1. Whoopi Goldberg - Caryn Elaine Johnson
Whoopi Goldberg didn’t always have this memorable ring to her name. To her friends and family, the comedian is known as Caryn Elaine Johnson. When the actress decided to try her Hollywood luck, Caryn changed her name completely and never looked back.
Whoopi often shares the story of her chosen name. The Oscar-winner shared with Reuters news “The true story is that my family is Jewish, Buddhist, Baptist and Catholic -- none of which I subscribe to, by the way, as I don't believe in man-made religions. . . So I took the last name from a Jewish ancestor. And I happen to be gaseous, which explains the first name, short for a whoopee cushion.”
2. Lana Del Rey - Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
The American singer has gone under many stage names from close-to-reality Lizzy Grant to jaw-dropping Sparkle Jump Rope Queen. One thing the star knew for sure - she needed a name to encapsulate her old-school Hollywood vibe.
"I wanted a name I could shape the music towards," Lana told Vogue. Her friends from Cuba influenced her choice. While speaking Spanish to them in Cuba the star realized the beauty of the simple “Lana Del Ray.” Recently the singer started using her real name again - we might see a lot more of Elizabeth Grant very soon.
3. Jamie Foxx - Eric Marlon Bishop
Eric Bishop - an ambitious young comedian - chose his stage name Jamie Foxx back in 1989. Old-school comedy clubs used to call women to perform first. The witty actor wanted to be noticed so badly that he took a risk of using a lady-like name just to shine on stage at prime-time.
Surprisingly enough Eric did not want to change his name for his other passions like playing for the Dallas Cowboys or being a professional pianist in the past. The eagerness and drive of performing on stage for his beloved fans made the star do whatever it takes to be noticed. Luckily for him, this was a successful shot to shoot.
4. Alicia Keys - Alicia Augello-Cook
The world-famous girl on fire was born with a complicated last name: Augello-Cook. The musician always dreamed of a career in singing. Starting her piano classes at age 7 with her actress mother, it's no wonder that Alicia chose such a musical stage name.
The performer and writer first wanted to use "Wild" as a stage name. However, her mother found some vulgarness in that word, even calling it “a stripper” name. Alicia moved on to Keys and successfully so - the performer continues to strike us with her talent under this name for the last decade.
5. David Tennant - David John McDonald
The Doctor Who and Good Omens star decided his stage very early on. At the teenage age of 16, David turned to popular British music magazines for ideas. Neil Tennant - a member of English pop-duo became the name inspiration. David did not take the name-creating process seriously - the actor’s other option was Bojangles MacDuff.
David Tennant told The Late Late Show host James Corden that he could not use his real name simply because of a popular actor at the time that went under the same name. Now “David Tennant” is synonymous with phenomenal acting and incredible shows.
6. Nina Dobrev - Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva
The famous Canadian actress was actually born in Bulgaria under the name Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva. When she was young the performer was worried that her name is difficult to pronounce and not “Americanized enough.” So, making a name for herself in Hollywood the actress shortened it to Nina Dobrev.
Nina wanted to keep a part of her heritage in the name - that is why the star never considered creating a completely different moniker. The actress often mentioned how connected she is to Bulgaria and shows off her language skills at many interviews.
7. Snoop Dogg - Calvin Broadus Jr.
This might be a big shocker, but Snoop Dogg isn't the rapper's real name. Calvin Broadus, Jr. was named after his stepfather as his biological one stepped out of the family soon after the baby boy’s birth.
Snoop Dogg's nickname comes from early childhood. His mother shared that little Calvin loved Snoopy, Charlie Brown's sidekick. Snoop told Esquire. "I watched so much [Snoopy in Charlie Brown], I started to look like him," Snoop jocked to Esquire. The rapper’s other stage names include Snoop Doggy Dogg and Snoop Lion.
8. Rihanna - Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Rihanna that we all know and love was born in Barbados under the name Robyn Rihanna Fenty. This soulful singer goes by her extremely memorable middle name, Rihanna. The singer gained popularity in the early 2000s making her name synonymous with the raw and real side of the R'n'B/pop genre.
The true fans of the singer can definitely recognize the singer’s hidden last name as Rihanna owns world-renowned cosmetics and lingerie lines under the name Fenty. The whole world is eagerly waiting to see Rihanna’s name on the charts once again as the singer is working hard on a new album.
9. Nicki Minaj - Onika Tanya Maraj
The Trinidad-born rapper actually never wanted to change her name. One of the first producers she signed with insisted on the last name Minaj. The diva shared with the Guardian, “I fought him tooth and nail, but he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.”
