50 Celebrities Who Changed Their Names

1048 Shares
50 Celebrities Who Changed Their Names
50 Start slideshow

You’ve probably heard of Olivia Wilde. But have you heard of Olivia Jane Cockburn? Well, that happens to be the actress’s given name. We all know Stevie Wonder is an icon, but there’s a good chance he might not have had the same level of success had he kept his real name, Stevland Judkins. And these are just two of a long line of celebrities who changed their names.

MORE: The 40 Most Naked Celebrity Photos of All Time

It’s not uncommon for actors to adopt stage names—often their real ones are too long, difficult to pronounce, “too ethnic,” or simply not sexy enough for the marquis (ahem, the aforementioned Olivia Jane Cockburn).

Plus, in some cases, certain professional orgs, such as the Screen Actors Guild, stipulate that no two members may have identical working names, causing some stars to change their names even if they weren’t planning to (for example, Julia Roberts was born Julie Roberts, but there was another actor registered under that name).

MORE: Short Celebrities! 30 Starlets That Are 5’3″ or Under

In the interest of “who knew?!” celebrity facts (our favorite kind), we’ve rounded up 50 celebrities’ real names, and for some, explained why they changed them. Others, as you’ll see, are pretty self-explanatory.

Click through this gallery and let us know: Which celebrities’ real names shocked you the most?

0 Thoughts?
1 of 50

Click through the gallery to see 50 celebrities who changed their names (and what their real names are!).

Who: Lorde
Real name: Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor
"When I was trying to come up with a stage name, I thought ‘Lord’ was super rad but really masculine. Ever since I was a little kid, I have been really into royals and aristocracy, so to make Lord more feminine, I just put an ‘e’ on the end! Some people think it’s religious, but it’s not," the pop star told Interview magazine.

Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Who: Lea Michele
Real name: Lea Michele Sarfati
Not shockingly, she dropped her surname.

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for ELLE

Who: Fetty Wap
Real name: Willie Maxwell
The rapper told globalgrind.com that fetty is slang for money, and Wap is derived from his idol's nickname (Alabama rapper Gucci Mane, who's called Guwop).

Photo: WENN

Who: Olivia Wilde
Real name: Olivia Jane Cockburn
Clearly, Olivia's team wanted her professional name to reflect more sex appeal than her given name.

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Iggy Azalea
Real name: Amethyst Amelia Kelly
Call us crazy, but we think Amethyst would have been just as effective.

Who: Tyga
Real name: Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson
Also known as Mr. Kylie Jenner.

Who: Reese Witherspoon
Real name: Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
The Southern-bred actress decided to drop Laura and Jeanne and take her mothers' maiden name (Reese) as her professional name.

Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for ELLE

Who: Tina Fey
Real name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Who: Rachel Zoe
Real name: Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig
The power stylist, reality star, and designer likely dropped her last name to appear less ethnic.

Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for ELLE

Who: Whoopi Goldberg
Real name: Caryn Elaine Johnson
The actress and talk show host decided to go with the name Whoopi because of—wait for it—a whoopee cushion. She's stated that "if you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go. So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from." Um, ew. And as for Goldberg? It's been reported that her mom felt that Johnson wasn't "Jewish enough" to make it in showbiz. Odd, considering most actors with traditionally Jewish names change them to something more ethincally ambiguous.

Photo: Mike McGregor/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald

Who: Portia de Rossi
Real name: Amanda Lee Rogers
The Australia-born actress changed her name as a teenager, stating that she wanted to reinvent herself with the first name Portia (after a Shakespeare character) and an Italian last name.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Who: Woody Allen
Real name: Allan Stewart Konigsberg
The iconic writer and director legally changed his name to Heywood Allen when he was 17 years old and started calling himself Woody.

Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Who: Helen Mirren
Real name: Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov

Photo: Jessica Hromas/Getty Images for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Who: Julia Roberts
Real name: Julie Roberts
Early in her career, Roberts took the name Julia because there was already an actress registered under the name of Julie Roberts.

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Who: Demi Moore
Real name: Demetria Gene Guynes
The actress shortened her first name and adopted the last name of her first husband, musician Freddy Moore, whom she married in 1980.

Photo: (Credit too long, see caption)

Who: Courtney Love
Real name: Courtney Michelle Harrison

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Who: Carmen Electra
Real name: Tara Leigh Patrick
In 1991, the sexpot changed her name to the decidedly unrealistic Carmen Electra after signing a recording contract with Prince's record label. (Clearly, her singing career didn't take off.)

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Who: Ralph Lauren
Real name: Ralph Lifshitz
The iconic designer changed his unfortunate last name to Lauren when he was a teenager. “My given name has the word shit in it,” he once told Oprah Winfrey. “When I was a kid, the other kids would make a lot of fun of me. It was a tough name. That's why I decided to change it. Then people said, 'Did you change your name because you don't want to be Jewish?' I said, 'Absolutely not. That's not what it's about.'"

