17 Celebrities You Never Knew Used Stage Names

Jason Pham
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17 Celebrities You Never Knew Used Stage Names
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Photo: Getty Images

The right name is everything in Hollywood, which is why some celebs thought long and hard about how they want to be dubbed (Whoopi Goldberg, we’re looking at you.) As for why a celeb might opt for a different name, the reasons are endless: Someone else already has it, it’s hard to pronounce, they just wanted something different, or—our favorite—they wanted it to be a topic of conversation.

MORE: 25 Celebrity Names You’re Pronouncing Wrong

Peek through to find 17 celebs who worked tirelessly to make a name for themselves in the biz—even if that name wasn’t originally theirs. If you know who Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson and Nikolina Konstantinova are by the end of this, we know you’ve done your homework.

MORE: Celebrity Baby Names That Are (Gasp!) Totally Normal

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Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon

Name: Laura Jeanne Witherspoon

When starting out as an actress, the "Big Little Lies" star opted to use her mom's maiden name, Reese, as her first name.

Photo: instagram / @reesewitherspoon
Lucy Hale
Lucy Hale

Real name: Karen Lucille Hale

Despite being born as a "Karen," the "Pretty Little Liars" star has gone by "Lucy" her whole life. Though she did mention in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that "Karen is [her] alter ego." We'd love to meet this Karen, Lucy.

Photo: instagram / @lucyhale
Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg

Real name: Caryn Elaine Johnson

The comedian didn't switch names until later in life when she was working at a theater in San Diego. There, her friends kept calling her "Whoopi" due to her, er, frequent flatulence. With the advice of her mother to take a more Jewish-sounding last name, Whoopi Goldberg was born.

 

Photo: instagram / @whoopigoldberg
Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys

Real name: Alicia Augello Cook

The R&B singer initially considered the word "Wild" for her stage last name, but the idea was shot down by her mother who said she "sounded like a stripper." That's when she came up with "Keys," which the Grammy winner likes to think of as "piano keys" or keys that "can open so many doors."

Photo: instagram / @aliciakeys
Emma Stone
Emma Stone

Real name: Emily Jean Stone

Upon registering with the Screen Actor's Guild as a 16-year-old, the "La La Land" star was told her name, Emily Stone, was already taken. That's when she chopped off a few letters and changed her name to "Emma." Little did she know that "Emma" would be a popular first name in Hollywood, too. Can't beat them all.

 

Photo: Getty Images
Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel

Real name: Mark Sinclair Vincent

The actor came up with his stage name while working as a bouncer at a New York nightclub, where it's apparently common to use fake names. (Who knew.) Considering "The Fast and the Furious" star's last name is "Vincent," his stage first name "Vin" seems self-explanatory. "Diesel" came from his nickname, The Diesel, which his friends gave for him for his high energy. Apparently, the name stuck when he started pursuing acting because that's how we know him now.

Photo: instagram / @vindiesel
Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman

Real name: Natalie Hershlag

To protect her family's private life from the spotlight, the actress swapped the last name she was born with, Hershlag, for her grandmother's maiden name, Portman.

Photo: Getty Images
Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis

Real name: Milena Markovna Kunis

Born in the Ukraine before moving to Los Angeles, the actress decided to shorten her name when she was first starting out on "Days of Our Lives" to make her credit snappier and easier to pronounce.

Photo: Getty Images
Katy Pery
Katy Pery

Real name:Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson

The pop star initially tried out the name "Katy Hudson" when she was starting her career as a gospel singer. Years later, when she switched over to pop, she opted for her mother's maiden name, Perry, to not have people mistake her with Kate Hudson.

Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde

Real name: Olivia Jane Cockburn

The actress comes from a long line of famous journalists, all with the last name "Cockburn." But the "Vinyl" star probably wanted a change of pace, which is why after she was in a high school production of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," the actress ditched "Cockburn" and adopted the playwright's famous surname.

Photo: Getty Images
Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan

Real name: Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra

After dropping out of New York University a semester early of graduating to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, the "When Harry Met Sally" star changed her name to something snappier. Apparently, four first names wasn't catchy enough.

Photo: Getty Images
Lea Michele
Lea Michele

Real name: Lea Michele Safarti

While on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," the "Glee" star got real about her name change. She said bullies in school would often call her "Lea So-Farty" and "Lea So-Fatty" because of their sonic similarity to her surname. (If "So-Farty" and "So-Fatty" are the best you can do, you really need to rethink your choices.) So when she was out on her first audition and the casting director asked for her name, the singer dropped "Safarti" and used her middle name as her last name and went with "Lea Michele."

Photo: Getty Images
Tina Fey
Tina Fey

Real name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey

Whereas the comedian shares her birth name, Elizabeth, with her "30 Rock" character, Liz Lemon, the actress' stage name is a shortened version of her middle name, Stamatina.

Photo: Getty Images
Kelly Rowland
Kelly Rowland

Real name: Kelendria Trene Rowland

To keep things catchy, the Destiny's Child member shortened her first name to "Kelly." Plus, it was the title she basically went by when growing up.

Photo: Getty Images
Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus

Real name: Destiny Hope Cyrus

The singer started going by "Miley" as a little girl after her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, gave her the title as a nickname due to how often the former Disney Channel star smiled as a kid. At 15, while she was shooting "Hannah Montana," the actress said goodbye to "Destiny Hope" and hello to "Miley Ray" legally.

Nina Dobrev
Nina Dobrev

Real name: Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva

 Born in Sofia, Bulgaria before moving to Toronto, Canada as a 2-year-old, "The Vampire Diaries" star changed her name to make it drastically shorter and easier to remember.
Photo: Getty Images
Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris

Real name: Adam Richard Wiles

Right before dropping his first single, which the DJ described as a "soul track," the Scottish musician decided he needed a stage name. He chose "Calvin Harris" to seem "racially ambiguous" when people heard his music. OK, then...

Photo: Getty Images

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  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Lucy Hale
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Alicia Keys
  • Emma Stone
  • Vin Diesel
  • Natalie Portman
  • Mila Kunis
  • Katy Pery
  • Olivia Wilde
  • Meg Ryan
  • Lea Michele
  • Tina Fey
  • Kelly Rowland
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Nina Dobrev
  • Calvin Harris

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