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Celebrity stage names vs. their real names

  • Vin Diesel

    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.


  • Gene Simmons

    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.


  • Jay-Z

    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.


  • Rita Wilson

    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.


  • Elvis Costello

    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.


  • Hulk Hogan

    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.


  • Marilyn Monroe

    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.


  • Whoopi Goldberg

    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.


  • Alicia Keys

    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.”


  • Ben Kingsley

    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.