Photo: Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014

Who: Bruno Mars
Real Name: Peter Gene Hernandez
The pop star (and this year's Super Bowl act) has an interesting ethnic background. He's a mix of Filipino, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Hungarian, and Ukranian heritages; he's part Jewish and was born in Hawaii. When Bruno was a kid, his father reportedly nicknamed him Bruno because of his resemblance to professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Who: Dakota Fanning
Real name: Hannah Dakota Fanning
Reports have said the actress's father wanted to name her Dakota and her mother preferred Hannah, so they used both. Looks like her dad won out big time.

Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Who: Charli XCX
Real name: Charlotte Emma Aitchison
The pop star's stage name was her MSN Messenger screen name when she was a kid.

Photo: WENN

Who: Jason Derulo
Real name: Jason Joel Desrouleaux
Clearly, the R&B singer wanted folks to pronounce his surname with ease.

Photo: WENN / Mark Davis/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Who: Lana del Rey
Real name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
The singer—who had some mild success as a singer-songwriter in the early-2000s under the name Lizzy Grant—adopted her current stage name when crafting her sultry, old-timey persona. "I wanted a name I could shape the music toward. I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba," she said. "Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue."

Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Who: Miley Ray Cyrus
Real name: Destiny Hope Cyrus
The former Disney star and current It star was given the nickname Smiley as an infant, which was later shortened to Miley. She reportedly adopted the middle name Ray not because of her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, but because of her grandfather, Democratic politician (!) Ronald Ray Cyrus, who died in 2006.

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Julianne Moore
Real name: Julie Anne Smith

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Natalie Portman
Real name: Natalie Herschlag
The Jerusalem-born actress adopted her grandmother's maiden name as her stage name.

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Who: 2 Chainz
Real name: Tauheed Epps
Shocker: The rapper's given name doesn't start with a number and end with Chainz.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Who: Winona Ryder
Real name: Winona Laura Horowitz
The actress's stage name was reportedly chosen by her dad, who was listening to soul singer Mitch Ryder when her agent called to ask how she wanted to be credited  in her first film.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs

Who: Stevie Wonder
Real name: Stevland Hardaway Judkins
In the '60s, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed a young and prodigious Judkins with the name Little Stevie Wonder.

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Cher
Real name: Cherilyn Sarkisian

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Luke Perry
Real name: Coy Luther Perry III

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Who: Alicia Keys
Real name: Alicia Augello Cook
It's been reported that Alicia adopted the last name Keys not because of her incredible piano-playing skills but because her manager suggested it after a dream he had.

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Children's Rights

Who: Michael Keaton
Real name: Michael Douglas
Keaton changed his last name in order to prevent obvious confusion between himself and already-established actor Michael Douglas. After seeing an article on actress Diane Keaton, he reportedly decided he liked the sound of the last name.

Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Who: Sigourney Weaver
Real name: Susan Alexandra Weaver
The actress began using the name Sigourney in 1963; the choice was based on a minor character in The Great Gatsby named Sigourney Howard.

Photo: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Who: Tiger Woods
Real name: Eldrick Tont Woods
The iconic golfer was reportedly nicknamed Tiger in honor of his father's friend, a military colonel who had been known as Tiger.

Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Who: Oprah Winfrey
Real name: Orpah Winfrey
Winfrey's real first name was often mispronounced as Oprah, causing the media mogul to change it.

Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for TWC

Who: Jessica Chastain
Real name: Jessica Howard
It's been widely reported that the Oscar-nominated actress adopted her mother's maiden name as her acting career took off.

Photo: Getty Images

Who: Nicki Minaj
Real name: Onika Tanya Maraj

Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Kmart / Shop Your Way Brands

Who: Frank Ocean
Real name: Christopher Edwin Breau

Who: Louis C.K.
Real name: Louis Szekely
The comedian's real last name is Szekely, but he changed it because it's pronounced "See-kay."

 

 

Photo: Steve Sands/Getty Images

Who: Akon
Real name: Aliaune Damala Akon Thiam
We can see why he wanted to chop that just a little.

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Who: Ashton Kutcher
Real name: Christopher Ashton Kutcher
Kutcher started going by the cooler-sounding Ashton when he became an actor at age 19.

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Lenovo

Who: Nelly
Real name: Cornell Iral Haynes

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Who: R. Kelly
Real name: Robert Sylvester Kelly

Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET

Who: Kid Rock
Real name: Robert James Ritchie

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Who: CeeLo Green
Real name: Thomas DeCarlo Callaway

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Who: Queen Latifah
Real name: Dana Elaine Owens
Latifah—which means delicate and very kind in Arabic—comes from a book of Arabic names the star found when she was 8 years old.

Photo: Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET

Who: Elton John
Real name: Reginald Kenneth Dwight

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

Who: Ice Cube
Real name: O'Shea Jackson

Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Next slideshow starts in 10s

How to Nail 5 Fall Trends for Under $200

How to Nail 5 Fall Trends for
Under $200
0 GOT THOUGHTS? SHARE THEM!

Promoted Stories

share