Entertainment And News

10 Celebrities You Didn't Know Use Stage Names

Photo: Lev Radin / Kathy Hutchins / Cubankite / Tinseltown / Shutterstock
Olivia Wilde, Michael Keaton, Miley Cyrus, Brie Larson

What’s in a name?

For everyone, it’s a way to identify oneself as a unique person of their own. For celebrities, whose names are known across the world, a name is everything.

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Some stars have opted to use another alias in lieu of their birth name for various reasons. However, there are some celebrities who many don’t realize use a stage name in their careers.

Here are 10 celebrities who you didn’t know use stage names.

1. Jamie Foxx

Photo: Cubankite / Shutterstock

Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Foxx chose his stage name when he first broke into comedy in the late eighties and early nineties. Following a dare by his girlfriend to take the mic, he realized that he needed a more eye-catching name.

Foxx noticed that female comedians were often given priority over their male counterparts, so he chose Jamie due to its gender ambiguity. The surname of Foxx was chosen as a tribute to Redd Foxx, a black comedian best known for his role in the seventies sitcom Sanford and Son.

2. Brie Larson

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Larson, born as Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers, adopted her stage name after she grew tired of people struggling to pronounce her birth name. She chose her first name as an abbreviation of her birth first name, adding that she “never went by Brianne” anyway.

Her chosen last name of Larson has a double meaning behind it. The first meaning is simply to honor her great-grandmother, whose last name was also Larson. The second is because of her favorite childhood doll, an American Girl doll named Kirsten Larson.

"I was sick of it, and as a result I'm, like, 'I'm changing my name!" Larson told People in 2016. "I'm changing it to Larson, so Kirsten can be in our family.'"

3. Nicki Minaj

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Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty, adopted her stage name later on in her career. She began using the name after signing with the label Dirty Money Entertainment in 2007.

She originally chose the stage name of Nicki Maraj, but Fendi, the label’s CEO, suggested that she go with Minaj instead. 

“My real name is Maraj,” Minaj told Rap Industry. “Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow!”

4. Natalie Portman

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Portman was given the name Natalie Hershlag upon her birth in Israel. After taking her first role in a feature film, 1994’s Leon: The Professional, she adopted her paternal grandmother’s maiden name of Portman to help protect her family’s privacy.

5. Guy Fieri

Fieri’s birth last name, Ferry, is actually an anglicization of his current last name.

Fieri changed his last name to its original spelling when he married his wife, Lori, in 1995 as a tribute to his grandfather, an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Fieri.

6. Olivia Wilde

Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock

Wilde, born Olivia Jane Cockburn, adopted her stage name while in high school. She made the choice to honor the numerous writers in her family, many of whom used pen names. She chose the name Wilde out of respect for Irish author Oscar Wilde.

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“My mother thought it was a good idea for me as well, so I could have my own identity outside of my family. She suggested I pick something Irish and something that I’d always be inspired by,” Wilde told the New York Observer in 2007.

“Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons — a revolutionary, a comedian and a profound thinker.”

7. Katy Perry

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Perry, born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, has gone through a few stage names throughout her career. 

She first adopted the name Katy Hudson when she released her self-titled debut album, but soon changed it to Katheryn Perry to avoid confusion with actress Kate Hudson.

She finally settled on Katy Perry, with the surname honoring her mother’s maiden name.

8. Michael Keaton

Like Perry, Keaton, born Michael John Douglas, chose to adopt a stage name to avoid confusion with other stars.

When he began auditioning for TV roles, he used the name Michael Keaton to differentiate himself from actor Michael Douglas and daytime host Mike Douglas, in accordance with the Screen Actors Guild.

Some have speculated that Keaton chose the surname due to an attraction to actress Diane Keaton, but he has denied those rumors. He has said in interviews that he chose the name by flipping through a phone book.

“I feel bad! She’s probably badly bugged by that story! The truth is I’m trying to figure out how John Cougar Mellencamp did it, because I like my name, I’m proud of my name. Douglas, you know, it’s my Dad’s name,” Keaton told Grantland in 2012.

9. Elton John

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John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, wanted to create a stage name as unique as he is. To accomplish this, he took inspiration from two of his bandmates in the band Bluesology, which he founded in 1962.

“The saxophone player in the band was called Elton Dean, a very good jazz sax player, and the only other Elton I could think of was Elton Hayes, who recorded the song ‘The Owl and the Pussycat,’” John said in an interview for his CD box set.

“So I took ‘Elton’ from Elton Dean and ‘John’ from Long John Baldry. I wanted to choose a name that nobody had, and it was as quick as that.”

10. Miley Cyrus

Photo: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Born Destiny Hope Cyrus in hopes that she would accomplish great things, Cyrus derived her stage name from a childhood nickname given to her by her parents. They gave her the nickname “Smiley” due to how often she smiled in her infancy, and she eventually shortened it to Miley.

Cyrus legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus in 2008. Her middle name honors her grandfather Ronald Ray Cyrus, a politician from Kentucky.

“His name was Ronald Ray Cyrus and a lot of people say Miley changed her name to Miley Ray because of Billy Ray, but that's not true,” Miley’s father Billy Ray Cyrus told CNN in 2009.

“She did that in honor of my dad, because the two of them just loved each other to pieces.”

Regardless of how these stars chose their stage names, there is no doubt that they have cemented them as icons across the world.

Jonathan Alfano is a writer who focuses on news and entertainment topics. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with his content.