In Hollywood, it should come as no surprise that celebrities change their names often. If someone is trying to catch their big break, they can’t really do that with a boring, ordinary name. No offense to all the Sarah Smiths out there, but why do you think a Sarah Smith has never made it big in Hollywood? Exactly. On the other hand, some celebrities change their names because they feel that their birth names may be too hard to pronounce. Others want to change their names because of nicknames they had as children. Whatever their reason might be, it is still shocking to learn that a celebrity we’ve loved for years actually has an entirely different name.
It poses the question, what do their parents call them? Do their moms take offense to the name change? Or were their parents part of the decision to change their name to make it big in Hollywood? Some families change their names together, like Charlie and Martin Sheen. Did you know their last name is actually Estevez and only Emilio kept the name? They’re definitely not the other ones!
22. Dove Cameron
Birth Name: Chloe Celeste Hosterman
Chloe is a pretty name and not too common in Hollywood unless you’re thinking about Chloë Grace Moretz or Khloe Kardashian. But before this Chloe came to be the Disney Channel star we all know and love, she changed her name completely. Rather than going by her middle name, as nearly every other celebrity seems to do, she chose Dove. In this case, the reason she chose to do so is heartbreaking. Her father always called her Dove, but he tragically took his own life when she was 15. She revealed on Twitter that she changed her name to honor his memory.
21. Katy Perry
Birth Name: Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson
This “Dark Horse” singer’s name change isn’t actually that mind-blowing. But it is odd to picture her ever being called anything other than Katy Perry. Her birth name is Katheryn, so Katy is just a nickname for that. But her last name is not Perry — not even close. It’s Hudson! She changed it to avoid confusion with the actress, Kate Hudson. That makes sense! She adopted her mother’s maiden name, Perry, and the rest is history.
20. Gigi Hadid
Birth name: Jelena Noura Hadid
Like many of us, Gigi doesn’t go by her birth name but instead goes by a shortened nickname. Some people have simple nicknames, like Jon being short for Jonathan. The supermodel’s supermodel mom, Yolanda Hadid, star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, gave her daughter the nickname “Gigi” when she was just a little girl. She realized Jelena was too hard for many people to pronounce correctly (boy, did she not see Justin & Selena coming) and shortened the name to Gigi. It was a nickname Yolanda had as a girl, so she used it for her own daughter, too. Cute!
19. Mindy Kaling
Birth Name: Vera Mindy Chokalingam
Vera might be her first name, but she’s never been called it. Mindy says her parents have called her Mindy since her mother was pregnant with her. She’s said that her parents wanted a “cute American name” for their daughter, so they chose Mindy based on Mork & Mindy.
As for her last name, she realized emcees at her stand-up comedy shows had a hard time pronouncing it, so she shortened it from Chokalingam to ‘Kaling.’
18. John Legend
Birth Name: John Stephens
Okay, it’s pretty obvious that John Legend packs a better punch than the name John Stephens does. He made the switch after getting signed to a label. He was working with Kanye West when the name change happened and was given the nickname “Legend” by poet J. Ivy because Ivy felt John had an “old-school sound.” John was reluctant to change his name at first but obviously, it was a major success for him once he did!
17. Bruno Mars
Birth Name: Peter Gene Hernandez
Like quite a few people on this list, Bruno felt it necessary to change his name so he wouldn’t be stereotyped. He didn’t want record labels to turn him into the new Enrique Iglesias. He got the nickname Bruno when he was just a toddler. Apparently, when he was little he looked like the wrestler Bruno Sammartino. He picked Mars as his last name to set him apart. Avoiding stereotypes by making people think of an entirely different planet when they hear his name? That makes sense!
16. Jennifer Aniston
Birth Name: Jennifer Linn Anastassakis
Many people in the profession either ditch their first name or they ditch their last name. For Jen, she followed in her father’s footsteps. Her dad, also an actor, changed his Greek last name to something a little more palatable in order to get more work. She must have felt similarly to her father and decided to switch Anastassakis to Aniston. That must be much easier to write down when signing autographs, too!
15. Nina Dobrev
Birth Name: Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva
When you’re on the rise to stardom, some sacrifices have to happen. For Nina, that was her name. She was named after her grandmother, Nikolina Constantine. But as pretty as Nina’s full name is, it would’ve been butchered by everyone. People see a long name with a lot of vowels and they get intimidated. Nina chose a name that had components of her real name but was a bit easier on the tongue.
14. Miley Cyrus
Birth Name: Destiny Hope Cyrus
Miley has been pretty open about why her name was changed. She was given the birth name Destiny Hope, due to her supraventricular tachycardia, a condition which causes an abnormal resting heart rate. But her parents had high hopes for their daughter and she was quickly given the nickname Smiley because she was always smiling — duh! Her name was later shortened to “Miley,” which is the name we all know her by now! Wonder if Liam Hemsworth calls her Miley or Destiny…
13. Iggy Azalea
Birth Name: Amethyst Amelia Kelly
Rappers always change their names, don’t they? This one got her new first name, Iggy, from the childhood dog she loved growing up. Her dog had been bitten by a snake and nearly died, so she got a gold nameplate necklace that she wore for him. So many people thought it was her name, she started to go by it. Her stage name was just Iggy for a while, but her grandfather voiced his disapproval, telling her how stage names needed a certain number of syllables and that Iggy was not enough. After thinking it over, she picked Azalea because it was the name of the street her family grew up on.
