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 August 14

by Carolina

A lot of celebrities pursue their careers under pretty obvious stage names, like the Weeknd and Awkwafina. However, sometimes they choose stage names that sound as if they could be their actual names.

Here are 22 celebs you probably didn’t realize use stage names:


Olivia Wilde’s real name is Olivia Jane Cockburn.

George Pimentel / Getty Images

When Olivia was in high school, her mom suggested she choose a stage name so she could have her “own identity” apart from their family of journalists. So she decided to name herself after Oscar Wilde.

She told the New York Observer, “At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest — I was playing Gwendolyn, 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.”


Zayn’s given name is Zain Javadd Malik.

Axelle / FilmMagic / Getty Images

He changed the spelling of his name before auditioning for The X Factor because he thought it was cooler when spelled with a “y.”

When he left One Direction to pursue a solo career, he decided to drop his last name to make it sound more “personal.” He told Complex, “​It just fits me more. I don’t know anybody who goes by the first name and their surname with friends and family.” 


Brie Larson is actually Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers.

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

She chose “Larson” because it was the last name of her favorite American Girl doll growing up, Kirsten Larson. She first wanted to take on the doll’s name when she was 9 because she was tired of other people mispronouncing her French last name. 


Emma Stone is actually Emily Jean Stone.

Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images

When she was 16, she wasn’t able to register with the Screen Actors Guild under her real name because there was already an actor going by “Emily Stone.” At first she chose “Riley,” but after she struggled with responding to her new name on set, she decided to go with something closer to her real name.

She told The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, “I was super blonde, and my real name is Emily, but I wanted to be called Emma because of Baby Spice — and guess what? Now I am.”


Nicki Minaj’s real name is Onika Tanya Maraj.

Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

A man she signed one of her early production deals with insisted that she change her last name to “Minaj.” At first Nicki fought against it, but eventually she was convinced. 


Reese Witherspoon is actually Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images for Turner Image

“Reese” was her mother’s maiden name. However, early in her career, she decided to legally change her first name to “Reese.”


Drake’s real name is Aubrey Drake Graham.

Prince Williams / WireImage / Getty Images

He decided to go by his middle name professionally because it had been bestowed on him by his father. 

Drake told Hip Hop Canada, “I just really loved the name, and I embraced it my whole life. Drake is me in my everyday life. Drake is who I am, and Aubrey is more of a separate, sort of proper individual.”


Nina Dobrev’s real name is Nikolina Kamenova Dobreva.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images for amfAR

Her given name reflects her Bulgarian roots. However, she shortened it when she started acting. 


David Tennant was originally David John McDonald.

Vera Anderson / WireImage / Getty Images

When he was 16, he had to choose a stage name because there was already a David McDonald in the actors union he wanted to join, and union rules prevented two actors from registering under the same name. So he looked through a music magazine for inspiration and found his solution in Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys.

On The Late Late Show With James Corden, he joked, “Asking a 16-year-old to change their name … I could’ve been anything — Bojangles McDuff.”

When he joined SAG in the US, he had to legally change his name to “David Tennant” to meet those union rules. In a live chat for the Guardian, he said, “Faced with the prospect of working under two different names on either side of the globe, I had to take the plunge and rename myself! So although I always liked the name, I’m now more intimately associated with it than I had ever imagined. Thank you, Neil Tennant.”


Jamie Foxx’s real name is Eric Marlon Bishop.

Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images

When he first started doing stand-up in LA, he performed as Eric Bishop to standing ovations. However, intimidated by the competition, the comedians who controlled the lists on open mic nights prevented him from performing. So he started using “unisex” names to disguise himself. “Jamie Foxx” was the one that stuck. 

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, he said that at first, people thought he was stuck up because he didn’t always respond to the new name. 


Bob Dylan’s given name is Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images for AFI

In the early days of his career, he experimented with other stage names, such as “Elston Gunn” and “Robert Allen.” However, in 1959 in the Twin Cities, someone asked 18-year-old Robert what his name was, and he immediately answered, “Bob Dylan.”

In Chronicles, he wrote, “Dylan and Allyn sounded similar: Robert Dylan, Robert Allyn. I couldn’t decide — the letter D came on stronger. But Robert Dylan didn’t look or sound as good as Robert Allyn. People had always called me either Robert or Bobby, but Bobby Dylan sounded to skittish to me, and besides, there was already a Bobby Darin, a Bobby Vee, a Bobby Dydell, a Bobby Neely and a lot of other Bobbys.”