Fortunately for Nicki, the name helped her gain incredible fame, some even crown her as the “queen of rap.” Can we imagine someone with the stage name “Onika Tanya” as the queen of rap? Probably not, however, Nicki Minaj has just enough fire to the name to bear the title.
10. Tom Cruise - Thomas Mapother IV
Tom Cruise - one of the highest paying actors in the world - was born under the name Thomas Mapother IV. The action movie star was delighted to shed his estranged father's last name as the two did not have a great relationship.
The actor shortened his first name for ease of pronunciation and used his middle name to get Tom Cruise. Now millions of fans’ eyes light up when they hear the words “starring Tom Cruise.” For this reason, you may not have realized that Tom and the Lost actor William Mapother are cousins.
11. Calvin Harris - Adam Wiles
Sometimes the stars’ chosen names can be a bit problematic and Calvin is not an exception - the DJ has taken quite a bit of flak for the reasoning behind his stage name.
Born Adam Wiles, the musical prodigy told Digital Spy: "My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought 'Calvin Harris' sounded a bit more racially ambiguous." As the track turned out to be a big hit, Calvin was stuck with the name for his whole career.
12. Jay Z - Shawn Corey Carter
Little Shawn Corey Carter was an ambitious kid running around singing and freestyling in his Brooklyn neighborhood. The friends on the streets called this little boy with big dreams "Jazzy."
When Shawn started gaining the rap industry’s attention, he went by Jay Z as an homage to his upbringing. In another theory, Jay adapted his name to celebrate his lifelong mentor Jonathan Burks, more known as a rapper Jay-O.
13. Lady Gaga - Stefani Germanotta
The eccentric pop-diva carries some controversy even in her stage name. Born Stefani Germanotta was inspired by the name Lady Gaga from the Queen song "Radio Ga-Ga." Her music producer at the time - Rob Fusari - told her over the phone that her voice reminded him of the song.
Lady Gaga endured a lawsuit from Fusani in 2010 - four years after the two met. The producer claimed that he was solely responsible for her stage name and demanded #30.5 million from the pop-star.
14. Katy Perry - Katheryn Hudson
Yet another pop-diva did not want to be mistaken for an already famous Kate Hudson and was forced to change the name by circumstance. Katheryn Hudson adopted the moniker Katy Perry because she didn't want to be confused with Kate Hudson. In choosing the new stage name, the star turned to Perry - her mother's maiden name.
However, “Katy Perry'' is not Katheryn’s first moniker. In 2001 the singer released an album under the name Katy Hudson. In 2003 she briefly performed under the name Katheryn Perry to avoid confusion with the similarly named actress. Later diva shortened her first name and now the world knows her as Katy Perry.
15. Frank Ocean - Christopher Edwin Breaux
California-born Christopher Edwin Breaux changed his name to Christopher Francis Ocean in 2014. Later, he shortened it to Frank Ocean. Frank even took on a temporary nickname Lanny Breaux in his search for a perfect name.
He told Complex his striking position on names, "It just felt cool. None of us are our names. If you don't like your name, then change your name." Well, Frank Ocean is definitely a fitting name for the artist’s mellow music style.
16. Elton John - Reginald Dwight
Even the usual-looking names of industry legends can have a mystery behind them. Reginald Dwight legally changed his name to Elton John in 1972. There are several stories that suggest the true reason behind the name change including a connection to his close friend from the Beatles.
As was later discovered, Elton changed his name to pay homage to former Bluesology band members saxophonist Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry. Reginald shared that his birth name reminded him of many unhappy situations in life.
17. Ringo Starr - Richard Starkey
Like many music legends, Ringo adopted his stage name even before joining the Beatles. He may go by Ringo Starr, but the drummer's real name is actually Richard Starkey. Ringo's bandmates often said they took him in because of the drummer’s “swagger” persona, amplified by his name.
The two parts of the name reference different important identities for the legend. "Ringo" was inspired by the numerous rings he wore to performances. The second half came from his former colleagues’ nickname for Ringo’s drum solos "Starr Time" based on his birth last name Starkey.
18. Jennifer Aniston - Jennifer Linn Anastassakis
The Friends sitcom star Jennifer Aniston was born under the name Jennifer Linn Anastassakis. But how did she get to the world-renowned Hollywood name we all know and love since childhood?
Shockingly, the star’s entire family changed their last name from Anastassakis to Aniston at the advice of Jennifer’s wise godfather. The actress’s Instagram bio says “My friends call me Jen” so we can see that the star is playful with her name to this day.
