what’s in a name
It is a way for everyone to identify themselves as a unique person. For celebrities whose names are known around the world, a name is everything.
Some stars have chosen to use a different alias instead of their birth name for a variety of reasons. However, there are some celebrities who many are unaware of using a stage name in their careers.
Here are 10 celebrities you didn’t know using stage names.
Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Foxx chose his stage name when he first got into comedy in the late ’80s and early ’90s. After his girlfriend dared to take the mic, he realized he needed a flashier name.
Foxx noted that female comedians were often given priority over their male counterparts, so he chose Jamie due to the gender ambiguity. The surname Foxx was chosen in homage to Redd Foxx, a black comedian best known for his role on the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son.
Larson, born Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers, took her stage name after getting fed up with people having trouble pronouncing her birth name. She chose her first name as an abbreviation of her birth name and added that she “never passed Brianne” anyway.
Her chosen surname, Larson, has a double meaning behind it. The first meaning is simply to honor her great-grandmother, whose surname was also Larson. The second reason is her favorite childhood doll, an American Girl doll named Kirsten Larson.
“I was fed up, and as a result I was like, ‘I’m changing my name!’ Larson told People in 2016, “I’m changing it to Larson so Kirsten can be in our family.'”
Minaj, born Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty, adopted her stage name later in her career. She began using the name after signing to the Dirty Money Entertainment label in 2007.
She originally chose the stage name Nicki Maraj, but Fendi, the label’s CEO, suggested going with Minaj instead.
“My real name is Maraj,” Minaj told Rap Industry. “Fendi flipped it when he hit me because I had such a nasty flow!”
4. Natalie Portman
Portman was given the name Natalie Hershlag when she was born in Israel. After landing her first feature film role, Leon: The Professional, in 1994, she took her paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Portman, to protect her family’s privacy.
Fieri’s birth surname, Ferry, is actually an Anglicization of his current surname.
Fieri changed his last name to its original spelling when he married his wife Lori in 1995, in homage to his grandfather, an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Fieri.
Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
Wilde, born Olivia Jane Cockburn, took her stage name while at school. She made the decision to honor the numerous writers in her family, many of whom used pseudonyms. She chose the name Wilde out of respect for Irish author Oscar Wilde.
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“My mom thought it would be a good idea for me too, so I could have my own identity outside of my family. She suggested I pick something Irish and something I would always draw inspiration from,” Wilde told the New York Observer in 2007.
“Oscar Wilde is someone I respect for so many reasons – a revolutionary, a comedian and a deep thinker.”
7. Katy Perry
Perry, born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, has gone through a few stage names throughout her career.
She first took 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 eventually settled on Katy Perry, with the last name honoring her mother’s maiden name.
8. Michael Ketone
Like Perry, Keaton, born Michael John Douglas, decided on a stage name to avoid confusion with other stars.
When he first started auditioning for TV roles, according to the Screen Actors Guild, he used the name Michael Keaton to distinguish himself from actor Michael Douglas and daytime presenter Mike Douglas.
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 looking through a phone book.
“I feel bad! It’s probably hard to get off that story! The truth is I’m trying to figure out how John Cougar Mellencamp made it because I like my name, I’m proud of my name. Douglas, you know, it’s my father’s name,” Keaton told Grantland in 2012.
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Photo: Photo Agency Featureflash / Shutterstock
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, John wanted to create a stage name as unique as he is. To achieve this, he drew inspiration from two of his bandmates in the band Bluesology, which he formed in 1962.
“The sax player in the band was 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 no one had and it was that quick.”
10. Miley Cyrus
Photo: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock
Born Destiny Hope Cyrus in hopes of greatness, Cyrus derived her stage name from a childhood nickname given to her by her parents. They gave her the nickname “Smiley” because she smiled a lot during her childhood, 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 Kentucky politician.
“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 it in honor of my father because they just loved each other dearly.”
Regardless of how these stars chose their stage names, there’s no doubt that they’ve made them icons around the world.
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Jonathan Alfano is a writer focused on news and entertainment topics. Follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with his content.