12. Portia De Rossi
Birth Name: Amanda Lee Rogers
Portia grew up as Amanda Lee for a while and even started modeling and doing few commercials under that name. But when she wanted to reinvent herself when she was 15, she realized a total name change was necessary. What teenager doesn’t try to do that in high school? She chose the name Portia from William Shakespeare‘s The Merchant of Venice. Then she went on the change her last name to match and picked something Italian.
11. Alicia Keys
Birth Name: Alicia Augello Cook
A piano player with the last name Keys would be just too good to be true. Alicia has her mom to thank for helping with her stage name. The singer had asked her mom what she thought of the name “Alicia Wild” and her mom said it sounded like a stripper’s name. LOL. She went with “Keys” like piano keys and got the seal of approval from her mother dearest. The rest is history!
10. Lana Del Rey
Birth Name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
Many stars change their names because they feel their birth names might just be too blah. Lana tried to start a career as Lizzy Grant, but it did not pan out under that name. Her only album as Lizzy was a major flop. She decided to change not only her name but also her style to have more success. Lizzy and Lana sound like two different people and not just in name. People have criticized her for the name change, saying that Lana Del Rey is too manufactured and they feel she isn’t organic, but clearly, it’s working because she’s a STAR.
9. Calvin Harris
Birth Name: Adam Richard Wiles
Much like rappers, DJs also typically change their name to have a flashier stage name. Calvin Harris is fairly normal sounding name, so much so, many people didn’t actually realize it was a stage name. Calvin’s reasoning for his name change choice is actually a bit odd. He told The Shortlist in 2009, “My first single was more of a soul track, and I thought Calvin Harris sounded a bit more racially ambiguous.” At the time, he said, “I thought people might not know if I was black or not. After that, I was stuck with it.”
8. Jamie Foxx
Birth Name: Eric Marlon Bishop
Interestingly enough, Jamie Foxx changed his name to sound more feminine. He realized that female comedians were called up to mic first. Wanting to get that edge, he went with a name he felt was ambiguous enough. He picked Jamie as the first name. For his last name, he picked the name Foxx, as a tribute to comedian Redd Foxx.
7. Vin Diesel
Birth Name: Mark Sinclair Vincent
Vin Diesel didn’t change his name for Fast and the Furious, but you have to admit that name fits a little too perfectly with the franchise. In fact, the name change happened because he was a bouncer in New York City. He wanted to use a fake name while checking IDs and kicking people out of clubs and opted to shorten his last name to Vin for his first name. Then he picked Diesel because one of his friends said he always had so much energy. It just stuck when he got into acting.
6. Lucy Hale
Birth Name: Karen Lucille Hale
Sometimes parents need to realize giving their kid a really cool middle name means they’re going to go by that instead. Just look at Drake (AKA Aubrey Graham). For Lucy Hale, she goes by her middle name — but even that is a nickname! She shortened Lucille to Lucy and dropped Karen. Karen Hale just doesn’t sound as good!
5. Ashton Kutcher
Birth Name: Christopher Ashton Kutcher
Apparently, Christopher is just not a name people want to go by. Just look at Kit Harington! Ashton’s co-star on That ‘70s Show is actually a Chris too, Topher Grace just shortened his name to stand out. Ashton changed his name when he was 19 to Ashton. TBH, we couldn’t picture him with any other name!
Birth Name: Shawn Carter
For rappers, it’s pretty much required to get a cool rap stage name if you want to make it big. Jay-Z is so well known as Jay, it is sometimes easy to forget his name is actually Shawn. He was called Jazzy as a child, which served as inspiration for what he would later go by. He also wanted to pay tribute to Jaz-O, so he picked Jay-Z. He also picked it because of the J/Z subway lines where he grew up. Amazing.
3. Nicki Minaj
Birth Name: Onika Tanya Maraj
“My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki…” the rapper says in her jam “Starships.” Nicki might go by “Nicki” but her real name is no secret. While her first name is just a shortened version of the one on her birth certificate, her last name was changed on purpose. In 2012, she told The Guardian, “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.” HM — we wonder how!
2. Audrey Hepburn
Birth Name: Audrey Kathleen Ruston / Edda van Heemstra
Only someone as iconic as Audrey could have such a complicated name history! She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston. But her mother, Ella van Heemstra, changed her daughter’s name to “Edda” during the war, feeling that “Audrey” might indicate her British roots too strongly. An English-sounding name was considered dangerous while living in German-occupied Netherlands during World War II. Audrey’s father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, added Hepburn to his last name back then, too. So when this movie star was choosing what she wanted to go with to make it big in Hollywood, she had lots of options…
1. Kit Harington
Birth Name: Christopher Catesby Harington
Apparently, it’s not just Jon Snow that’s been kept in the dark about major family secrets, but Kit Harington too! Kit revealed to Glamour magazine that he hadn’t known his real name until he was 11 years old. His parents never called him Christopher! He has a brother named John that goes by Jack and Kit is a nickname for Christopher (apparently). His family must have seen him more as a Kit than a Chris and it just stuck.