy in her blood. Born Tanner Schneider, King is actually the daughter of comedian and actor Rob Schneider, and has even appeared in three of his films (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Benchwarmers, and Wild Cherry). But when King decided she wanted to be a singer, she chose to distance herself from her famous father by using a stage name. She chose Elle, her middle name, and King, her mother’s maiden name, to create the name.
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Olivia Cockburn (Olivia Wilde)
You might want to change your last name if it was Cockburn, too. The Cockburn name is actually pretty significant in the political and literary history of England, and Olivia grew up in a family full of prolific writers and journalists. Olivia, however, knew at age 2 that she wanted to be an actress. She changed her last name to Wilde in high school as an homage to the writer Oscar Wilde, paying tribute to the writers in her family who often used pen names.
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Katheryn Hudson (Katy Perry)
Turns out there’s another Kate Hudson in Hollywood! Before she was roaring or even kissing girls and liking it, Katy Perry was performing Christian and gospel music under her given name of Katy Hudson in Nashville. After a commercially unsuccessful debut, Hudson moved to Los Angeles and began recording pop music. She started using her mother’s maiden name of Perry when she performed to avoid confusion with the actress Kate Hudson.
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Amanda Lee Rogers (Portia de Rossi)
Before making us laugh in Arrested Development or touching our hearts by marrying Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi was Amanda Rogers, a child model in Victoria, Australia. At age 14, she adopted the name Portia de Rossi in order to reinvent herself before delving into acting. She chose the name Portia after being inspired by the character of the same name in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
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Elizabeth Grant (Lana Del Rey)
Much like Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey was unsuccessful in making hit music under her given name, so she adopted a new identity. While in her senior year at Fordham University, Lizzy Grant signed a record deal and released an EP entitled Kill Kill under her name. When her album was shelved, though, Grant shifted focus and began going by Lana Del Rey.
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Courtney Harrison (Courtney Love)
The Hole lead singer and Kurt Cobain's wife had a troubled childhood, moving around different foster homes for much of her youth. She was born Courtney Harrison, but changed her surname to Rodriguez and Menely before finally landing on Love after a trip to Alaska and her move to West Hollywood to start a band.
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Aubrey Graham (Drake)
Many people know that the rapper Drake got his start as a child actor in Canada playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi. Back in those days, he went by his given name, Aubrey Graham. When he started releasing mixtapes as a rapper, however, he decided to go by his middle name Drake.
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Amethyst Kelly (Iggy Azalea)
When a starry-eyed young Aussie named Amethyst Kelly first moved to the U.S. at age 16, she was already panning her takeover of the hip-hop industry. She began rapping in Miami, Houston, and Atlanta under her stage name of Iggy Azalea, which she chose using the formula that many people use to choose their alternate names: her dog was named Iggy and she grew up on Azalea Street.
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Peter Hernandez (Bruno Mars)
One of pop music's biggest stars is actually named Peter Hernandez. Growing up in a musical family in Hawaii, Hernandez's father would call him Bruno from a young age, saying that he looked so much like the wrestler Bruno Sammartino. It wasn't until he moved to L.A. at age 17 to pursue music that he adopted Bruno as his stage name. He made his surname Mars because when people would tell him that he was out of this world, he would respond, "I guess I'm from Mars."
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Caryn Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg)
You've probably never heard of Caryn Johnson, but you've definitely heard of her stage name Whoopi Goldberg. The comedian got the nickname Whoopi from... well... being a little gassy around her friends in the theater when she was starting out. She actually thought of just going by the name Whoopi Cushion for a bit, but her mother suggested taking Goldberg, a family name, to be her surname in order to be taken a little more seriously.
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Audrey Perry (Faith Hill)
A young Audrey Perry dropped out of school at age 19 to move to Nashville in pursuit of her dreams of becoming a country singer. In the midst of her unsuccessful attempts to take off, Perry married a publisher named Daniel Hill. She took his last name, and as many singers do, used her middle name Faith as her stage name. Although she and Daniel divorced just after her first album came out, the singer kept the name Faith Hill, as fans had grown accustomed to it. However, Hill did keep her given name alive by naming her third daughter Audrey in 2001.
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Neta-Lee Hershlag (Natalie Portman)
Born in Jerusalem, Natalie Portman was actually Neta-Lee Hershlag growing up. Her family moved to America when she was 3, and she began to go by the Americanized version of her first name: Natalie. As she was just breaking into acting, Natalie decided to use Portman, her grandmother's maiden name, as her last name to protect her privacy.
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Krishna Bhanji (Ben Kingsley)
Ben Kingsley’s given name is much in line with his Gujarati Indian descent. Born Krishna Bhanji, he chose the Anglicized stage name of Ben Kingsley when he started acting. Ben came from an old nickname of his father’s, Benji, and Kingsley was a reference to the name King Cloves that was given to his grandfather, who used to be a well-known spice trader.
