Celebrities’ real names revealed
John Roger Stephens (John Legend)
John Roger Stephens had already chosen his stage name, John Legend, by the time Kanye West signed him to his record label in 2003. "It was bold, and I knew people would be like, 'He'd better be good if he’s going to call himself John Legend,'" the singer told the New York Times. "So I said, 'Let me go out and make the best music I can and maybe, after my career is over, I've lived up to the name.'"
Vera Mindy Chokalingam (Mindy Kaling)
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.
Kimberly Alexis Bledel (Alexis Bledel)
Long before fans knew her as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, 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.)
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.
Belcalis Almanzar (Cardi B)
The "Bodak Yellow" rapper based her stage name Cardi B on liquor brand Bacardi. "My sister's name is Hennessy, so everybody used to call me Bacardi," Cardi B explained to Jimmy Fallon during a Tonight Show appearance. "Then it was my Instagram name, Bacardi, Bacardi B. But for some reason, my Instagram kept getting deleted, and you know what, I think it was Bacardi that had something to do with it. So I just shortened it to Cardi B."
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.
Destiny Hope Cyrus (Miley Cyrus)
Miley Cyrus 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.
Maurice Joseph Micklewhite (Michael Caine)
Michael 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.
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 Mars 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."
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.
Olivia Cockburn (Olivia Wilde)
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, but Olivia knew at age 2 that she wanted to be an actress. She changed her name to Olivia 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.
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.
Aubrey Graham (Drake)
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.
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.
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.
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 Courtney Love after a trip to Alaska and her move to West Hollywood to start a band.
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.
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.
Melissa Jefferson (Lizzo)
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.
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.
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.
Ilyena Mironov (Helen Mirren)
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.
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.
Michael Douglas (Michael Keaton)
Any fan can probably guess why Michael Keaton needed to change his name from the one on his birth certificate: Michael Douglas. 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.
Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga)
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.
Shawn Carter (Jay-Z)
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 she signed her first record deal in 1993, she took the name Shania Twain. Some have said the name is an Ojibwe word meaning "on my way," but Shania has admitted that the name actually has no meaning.
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.