What’s in a name? When it comes to many of our favourite celebrities, their name is their brand — but what we call them often isn’t the moniker that they were born with, grew up with or even use in their day-to-day life.
So why do celebrities change their names or go by different names? Sometimes, it’s about creating a more memorable or unique “stage” name. Sometimes, it’s because their legal name is already spoken for (though, Michael B. Jordan seems to have done just fine). Other times, the reason may have more to do with leaving their past or family name behind, going by a nickname or simply shortening a name for professional reason.
Whatever the reason, you may be surprised to learn that you don’t know the names of these famous celebs.
Dove Cameron was born Chloe Celeste Hoffman
"He called me Dove more than he ever called me Chloe," Cameron told StyleWatch, according to PEOPLE. "He passed away when I was 15, and I decided to legally change it. So it's on my passport – everything legal is Dove."
Olivia Wilde changed her last name from Cockburn as an ode to Oscar Wilde
Why Wilde? As she told The New York Observer in 2007, Olivia decided to opt for a pen name when she moved from behind the camera to in front — and “Wilde” is an ode to the writer Oscar Wilde. “At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest,” Wilde told The New York Observer. “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.”
Rihanna’s full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Miley Cyrus used to be named Destiny Hope Cyrus
According to Life & Style, Cyrus explained this on The Voice. "My name was Destiny Hope when I was born because my dad said it was my destiny to bring hope to the world," Cyrus said.
However, young Destiny quickly got the nickname “Smiley,” which morphed into “Miley.” The star made the change legal, changing her name to Miley Ray Cyrus in 2008.
Shania Twain was born Eilleen Regina Edwards
“A lot of celebrities are born with a different name than they end up with as a stage name, and I’m one of those people,” Twain said. “It’s actually a long story. In short, I was born Eilleen Regina Edwards, and then I was adopted and I became Eilleen Regina Twain. Then I became a professional singer and I needed a stage name that sounded a little less like my grandmother’s name, because I’m named after my grandmother, both my grandmothers, Eilleen and Regina.”
Why Shania? “I think, in my mind, I was just not really wanting to be called my grandmother’s name onstage, so I decided to change it to Shania Twain,” she said. “I met somebody with the name Shania, thought it was beautiful, and Shania Twain was born.”
Billie Eilish’s full name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell
"[Eilish] is my middle name," she said. "So I'm Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell. Pretty weird, right? Pirate was going to be my middle name, but then my uncle had a problem with it because pirates are bad. Then Baird is my mother's name." O’Connell is her father’s last name. According to Insider, the Pirate part of her name comes from her brother, who was just four years old when Billie was born.
Reese Witherspoon’s name was Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
Born with the name Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, the Legally Blonde icon uses her mother’s maiden name (Reese) as her professional first name and her father’s last name (Witherspoon) as her last name.
Katy Perry’s name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson
Emma Stone’s name is actually Emily
Alicia Keys was born as Alicia Augello Cook
Speaking to Newsweek, Keys explained her name’s origins. “It's a funny story. I got so desperate I went through the dictionary for something that catches my eye.” After briefly considering “Wild,” the singer settled on “Keys,” saying “...I liked Keys. It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors.”
Halsey’s name was Ashley Nicolette Frangipane
"I think I had the foresight to know that being me wasn’t enough. I had to become somebody completely different," Halsey told Cosmopolitan US . "At the time, I felt that Ashley didn’t deserve to be famous and successful because she wasn’t that special, but if I made Halsey, maybe she could be.”
As Halsey put it, changing their name “gave me the opportunity to create a new persona that wasn’t bound by the expectations I had for myself or the limitations that others placed on me because of my upbringing or my socioeconomic situation.”
"I created a person, and she could do everything. There was no way that Ashley was going to become a king, but I made a new name for myself and took her to paranormal, supernatural heights."
Mindy Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam
Kaling has never really gone by her first name, Vera. Since birth, people have called her by her middle name, which was inspired by the 1970s American sitcom, Mork & Mindy. Her professional last name, “Kaling,” is a shortened version of Chokalingam.
Lady Gaga’s name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Natalie Portman’s birth name was Natalie Herschlag
Awkwafina’s name is actually Nora Lum
“When I was 16 years old, it was just Aquafina — like my rap name was just Aquafina,” the actress told Galore, explaining that she eventually changed the stage name to Awkwafina after a video producer suggested using an alternative spelling to avoid getting sued.
Lana Del Rey’s name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
Lorde is actually named Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor
The singer explained her moniker’s origins in 2013. "My name is Ella, that's who I am at school, hanging out with friends," she told Interview Magazine. "But when I'm up on stage, Lorde is a character. My friends actually find that really difficult to digest, separating me from the theatrical character they see on stage; but they're getting used to it."
How did the singer settle on Lorde? "When I was trying to come up with a stage name, I thought ‘Lord' was super rad, but really masculine,” she explained. “Ever since I was a little kid, I have been really into royals and aristocracy" she said, adding that "...to make Lord more feminine, I just put an ‘e' on the end! Some people think it's religious, but it's not."
Blake Lively’s birth name was Blake Ellender Brown
Nina Dobrev’s name is Nikolina Kamenova Dobreva
Brie Larson used to be called Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers
The origins of Larson’s stage name are pretty fun: as Today reported, the actress chose a stage name at the age of nine because people often mispronounced “Desaulniers.” Why Larson? The name was inspired by the American Girl doll named Kirsten Larson, so that “Kirsten can be in our family.'"