You might not have ever heard of “Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov,” “Adam Richard Wiles,” or “Peter Gene Hernandez” but you have definitely heard of the celebrities that were born with these names.
Many celebrities believe that to break into show business, they need a great stage name to give them a leg up on everybody else.
Sometimes celebrities change their names to protect their privacy and some use pseudonyms just to make their names sound better.
Here are 33 people whose real names might take you by surprise.
Real name: Steven Victor Tallarico
The lead singer of Aerosmith changed his name “for more promotional appeal.” His first name choice was reportedly “Tyler Brit.”
Real name: Alicia Augello Cook
Alicia Keys revealed that when she was trying to choose a professional name she went through a dictionary and stopped on the word “wild.” She told Newsweek in 2007 that she asked her mother how Alicia Wild sounded to her and her mother told her “it sounds like you’re a stripper.” After that, she decided to use Keys.
Real name: Robert Allen Zimmerman
Bob Dylan legally changed his name to his “professional name” in August 1962 in the New York City Supreme Court.
Real name: David Robert Jones
The late David Bowie changed his name to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees.
Real name: Eric Marlon Bishop
Jamie Foxx revealed the story behind his name-change on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2014. He said he did it to better his odds of getting booked in L.A. comedy clubs by fooling the guys who ran the performance signup list. “I noticed it would be like a thousand guys showed up and only three girls, but the three girls [who put their names on the signup list] would always get a spot,” he explained. “So I went to the list and wrote down unisex names. Stacy Green, Tracy Brown… Jamie Foxx! And I’m the first guy called. He goes, ‘Jamie Foxx, is she here?’ I said, ‘No, brother, that’s me.’ And then I go onstage and I get a standing ovation.” He added, “And that’s how my name changed.”
Real name: Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
The actresses’ mothers maiden name is “Reese.”
Real name: Aubrey Drake Graham
The Toronto rapper chose to go by his middle name “Drake.”
Real name: Destiny Hope Cyrus
The actress and singer found “Miley” more comfortable than “Destiny” because when she was younger her family would call her “Smiley.” She legally changed her name in 2008.
Real name: Julie Smith
In an interview with The New York Times, the actress said “My father’s middle name is Moore; my mother’s name is Anne. So I just slammed the Anne onto the Julie. That way, I could use both of their names and not hurt anyone’s feelings. But it’s horrible to change your name. I’d been Julie Smith my whole life, and I didn’t want to change it.”
Real name: Eileen Regina Edwards
Twain is her stepfather’s last name.
Real name: Reginald Kenneth Dwight
Elton John changed his name by deed poll, a legal document binding only to a single person or several persons acting jointly to express an active intention. When he was knighted, he became Sir Elton Hercules John.
Real name: Christopher Francis Breaux
In 2014, Ocean legally changed his name to Christopher Francis Ocean. In an interview with Complex in 2011, he explained his decision to change his last name. “It just felt cool. None of us are our names,” he said. “If you don’t like your name then change your name.
Real name: Louis Szekely
C.K. is just a phonetic spelling of his last name, which is pronounced “See-kay.”
Real name: Onika Tanya Maraj
Nicki Minaj explained the genesis of her name change 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,” she told The Guardian. She said when she’s with family, she’s still Onika.
Real name: Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Rihanna goes by her middle name. “I get kind of numb to hearing Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna,” she has told Rolling Stone. “When I hear Robyn, I pay attention.”
Real name: Kathryn Hudson
The singer changed her last name to Perry because she didn’t want to be confused with the actress, Kate Hudson
Real name: Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
Like Liz Lemon, her character on 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s real first name is Liz.
Real name: Olivia Jane Cockburn
The actress once told the Observer: “At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest—I was playing Gwendolen, and I was so in love with it. Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons—a revolutionary, a comedian, and a profound thinker. I had all these reasons—but what I didn’t foresee is that people would think of it as a sexy adjective. So now it’s got a pornographic quality I never considered.”
Portia De Rossi
Real name: Amanda Lee Rogers
Portia De Rossi offically switched up her name when she was 15. She told The Advocate in 2005, “I picked Portia because I was a Shakespeare fan. De Rossi because I was Australian, and I thought that an exotic Italian name would somehow suit me more than Amanda Rogers. When you live in Australia, Europe is so far away and so fascinating, so stylish and cultured and sophisticated.”
Real name: Caryn Elaine Johnson
Whoopi Goldberg explained the origins of her name in an interview with the Times. “When you’re performing on stage, you never really have time to go into the bathroom and close the door. So if you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go. So people used to say to me, You are like a whoopee cushion. And that’s where the name came from,” she said.
Real name: Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus
The musician’s stage name was a suggestion from his manager. His stage name combined “Elvis” from the iconic Elvis Presley and Costello was his father’s stage name.
Real name: Thomas Cruise Mapother IV
Real name: Natalie Herschlag
Natalie Portman changed her name to protect her privacy.
Cee Lo Green
Real name: Thomas DeCarlo Callaway
He changed his name and became a member of the Goodie Mob, a hip-hop collective, before forming Gnarls Barkley with the DJ Danger Mouse.
Real name: Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov
Lana Del Ray
Real name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
“I wanted a name I could shape the music towards. I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba,” she once told British Vogue. “Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.”
Real name: Christopher Brian Bridges
Real name: Adam Richard Wiles
“My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought Calvin Harris sounded a bit more racially ambiguous,” he told Shortlist in an interview. “I thought people might not know if I was Black or not. After that, I was stuck with it.”
Real name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
In 2006, the singer met music producer Rob Fusari, who reportedly helped bring about her stage name. Fusari compared Lady Gaga’s vocals to Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury’s, and would sing Radio Ga Ga whenever she entered the studio.
Real name: Stevland Hardaway Judkins
Berry Gordy at Motown Records signed the young musician at the age of 11 and immediately and renamed him Little Stevie Wonder.
Real name: Milena Markovna Kunis
Real name: Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra
She changed her name from “Margaret Hyra” to “Meg Ryan” for her first foray into acting, and has stuck to the name ever since.
Real name: Peter Gene Hernandez
Bruno Mars explained how he came up with his stage name in an interview with Rap Up. He said, “Bruno is after Bruno Sammartino, who was this big, fat wrestler. I was this chunky little baby, so my dad used to call me that as a nickname. Mars came up because a lot of girls say I’m out of this world!”