16 Celebrities Who Explained Their Stage Names

1.

Whoopi Goldberg’s real name is Karin Elaine Johnson.

In 2006, she told the New York Times, “When you’re on stage, you never have time to go into the bathroom and close the door. So if you get a little congested, you have to let it go. So, people used to say to me, “You’re like a pillow for screaming.” And that’s where the name comes from.”

2.

Shay Mitchell’s real name is Shannon Ashley Garcia Mitchell.

During a Facebook Live event in 2017, the actor said: “I love JLo, Jennifer Lopez. And when I was in high school, people used to call each other “Shay-Lo,” and then Shay kind of stuck. We dropped Lo because nobody can be J.Lo.”

3.

Jamie Foxx’s real name is Eric Marlon Bishop.

In an episode of Late Show with David Letterman, the actor said the reason he changed his name was stand-up comedy. “I noticed that 1,000 guys would show up and only three girls, but the three girls would always get a spot and pick from the list. So I went to the list and wrote down unisex names. Stacey Green. Tracy Brown. Jamie Foxx.”

4.

Emma Stone’s real name is Emily Jean Stone.

During an interview with W Magazine in 2017, she said: “My real name is Emily. But it was picked up at SAG. … I had a choice of Emily J. Stone and it’s kind of like Michael J. Fox, which I love Michael J. Fox, but I don’t think I could do J. … Asking a 16-year-old to pick a new name is a really interesting process because I was like, ‘I’m going to be Riley. My name is Riley Stone.

In an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she revealed that she actually wanted to be called Emma as a child. “Growing up 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.”

5.

Bruno Mars’ real name is Peter Gene Hernandez.

During an interview with Rap-Up in 2013, the singer said, “Bruno was after Bruno Sammartino, who was this big, fat wrestler. I guess I was this chubby little baby, so my dad used to call me that as a nickname.”

In 2013, the actor told GQ that the music industry tried to box him in because of his last name. “Your last name is Hernandez,” he remembers people telling him. “Maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music… Enrique is so hot right now.” He eventually chose the name Mars and sidestepped the issue. “Mars just came [from] just kidding because that sounds larger than life. That was it, simple as that,” he told Latina magazine.

6.

Lana Del Rey’s real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.

During an interview with MTV in 2012, she said, “I knew I wanted a name that sounded kind of exotic and reminded me of the beach on the Florida coast. “Lana Del Rey sounded beautiful.”

7.

Aquafina’s real name is Nora Lum.

In 2017, the actor told Galore, “I really thought it was funny when people try to invent products like Neutrogena. Because I just imagine someone sitting there thinking of all these weird names, especially the water names. But anyway, I just made it up when I was 16 and thought it was really funny. And then I eventually accepted it.”

“My rap name was just Aquafina, but then I think when we were playing the video, the guy who made the video … he said, ‘Well, we should change the spelling so you don’t get sued,’ ” she recalled. “So he spelled it out so extra. He spelled it out in the most extreme way yet. So I was like, “I feel like people won’t understand this,” and he said, “Yeah, but I feel like it would be unique, so people [will] look at him.’ But then nobody knows how to spell it. So, you know, that came back to bite me in the ass.”

8.

KJ Apa’s real name is Keneti James Apa.

Last year, the actor appeared in an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! After Jimmy asked what KJ stood for, the actor said: “KJ is short for Kenneth James, which is a Samoan name. I am named after my father.”

9.

Alicia Keys’ real name is Alicia Augello Cook.

In 2007, the singer told Newsweek, “I was so desperate that I looked through the dictionary for something that caught my eye. I get to W and choose Wild. “Alicia Wild, how does that sound, mom?” She said, “It sounds like you’re a stripper.” But I liked Keys. It’s like piano keys. And it can open so many doors.”

10.

Nicolas Cage’s real name is Nicolas Kim Coppola.

During an interview with Wired earlier this year, the actor said he changed his name because of his relationship with his uncle, director Francis Ford Coppola. “I changed my name because I was making a little film called Fast times at Ridgemont High, and I was still Nicolas Coppola. People wouldn’t stop saying things like “I love the smell of Nicola in the morning” because of it apocalypse now, Robert Duvall says, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” And that made it difficult. I decided I didn’t need that, so I changed it to Cage.”

11.

Sir Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, but legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John.

During a 1987 interview, he said, “When I became Elton John, it was like a new life. I didn’t particularly like being Reg Dwight. There were too many unpleasant memories.’

12.

John Legend’s real name is John Roger Stevens.

In 2008, the singer told MTV News: “John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name. Legend is something I would never have chosen for myself originally. It grew to the point where more people in my circle would know me by that name than by my real name. I had to make a decision.”

13.

Halsey’s real name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane.

In 2020, the singer told Cosmopolitan, “I think I had the foresight to realize that it wasn’t enough to be me. I had to become someone completely different. At the time, I felt that Ashley didn’t deserve to be famous and successful because she wasn’t that special, but if I did Halsey, maybe she would be. [Changing my name] gave me the opportunity to create a new persona that was not bound by the expectations I had of myself or the limitations others placed on me because of my upbringing or my socioeconomic status.”

14.

Joe Coy’s real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert.

During the Netflix special In His elements, the comedian shared that people would laugh at his name when he was doing stand-up early in his career. He was considering different options when his aunt invited him to eat with her nickname for him: Joe Coy. For more than 30 years he used this as a stage name.

“I’m like, ‘So what do you call me?'” She says, “I call you Joe Ko. That’s your nickname. Joe Ko.” And for all of you at home who don’t know what that means: In Tagalog, ko means mine. My nickname is my Joe. Joe co. How cute is that?”

15.

Frank Ocean was born Christopher Edwin Brough, but legally changed his name to Christopher Francis Ocean.

In 2011, the singer told Complex, “I changed my name on my birthday last year. It was definitely the most inspiring thing I did in 2010. I went to LegalZoom and changed my fucking name. I felt great. we are our names. If you don’t like your name, change it. I’m only a few steps into the process, so I probably shouldn’t even be talking about it, but by early summer, I’ll be right. I’ll be getting on planes like Christopher Francis Ocean.”

16.

Finally, Mindy Kaling’s real name is Vera Mindy Chokkalingam.

In 2020, she told NHPR, “I shortened my name because the hosts of these comedy shows would have trouble pronouncing it and then they would make a joke about my last name. My real name is Vera Mindi Chokalingam and it is a south Indian name and it is a long name. As a performer, these comedians would just butcher it and then say, “I don’t know what it is! Just this girl, Mindy.’

“When you’re doing comedy… it’s all comedians who changed their names and I felt like it was the easiest thing for me to do and it ended up being really rewarding to do it. It was something I had very mixed feelings about. But my parents didn’t mind. I talked to them about it. And then I ended up cutting it short. It’s bittersweet, but I have to say it’s been so helpful for my career to have a name that people can pronounce.”

Do you know other famous people who use stage names? LMK in the comments below!

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