Stage Name: Vin Diesel
Real Name: Mark Sinclair
Born as Mark Sinclair, the artist currently known as Vin Diesel changed his name as a teenager when he started working as a bouncer in New York nightclubs. Vin’s twin, Paul Vincent, uses their mother’s maiden name as his surname, which may also explain the “Vin” first name for Diesel.
Stage Name: Gene Simmons
Real Name: Chaim Witz
Israeli-American rocker Gene Simmons actually went through two name changes on his way to fame. When he was born in Haifa, he was named Chaim Witz; after emigrating to the U.S., he went by Gene Klein because it was easier to pronounce. After moving into the rock scene, he changed his moniker again to become Gene Simmons.
Stage Name: Jay-Z
Real Name: Shawn Carter
Jay-Z is neither a Jay nor a Z. He was born Shawn Carter in New York, but took on the name Jay-Z as a tribute to his mentor Jaz-O and the Z subway line to Brooklyn.
Stage Name: Rita Wilson
Real Name: Margarita Ibrahimoff
Actress Rita Wilson is proudly Greek and was born as Margarita Ibrahimoff to a Bulgarian father and a Greek mother. They changed their surname to Wilson after they moved to America, which happened to be the street they lived on. Rita, of course, is short for Margarita.
Stage Name: Elvis Costello
Real Name: Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus
The British singer/songwriter came from a musical family and idolized Elvis, so he adopted The King of Rock 'n' Roll’s first name and swapped MacManus for his mother’s maiden name, Costello. Costello’s name was officially changed in 1977, although he legally changed it back in 1986.
Stage Name: Hulk Hogan
Real Name: Terry Bollea
Terry Bollea was a chubby kid from the Southeast, but when he started wrestling he had to take on a stage name. After a talk show appearance alongside Lou Ferrigno, Hogan took on the nickname “Hulk” because he was bigger than the actor who played The Incredible Hulk on TV. The Hogan part came when wrestling impresario Vince McMahon wanted a wrestler with an Irish-sounding name.
Stage Name: Marilyn Monroe
Real Name: Norma Jeane Mortenson
Mid-century bombshell Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Mortenson, but she was changing names most of her life. Baptised as Norma Jeane Baker, she went on to be Norma Jeane Dougherty from her first marriage and then started using the name Marilyn Monroe in 1946 when her acting career began. She legally changed her name in 1956.
Stage Name: Whoopi Goldberg
Real Name: Caryn Johnson
It’s not much of a secret that Whoopi Goldberg was born as neither a Whoopi nor a Goldberg. The Whoopi came from “whoopee cushion,” because the young Caryn Johnson used to put her flatulence on full display, causing people to say she sounded like a whoopee cushion. The origins of Goldberg are less clear.
Stage Name: Alicia Keys
Real Name: Alicia Augello Cook
When Alicia Keys was first looking for a stage name, she almost settled on “Alicia Wild,” but her mother told her it sounded like the name of a stripper. Instead, she chose Keys because, she says: “It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors.”
Stage Name: Ben Kingsley
Real Name: Krishna Pandit Bhanji
Born in Yorkshire to Russian-Jewish and Indian parents, Krishna Pandit Bhanji changed his name when he became a working actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Kingsley’s father first suggested it when he thought his son would need a more British name to succeed in the theatre. The “Kingsley” surname was inspired by his grandfather’s nickname as a spice trader: King Clove.2018 All rights reserved.