Celebrity stage names vs. their real names
Glossy magazines may try to convince readers that stars are just like normal people, but they’re not. For one thing, they can’t go grocery shopping in regular clothes without winding up in those glossy magazines. As if that wasn’t bad enough, sometimes stars even need to lose their identities once they find fame in their lives. Celebrities change their names for a number of reasons, from people with exotic names who want to sound more mainstream, to those with a desire to seem more unique when other stars have similar monikers.
Whatever the reason for the change, it’s always interesting to discover the truth behind a celebrity’s name. Stacker explores celebrities of all types who perform under a stage name, but had a completely different name when they were born. From old-school movie stars looking for a memorable way to find fans, to pop stars who went for an out-of-this-world new alias, here are 30 celebrities that took stage names when they hit the big time.
Stage Name: Lady Gaga
Real Name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
She was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, but adopted the name Lady Gaga as a play on the Queen song “Radio Ga-Ga.” In a 2013 Elle interview, Gaga revealed why she prefers to use her stage name over her real name: “Stefani is—a perpetually tortured artist. That's why I changed my name. I can't be her in public. She would be a mess!"
Stage Name: Bruno Mars
Real Name: Peter Gene Hernández
Growing up in Hawaii, little Peter Hernandez acquired the nickname Bruno from his father, who was inspired by popular wrestler Bruno Sammartino. He claims the Mars part is because girls used to say he was “out of this world,” but the pop star is also on record saying he changed his name from Hernández because he didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a Latin artist—although he’s very clear that he didn’t change it to hide his cultural roots.
Stage Name: Natalie Portman
Real Name: Natalie Hershlag
Born to an Israeli father and an American mother, Natalie Portman opted to take her mother’s maiden name professionally on the advice of her first agent Aleen Keshishian. The change went into effect by the time Portman’s first movie, “The Professional,” came out in 1994.
Stage Name: Shania Twain
Real Name: Eilleen Regina Edwards
Born as Eilleen Edwards, the future country star took the name Twain early in life, as it was the last name of her stepfather after her mother remarried post-divorce. The Shania part came when the Canadian singer moved to Nashville and industry executives suggested Shania would grab more fans than Eilleen would.
Stage Name: Queen Latifah
Real Name: Dana Elaine Owens
Queen Latifah was only 8 years old when she got rid of the name Dana Owens. Her mother was completely supportive of her desire to be called Latifah because it was trendy at the time for people in their neighborhood to use names with Arabic roots. Latifah added “Queen,” because she liked how strong it sounded.
Stage Name: Jamie Foxx
Real Name: Eric Marlon Bishop
In 2017, the internet exploded when it found out that actor/comedian/singer Jamie Foxx was not born as Jamie Foxx. But in fact, he had shared that information in 2014 when he went on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”—specifically, that he changed his name from Eric Bishop when he started performing as a comedian in the late '80s because women were getting more stage time at open mic nights. When he used a unisex name like Jamie Foxx, he found himself getting called up more often and the name stuck.
Stage Name: Michael Caine
Real Name: Maurice Joseph Micklewhite
Legendary British actor Michael Caine first adopted his stage name in 1954 after initially trying out the name Michael Scott—which was taken, although there’s no connection to Steve Carrell’s “The Office” character. He saw a movie poster for a Humphrey Bogart film called “The Caine Mutiny,” and since Bogart was his favorite actor, he chose Caine as his new assumed surname—and he finally made it legal in 2016.
Stage Name: Helen Mirren
Real Name: Ilynea Lydia Mironoff
Born to a family descended from Russian nobility, but cast out to England during the Russian Revolution, Helen Mirren didn’t actually change her name to fit in on the stag. Her father did it for her, anglicizing the names of his entire family in order to mesh better in English society—and attempting to avoid anti-Semitism since he felt the name could be construed as Jewish.
Stage Name: Woody Allen
Real Name: Allan Stewart Konigsberg
Woody Allen officially changed his name to Heywood Allen at the age of 17 in order to appear more mainstream for his future comedy career. His childhood friends claim that the name “Woody” came from a crush Allen had in high school on a girl whose dog’s name was Woody.
Stage Name: Katy Perry
Real Name: Katherine Hudson
What’s a girl to do when another star has your name? Change it. That was the case with Katy Perry who didn’t want to be associated with actress Kate Hudson, who had already made a name for herself when Katy first started her pop career. Instead of Hudson, Perry chose her mother’s maiden name—and the rest is history.