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Bernice Frankel (Bea Arthur)
As Bernice Frankel, Arthur worked in the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve during World War II, where she met the man she would marry, Robert Alan Aurthur. Although the two divorced soon after, Arthur kept his name for her acting career, modifying the spelling.
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Mark Vincent (Vin Diesel)
At just 17 years old, Mark Vincent became a bouncer at a New York City nightclub called The Tunnel. It was at this job that Vincent would receive the name that would make him famous — his friends and coworkers started calling him Vin Diesel. Vin was just a shortened form of his last name, and they added Diesel because he was always so full of energy.
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Ilyena Mironov (Helen Mirren)
Helen Mirren was born in London, but comes from a long line of Russian ancestry on her father's side, as her given name makes clear. In her youth, her father anglicized their family name to Mirren, and she began going by her altered first name of Helen as well.
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Eric Bishop (Jamie Foxx)
Although known for his acting and singing these days, a young Eric Bishop was also very adept at telling jokes. In his early 20s, Bishop started frequenting open mic nights at comedy clubs. Soon, he began to notice that female comedians would often get called to the stage sooner, so he wanted a name that was ambiguous in terms of gender. He came up with Jamie Foxx, with Foxx being a tribute to the comedian Redd Foxx.
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Michael Douglas (Michael Keaton)
Any fan can probably guess why Michael Douglas had to change his name. After moving to Los Angeles to audition for TV roles, the actor knew he had to find a new name in order to avoid confusion the the already established actor Michael Douglas. He chose to adopt the surname Keaton out of admiration for a fellow actor. No, not Diane Keaton. It was actually a tribute to the early 20th century vaudevillian Buster Keaton.
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Brian Warner (Marilyn Manson)
The last name you'd probably expect to belong to the devilish figure of Marilyn Manson is something as mundane as Brian Warner. The singer came from a pretty traditional, Christian family, and it was in Christian grade school that the teachers showed him and his classmates the music that they weren't supposed to be listening to, and he was immediately hooked. When he started his first band in the late '80s, Warner created his stage name by combining the names of two seemingly opposite cultural icons: Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.
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Eileen Edwards (Shania Twain)
Eileen Edwards had a rough upbringing in rural Ontario. Her parents divorced when she was 2, and she was forced to sing in bars at closing time before she was 10 to make money to support her depressed mother and sometimes violent stepdad. When her mother married Jerry Twain, an Ojibwe Native American, he adopted Eileen and her two sisters, and they all took Twain as their last name. When Twain signed her first record deal in 1993, she took the name Shania. Some have said the name is an Ojibwe word meaning "on my way," but Shania has admitted that the name actually has no meaning.
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Reginald Dwight (Elton John)
At the age of 15, Reginald Dwight was a regular pub pianist playing popular standards and some of his own songs. It was also around this time that he started a band called Bluesology with a number of his friends. Five years later, he began writing music for lyrics written by lyricist Bernie Taupin, and recorded their first song together. It was then that Reginald Dwight adopted the name Elton John. The name was an homage to his fellow Bluesology member Elton Dean, and the blues singer that they backed, Long John Baldry.
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Adam Wiles (Calvin Harris)
Calvin Harris is known worldwide for creating some of the most recognizable Top 40 hits, as well as having one of the most famous girlfriends in the world, but what may not be known by everyone is his real name. The Scottish DJ was born Adam Wiles, and once said that he changed his name to Calvin Harris in order to sound racially ambiguous after releasing a soul-inspired track when he was just starting. He may be Calvin to the world, but apparently Taylor still calls him Adam.
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Enrique Martin Morales (Ricky Martin)
So much of Ricky Martin's success is based on his suave, Latin charm, so it's kind of surprising that he would go from Enrique Morales to Ricky Martin. According to a 1995 interview, the change sprouted from his parents' contention while their son was touring with Menudo. Martin's father, also named Enrique, made his son choose between him and his mother. A resentful young Martin chose his mother and changed his name to Ricky to further cut ties with his father.
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Christopher Breaux (Frank Ocean)
When Christopher Breaux started making music in New Orleans and then Los Angeles, he adopted the name Frank Ocean, inspired by his love for Frank Sinatra and the film Ocean's 11 (the 1960 one with Sinatra). In 2015, Ocean legally changed his name to Frank Ocean.
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Tara Patrick (Carmen Electra)
Tara Patrick grew up wanting to be a star. She took dance classes and acted in school plays when she was young, and moved out to California when she was 19 to pursue a career in music. It was there that she met Prince, who signed her to his record label and encouraged her to change her name, saying that she looked like a Carmen.