19. Meg Ryan - Margaret Hyra
This American actress is secretive about the reason behind her name change to this day. We know that the change occurred early in her career giving the star the time to be known solely on her made-up name.
Moreover, Margaret Hyra kept the moniker in the family. Meg is obviously short for Margaret, but her chosen last name is actually her maternal grandmother's maiden name, Ryan.
20. Jonah Hill - Jonah Feldstein
This academy award-nominated actor changed his last name from Feldstein to Hill early on in his career. The reason, you ask? A complete mystery to this day. In an interview with The Guardian, he even dodged the questions about his name plainly answering “Can we just not?”
What is this dramatic reason the actor is hiding? We might never know. But what we can be sure of is the actor’s amazing job in his already legendary films and the upcoming movies.
21. Lorde - Ella Yelich-O'Connor
The New Zealand superstar Lorde was born as Ella Yelich-O'Connor in 1996. The singer chose her nickname at just 16, and only her closest friends and family call her Ella.
The new generation pop diva explained on 60 Minutes how she "loved the way Lord sounded”, although it lacked femininity that she wanted to bring to her music - so she added an “e” at the end.
22. Julianne Moore - Julie Smith
Julianne Moore’s birth name Julie Smith turned out to be too common for the industry. When the actress was joining the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) as Julie Smith, she was told, 'There's a Julie Smith, there's a Julie Anne Smith. You have to choose another name.”
The young actress cherished her parents’ decision to name her a certain way. So to keep her family satisfied Julie took her dad’s middle name Moore and her mother's family name, Smith. This is how the Julianne Moore we all know and love was born.
23. Gigi Hadid - Jelena Hadid
Jelena Hadid took on her nickname Gigi back in elementary school. The teachers always confused the future supermodel with another girl in class - Helena. The girl’s mother suggested the cute nickname they use at home - Gigi.
This adorable name stuck with the star to this day. Now Gigi is one of the most well-known models in the world. We bet that many of her colleagues could never even guess the name Gigi was born with!
24. Emma Stone - Emily Stone
Yet again, an actress of the new generation had to change her name because of a famous same-name predecessor. Emma Stone shared with W Magazine, "My real name is Emily Stone, but when I started acting, that name was already taken by another actress, so I had to come up with a different one."
Her first idea was Riley Stone. The actress even used it for her involvement with Malcolm in the Middle set. However, after hearing the name out loud she, unfortunately, did not feel connected to the name at all and opted out for Emma.
25. Martin Sheen - Ramon Gerard Estevez
Born and raised in the States by immigrant parents, Ramon Gerard Estevez had to adopt a professional moniker to avoid prejudicial casting at the beginning of his acting career.
Ramon chose "Martin" after his agent and last name "Sheen" came in honor of Bishop Fulton Sheen. As Estevez did not change his name legally, his children have the last name Estevez in their documents but choose to follow their father’s steps and use Sheen instead.
26. Hulk Hogan - Terry Bollea
Hulk Hogan started his wrestling career with his real name, Terry Bollea, as the ring name. It was only after his appearance on a talk show with Lou Ferrigno (who played Incredible Hulk) that Terry liked the idea of being associated with such a strong character.
Like many wrestling stars, Hulk Hogan was known under a number of names - some better than others. Here is just a few for your entertainment: Hollywood Hogan, Hulk Machine, Mr. America, The Super Destroyer among others.
27. Gene Simmons - Chaim Witz
The co-lead of the legendary band Kiss immigrated to the U.S from Israel under his birth name Chaim Witz. Soon after starting a music career, he changed his name to a simpler Gene Klein taking on his mother’s last name.
Simmons is a multifaceted persona known under many names. Just a few of them are The Demon, The God of Thunder, Dr. Love, and Reginald Van Helsing. Just from this array, one can notice the general metal spooky feeling the artist has created over his long career.
28. Michael Caine - Maurice Micklewhite
You probably had no idea that Michael Caine is not the actor’s real name. No wonder, he started going by this name ever since 1954! The real name of the actor is Maurice Micklewhite.
In the last few years, the legend actually made the name change legal and official. The star shared with the Guardian that having two names often got in the way of simple tasks like going through airport security.
29. Ben Kingsley - Krishna Pandit Bhanji
Sir Ben Kingsley, the star of Schindler's List and Iron Man 3 has a real name that definitely leaves new fans in shock. The actor was born in the United Kingdom under the name Krishna Pandit Bhanji.
