50 Celebrities’ Real Names You Would Have Never Guessed

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Celebrities Real Names
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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.

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

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Plus, in some cases, certain professional organizations, 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, take  Julia Roberts was born Julie Roberts, but there was another actor registered under that name).

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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.

A version of this article was originally published in November 2013.

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

gigi hadid milan fashion week 2018
Gigi Hadid

Who: Gigi Hadid
Real name: Jelena Hadid
According to the Daily Mail, her mom Yolanda Hadid gave her the nickname Gigi because Jelena became "too confusing."

Photo: IPA/WENN.com
Kit Harington 2017
Kit Harington

Who: Kit Harington
Real name: Christopher Catesby Harington
"I think they could see that I wanted to be Kit, but Christopher was a bit of a tradition," he said to Glamour. "My brother's name is Jack, but his real name is John. Kit is traditionally an offshoot of Christopher, it's just not used that often."

Meghan Markle 2015
Meghan Markle
Who: Meghan Markle
Real name: Rachel Meghan Markle
Going with the middle name does give the name that nice alliteration.
Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
Lorde at 2018 MusiCares Person Of The Year
Lorde

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: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
Lea Michele at ELLE's 20th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration
Lea Michele

Who: Lea Michele
Real name: Lea Michele Sarfati
"Sarfati. That's my real last name," Michele said during an appearance at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "I don’t use it a lot because I got 'Lea So-fatty,' 'Lea So-farty' at school."

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images for ELLE
Fetty Wap
Fetty Wap

Who: Fetty Wap
Real name: Willie Maxwell
The rapper told GlobalGrind 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
Olivia Wilde at the 51st New York Film Festival
Olivia Wilde

Who: Olivia Wilde
Real name: Olivia Jane Cockburn
According to People, Olivia changed her last name to Wilde after playing Gwendolen in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in high school.

Photo: Getty Images
Iggy Azalea at TIDAL X Brooklyn 2017
Iggy Azalea

Who: Iggy Azalea
Real name: Amethyst Amelia Kelly
In a Vevo original series called "A.K.A.," Iggy explained the creation of her stage name, saying her first name came from her dog. "I had a dog called Iggy, who I loved very, very much."

And she chose Azalea "because that is a street name that my mom and family live on … and it sounds very feminine and I thought it would balance out Iggy being so masculine."

Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
Tyga at Netflix premiere 2017
Tyga

Who: Tyga
Real name: Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson
His name stands for "Thank You, God, Always" — simple as that.

Photo: FayesVision/WENN.com
Reese Witherspoon at ELLE's 20th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration
Reese Witherspoon

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
Tina Fey at the 16th Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor
Tina Fey

Who: Tina Fey
Real name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
This one makes sense: "Tina" comes from her middle name, "Stamatina."

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images
Rachel Zoe at ELLE's 20th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration
Rachel Zoe

Who: Rachel Zoe
Real name: Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig
The power stylist, reality star, and designer dropped her last name because she thought it sounded "too Jewish."

Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for ELLE
Whoopi Goldberg at Annual Charity Day Hosted By Cantor Fitzgerald And BGC
Whoopi Goldberg

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 said, "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 ambiguous.

Photo: Mike McGregor/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald
Portia de Rossi Los Angeles Confidential Magazine celebration

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
Helen Mirren at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong 50th Anniversary Gala
Helen Mirren

Who: Helen Mirren
Real name: Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov
According to Wales Online, Helen's father anglicized the family name to Mirren in the 1950s.

 

Photo: Jessica Hromas/Getty Images for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Julia Roberts at 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
Julia Roberts

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
Demi Moore at New York premiere of 'Blind'
Demi Moore

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: WENN
Courtney Love at Elton John AIDS Foundation's 12th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit
Courtney Love

Who: Courtney Love
Real name: Courtney Michelle Harrison
In 2010, rumors flew that Courtney Love changed her name, yet again, to Courtney Michelle. But apparently the outlet she talked to, online music publication NME, took her quote "100 percent out of context."

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Carmen Electra Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "Lovelace"
Carmen Electra

Who: Carmen Electra
Real name: Tara Leigh Patrick
In 1991, the sexpot changed her name to Carmen Electra after signing a recording contract with Prince's record label. "I auditioned for an all girl group that [Prince] was putting together and he ended up signing me to his label Paisley Park," Carmen told The Yo Show. "After I danced for him he said, 'You look like Electra. That should be your name.'"