Michael Keaton is actually Michael John Douglas.

John Shearer / Getty Images

Like many other actors, he had to choose a stage name because of union rules that prevent two actors from having the same name. There was already a movie star named Michael Douglas, as well as a talk show host named Mike Douglas.

He went with “Keaton” simply because he was looking through “K” names and decided it was “good enough.”

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, he said, “I’m trying to ease my name back in because I’m proud of my name. I’ll be going somewhere, and there will be a driver with a sign that says Michael Douglas, and then I show up. They look so confused!”


Katy Perry’s given name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

She recorded two gospel albums under her real name. However, when she signed with Capitol Records in 2017, she decided to go by her mom’s maiden name.

She told the Guardian, “A lot of people are living in fear from something that happened in their childhood, or some form of PTSD they picked up along the way, and I created this wonderful character called Katy Perry that I very much am, and can step into all the time, but I created that character out of protection. I was scared that if you saw me, Katheryn Hudson, the girl wearing the Bioré strip on my nose, you’d be like, ‘That’s not glamorous.’ It was me going, ‘OK, I’ve been upset my whole childhood, so I’m going to show the world I am something, that I am going to do something and that I am enough.’ I didn’t want to be Katheryn Hudson. I hated that; it was too scary for me, so I decided to be someone else.” 


Alice Cooper’s given name is Vincent Damon Furnier.

Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images for John Varvatos

Originally, the band he shares his name with was called the Nazz, but they found out that name was already being used by another band. So when choosing a new band name, they decided to go against people’s expectations by not choosing something dark. Instead, they decided to go with an “all-American, sweet, little-old-lady name” that sounded “like [they] were somebody’s aunt.”

Alice told the Shreveport Times, “I wasn’t Alice Cooper. I was just the singer in the band Alice Cooper, like Manfred Mann. Pretty soon, everybody called me Alice; they just assumed that the singer’s name was ‘Alice.’ So at that point, I legally changed my name to ‘Alice Cooper.’ It was a total outrage at the time. Now it’s a household name.”


Natalie Portman’s given name is Neta-Lee Hershlag.

Roy Rochlin / Getty Images

She worked under her given name early in her career, but she eventually decided to go by her paternal grandmother’s maiden name for privacy reasons. 


David Bowie’s given name was David Robert Jones.

AFP / AFP via Getty Images

At first he used the stage name “Tom Jones” because he wanted to keep his real last name. However he didn’t realize it was already being used as a stage name by Tom Woodward, who got angry when he found out. 

So in 1965, the pop icon chose “David Bowie” in honor of Jim Bowie, the protagonist of the movie The Alamo.


Miley Cyrus was originally Destiny Hope Cyrus.

Leon Neal / Getty Images

Her childhood nickname was “Smiley,” which was shortened to “Miley” and stuck. She legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus in 2008. 


Meg Ryan’s real name is Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra.

Steve Granitz / WireImage / Via Getty Images

When she dropped out of NYU after her first semester to pursue an acting career, she adopted her maternal grandmother’s maiden name as a stage name. 


Diane Keaton is actually Diane Hall.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images for Turner

When she joined the union Actors’ Equity, she was required to change her name to prevent confusion with another actor named Diane Hall. So she chose “Keaton” because it was her mother’s maiden name.


Alicia Keys is actually Alicia Augello Cook.

Bet2020 / Getty Images for BET NETWORKS

Initially she wanted to go by “Alicia Wilde,” but her mother opposed it. Instead, they decided on “Keys” because it reminded them of piano keys.


Sir Elton John’s given name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

He wanted to change his name because of the unhappy memories associated with his birth name. Becoming Elton John gave him “a new lease on life.”

In 1972, he legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John.


And finally, Travis Scott’s real name is Jacques Bermon Webster II.

Steven Ferdman / Getty Images

He chose “Travis” after his favorite uncle, who was someone he always looked up to. He told Grantland, “He just had swag. [He] was just smart. Always made good decisions, good business decisions.”

“Scott” is also a tribute to his uncle, who used it as a nickname. He told Complex, “I was like, man, if I wanted to be a rapper I wanted to be [him].”

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