Born in a family of Indian descent, Krishna changed his name in adolescence, long before making it big in the industry. He connected his stage name to the family (using his dad’s and grandfather’s nicknames) to feel close to them at all times.
30. Shania Twain - Eilleen Edwards
Shania Twain is another star that wanted to feel connected to and appreciate her roots while making it big in the music industry. The pop icon’s real name is Eilleen Edwards.
She chose the name Shania Twain to honor her Ojibwe stepfather. "Shania" means "on my way" in her father’s native tongue. It has not been confirmed that this is the concrete reason for the name change, although it would fit the musician’s persona.
31. Bruno Mars - Peter Gene Herandez
That's right, pick your jaw off the floor: Bruno Mars is far-far from the singer’s real name - Peter Gene Herandez. Bruno loves telling the press the story behind his moniker.
"[The stage name] 'Bruno' is after Bruno Sammartino, who was this big, fat wrestler," he told the Associated Press. The last name Mars, according to the star himself, is used because the girls call him out of this world. Ok mister, we believe you...
32. Winona Ryder - Winona Laura Horowitz
The serendipitous decision to change her last name came to Winona suddenly. There was nothing wrong with the actress’s real last name Horowitz, of course, but the wish of the legend had to be granted.
Winona and her father were listening to a Mitch Ryder album right when her acting agents asked her how she wanted to be credited in Lucas, the 1986 film.
33. John Legend - John Roger Stephens
John Legend - born John Roger Stephens - created his stage name early in his career. Stephens’ friends jokingly called him “legend” for his singing skills. This harmless joke grew into what we now know as one of the greatest singers of our generation.
The name change, however, was not official. This is why his and Chrissy Teigen’s daughter Luna's last name is Stephen. Is John really a legend? Only time will show and we will be here to watch.
34. Mindy Kaling - Vera Chokalingam
Vera Mindy Chokalingam was born in Massachusetts in 1979. The actress went by her middle name since early childhood, even before stardom. The Office star liked the uplifting tone of her middle name.
As for her last name, Mindy wanted to keep the same fresh and upbeat tone to her name. That is why she shortened her real “Chokalingam” down to a simple Kaling.
35. Natalie Portman - Natalie Hershlag
The legendary actress and beauty Natalie Portman was born under a different last name - Hershlag. Natalie changed her stage name later in her career going under her real Hershlag until the mid-1990s.
The Israeli American actress Natalie Portman changed her name to Portman only while filming Luc Besson's Leon. This stage last name actually comes from family - this is her paternal grandmother's maiden name.
36. Vin Diesel - Mark Sinclair
Oooh, no one expected this one, did they? Yes, the perfect name for a blockbuster actor Vin Diesel is actually made up. The star’s birth certificate shows a more conventional name - Mark Sinclair.
There are several unconfirmed Hollywood legends about the actor’s stage name origin. The most exciting one says that Vin worked as a bouncer at a nightclub before his flawless career started. To protect his identity from angry drunk visitors, Mark changed his name for good.
37. Kit Harrington - Christopher Catesby Harington
Christopher Catesby Harington - the real name of the star of The Game of Thrones. Like most of us, the actor did not know his real name for a while, that is until he was 11 years old.
Kit told Glamour: "[My name] is traditionally an offshoot of Christopher, it's just not used that often." Just how surprised was the little Kit when he figured out the truth? We’ll never know.
38. Bono - Paul David Hewson
It is no surprise that “Bono” cannot be the U2 frontman’s only name. Paul David Hewson, born in Dublin, grew up to be one of the most recognized rock stars of all time.
His name inspiration is like no other - the musician noticed a hearing aid shop in his hometown and liked how “Bono” looked. This is how the Irish rock legend’s name came to be.
39. Stevie Wonder - Steveland Judkins
Steveland Judkins - the singer's original name - took a while to get to the name we all know and love. While joining his record label Motown, Stevie changed his birth certificate name to Steveland Morris (his mother’s last name).
Stevie’s recording buddies, record executive Berry Gordy in particular, would not stop calling him “wonder” at studio sessions so the musician changed his name once again. Stevie Wonder is an incredibly fitting name for the legacy the singer left behind.
40. P!nk - Alecia Beth Moore
Pink may only have one name now, but the glamorous pop diva was born with three - Alecia Beth Moore. The singer has admitted to several reasons for her stage moniker, all of them a bit raunchy.
The most widespread idea is that Pink drew inspiration from Steve Buscemi's character Mr. Pink in “Reservoir Dogs.” Whichever legend is true, we can all see how the singer seamlessly combines power and softness through her music and name.