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Ralph Lauren at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014
Ralph Lauren

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
Bruno Mars at iHeartRadio Music Festival
Bruno Mars

Who: Bruno Mars
Real Name: Peter Gene Hernandez
The "24K Magic" pop star has an amazing mixing pot of a heritage. He's a mix of Filipino, Spanish, Puerto Rican, Hungarian, and Ukranian; 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
Dakota Fanning at 2013 Americans For The Arts
Dakota Fanning

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
Elle Fanning at Berlinale Opening Ceremony
Elle Fanning

Who: Elle Fanning
Real name: Mary Elle Fanning
Turns out Elle and sister Dakota's mom became a trend-setter for them. "I just never went by Mary, like ever," Elle told Glamour in an interview. "My mom goes by her middle name, and my sister [Dakota Fanning] goes by her middle name. Her first name is Hannah. It’s possibly a Southern thing, I don't know. But since my mom goes by her middle name, we go by our middle names, too."

Photo: WENN
Charli XCX at Brit Awards 2015
Charli XCX

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
Jason Derulo at iHeartRadio Music Festival Village
Jason Derulo

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

Photo: Mark Davis/Getty Images for Clear Channel
Lana Del Rey at 2018 Grammys
Lana Del Rey

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 told Vogue UK. "Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue."

Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN.com
Miley Cyrus 2018 Grammys
Miley Ray Cyrus

Who: Miley Ray Cyrus
Real name: Destiny Hope Cyrus
The mega pop 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: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/WENN.com
Julianne Moore 'Carrie' premiere
Julianne Moore

Who: Julianne Moore
Real name: Julie Anne Smith
"When I went to join SAG as Julie Smith, they were like, 'There's a Julie Smith, there's a Julie Anne Smith. You have to choose another name,'" she told The Hollywood Reporter. "My dad's name was Peter Moore Smith, and my mother's name was Anne Smith, and I used both their names so I wouldn't hurt anybody's feelings."

Photo: Getty Images
Natalie Portman Annihilation premiere
Natalie Portman

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

Photo: Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com
2 Chainz at 2017 NBA Awards
2 Chainz

Who: 2 Chainz
Real name: Tauheed Epps
"In my 8th grade yearbook picture, I had on two chains," he said in an interview with VIBE. "I had always been into like jewelry, so 2 Chainz just stuck."

Photo: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/WENN.com
Winona Ryder Stranger Things 2 premiere
Winona Ryder

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: Brian To/WENN.com
Stevie Wonder at UN General Assembly Meeting Goals For Persons With Disabilities
Stevie Wonder

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
Cher Performs On NBC's "Today"
Cher

Who: Cher
Real name: Cherilyn Sarkisian
To be iconic, you must have just one name.

Photo: Getty Images
Luke Perry at premiere Of "Dark Tourist"
Luke Perry

Who: Luke Perry
Real name: Coy Luther Perry III
Looks like Luke just needed a shorter name.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Alicia Keys at 8th Annual Children's Rights Benefit
Alicia Keys

Who: Alicia Keys
Real name: Alicia Augello Cook
According to Newsweek, Alicia almost went with the stage name Alicia Wild, but her mom said it sounded like a stripper name! So she went with Alicia Keys instead. "It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors," she said.

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Children's Rights
Michael Keaton at Premiere Of HBO Films' "Clear History"
Michael Keaton

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. "My real name is Douglas, Michael Douglas," he told Stephen Colbert on an episode of The Late Show. "Immediately, it gets a laugh. I got a gig. I was just starting out and I got this job and because of the Union, there was Mike Douglas—who used to have a talk show—and Michael Douglas, the movie star, actor. And somebody said, 'Well, you know, you've got to change your name.' And I said, 'Well, I don't really want to change my name.' I'm very proud of my name... I said, 'Why?' 'Because there are two other guys in the union.' So I changed my name."

Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images
Sigourney Weaver at "The Counselor" Screening
Sigourney Weaver

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
Tiger Woods v Rory McIlroy
Tiger Woods

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
Oprah Winfrey Butler premiere
Oprah Winfrey

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
Jessica Chastain 2018 Critics Choice Awards
Jessica Chastain

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: Brian To/WENN.com
Nicki Minaj at Launch Of Nicki Minaj Collection
Nicki Minaj

Who: Nicki Minaj
Real name: Onika Tanya Maraj
"Somebody changed my name," she told The Guardian in 2012. "One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I've always hated it."

Photo: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Kmart / Shop Your Way Brands
Frank Ocean at Met Gala
Frank Ocean

Who: Frank Ocean
Real name: Christopher Edwin Breau
According to Spin, he later changed it legally to Christopher Francis Ocean, based in part on the original Ocean’s 11.

Photo: Getty Images
Akon at 2013 Billboard Music Awards
Akon

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
Ashton Kutcher on red carpet
Ashton Kutcher

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
Kid Rock at 2013 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
Kid Rock

Who: Kid Rock
Real name: Robert James Ritchie
According to Loudwire, Kid Rock was given his stage name by club goers who would check out his sets when he used to be a DJ. The Detroit crowd would say, "watch that white kid rock."

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
CeeLo Green at 2013 Summer TCA Tour
CeeLo Green

Who: CeeLo Green
Real name: Thomas DeCarlo Callaway
He told Vh1 CeeLo is an abbreviation of his middle name, DeCarlo. And here we thought it was way more involved than that.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Queen Latifah at BET Black Girls Rock Red Carpet
Queen Latifah

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
Elton John at Rockefeller Foundation 2013
Elton John

Who: Elton John
Real name: Reginald Kenneth Dwight
Elton John merged the names of saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images
Ice Cube on tour
Ice Cube

Who: Ice Cube
Real name: O'Shea Jackson
"My brother, he's about nine years older than me, he used to have all kind of women calling the house and I would try to get at them," he tells Wired. "He got mad at that and said he was going to slam me in the freezer one day, and turn me into an ice cube. I said, 'You know what? That's a badge of honor.'"

Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images

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  • Meghan Markle 2015
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  • Fetty Wap
  • Olivia Wilde at the 51st New York Film Festival
  • Iggy Azalea at TIDAL X Brooklyn 2017
  • Tyga at Netflix premiere 2017
  • Reese Witherspoon at ELLE's 20th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration
  • Tina Fey at the 16th Annual Mark Twain Prize For American Humor
  • Rachel Zoe at ELLE's 20th Annual Women In Hollywood Celebration
  • Whoopi Goldberg at Annual Charity Day Hosted By Cantor Fitzgerald And BGC
  • Portia de Rossi Los Angeles Confidential Magazine celebration
  • Helen Mirren at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong 50th Anniversary Gala
  • Julia Roberts at 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
  • Demi Moore at New York premiere of 'Blind'
  • Courtney Love at Elton John AIDS Foundation's 12th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit
  • Carmen Electra Premiere Of RADiUS-TWC's "Lovelace"
  • Ralph Lauren at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014
  • Bruno Mars at iHeartRadio Music Festival
  • Dakota Fanning at 2013 Americans For The Arts
  • Elle Fanning at Berlinale Opening Ceremony
  • Charli XCX at Brit Awards 2015
  • Jason Derulo at iHeartRadio Music Festival Village
  • Lana Del Rey at 2018 Grammys
  • Miley Cyrus 2018 Grammys
  • Julianne Moore 'Carrie' premiere
  • Natalie Portman Annihilation premiere
  • 2 Chainz at 2017 NBA Awards
  • Winona Ryder Stranger Things 2 premiere
  • Stevie Wonder at UN General Assembly Meeting Goals For Persons With Disabilities
  • Cher Performs On NBC's "Today"
  • Luke Perry at premiere Of "Dark Tourist"
  • Alicia Keys at 8th Annual Children's Rights Benefit
  • Michael Keaton at Premiere Of HBO Films' "Clear History"
  • Sigourney Weaver at "The Counselor" Screening
  • Tiger Woods v Rory McIlroy
  • Oprah Winfrey Butler premiere
  • Jessica Chastain 2018 Critics Choice Awards
  • Nicki Minaj at Launch Of Nicki Minaj Collection
  • Frank Ocean at Met Gala
  • Akon at 2013 Billboard Music Awards
  • Ashton Kutcher on red carpet
  • Kid Rock at 2013 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
  • CeeLo Green at 2013 Summer TCA Tour
  • Queen Latifah at BET Black Girls Rock Red Carpet
  • Elton John at Rockefeller Foundation 2013
  • Ice Cube on tour

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