Skip To Content

    16 Celebrities Shared The Reason They Picked A Stage Name, And Some Of These Surprised Me

    Alicia Keys said, "I got so desperate I went through the dictionary for something that catches my eye. I get to the W's, and I pick Wild. 'Alicia Wild, how does that sound, Ma?' She said, 'It sounds like you're a stripper.' But I liked Keys. It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors."

    1. Whoopi Goldberg's real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson.

    Whoopi Goldberg

    In 2006, she told the New York Times, "When you’re performing on stage, you never really have time to go into the bathroom and close the door. So, if you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go. So, people used to say to me, 'You’re like a whoopee cushion.' And that’s where the name came from."

    Whoopi Goldberg

    2. Shay Mitchell's real name is Shannon Ashley Garcia Mitchell.

    Closeup of Shay Mitchell

    During a 2017 Facebook Live event, the actor said, "I love J.Lo, Jennifer Lopez. And when I was in high school, people would be like, 'Shay-Lo,' and then Shay kinda stuck. We dropped Lo, because no one can be J.Lo."

    Closeup of Shay Mitchell

    3. Jamie Foxx's real name is Eric Marlon Bishop.

    Closeup of Jamie Foxx

    On an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman, the actor said the reason why he changed his name was due to stand-up comedy. "I noticed it would be, like, 1,000 guys show up and only three girls, but the three girls would always get a spot, and they would choose from the list. So, I went to the list and wrote down unisex names. Stacey Green. Tracey Brown. Jamie Foxx."

    Closeup of Jamie Foxx

    4. Emma Stone's real name is Emily Jean Stone.

    Closeup of Emma Stone

    During a 2017 interview with W Magazine, she said, "My real name is Emily. But it was taken at SAG. ... I had the option 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 pull off the J. ... To ask a 16-year-old to pick a new name is really an interesting process, because I was like, 'I'm going to be Riley. My name is going to be Riley Stone.'"

    Closeup of Emma Stone

    On an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she revealed that she actually wanted to be called Emma as a kid. "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."

    Closeup of Emma Stone

    5. Bruno Mars' real name is Peter Gene Hernandez.

    Closeup of Bruno Mars

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

    Bruno Mars

    In 2013, the actor told GQ that the music industry tried to box him in due to his last name. "'Your last name's Hernandez,'" he recalled people telling him. "'Maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music. ... Enrique's so hot right now.'" He ended up picking the name Mars and sidestepped the issue. "Mars just kind of came [from] joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that," he told Latina Magazine.

    Bruno Mars onstage

    6. Lana Del Rey's real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.

    Lana Del Rey

    During a 2012 interview with MTV, she said, "I knew that I wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of the seaside on the Floridian coast. 'Lana Del Rey' sounded beautiful."

    Lana Del Rey

    7. Awkwafina's real name is Nora Lum.

    Awkwafina

    In 2017, the actor told Galore, "I just really thought it was funny when people try to subtilize products like Neutrogena. Because I just imagine someone sitting there, thinking about all these weird names, especially the water names. But anyways, I just came up with it when I was 16 and thought it was really funny. And then, I eventually adopted it."

    Closeup of Awkwafina

    "My rap name was just Aquafina, but then I think when we were putting out the video, the guy that made the video...he was like, 'Well, we should change the spelling so you don't get sued,'" she recalled. "So, he spelled it so extra. He spelled it in the most extra way ever. So, I was like, 'I feel like people aren't going to understand this,' and he was like, 'Yeah, but I feel like it would be unique, so then people [will] look it up.' But then, no one knows how to spell it. So, you know, it came back to bite me in the ass."

    Closeup of Awkwafina

    8. KJ Apa's real name is Keneti James Apa.

    KJ Apa

    Last year, the actor appeared on an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! After Jimmy asked what KJ stands for, the actor said, "KJ is short for Keneti James, which is a Samoan name. I'm named after my father."

    Closeup of KJ Apa

    9. Alicia Keys' real name is Alicia Augello Cook.

    Closeup of Alicia Keys

    In 2007, the singer told Newsweek, "I got so desperate I went through the dictionary for something that catches my eye. I get to the W's, and I pick Wild. 'Alicia Wild, how does that sound, Ma?' She said, 'It sounds like you're a stripper.' But I liked Keys. It's like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors."

    Alicia Keys onstage

    10. Nicolas Cage's real name is Nicolas Kim Coppola.

    Closeup of Nicolas Cage

    During a Wired interview earlier this year, the actor said he changed his name due to his connection to his uncle, director Francis Ford Coppola. "I changed my name because I was doing a little movie called Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and I was still Nicolas Coppola. People would not stop saying things like, 'I love the smell of Nicolas in the morning' because of Apocalypse Now, Robert Duvall saying, 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning.' And it made it hard to work. I decided I don't need this, so I changed it to Cage."

    Nicolas Cage

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

    Sir Elton John onstage

    During a 1987 interview, he reportedly said, "When I became Elton John, it was like a new lease on life. I didn’t particularly like being Reg Dwight. It had too many unhappy memories."

    Elton John

    12. John Legend's real name is John Roger Stephens.

    Closeup of John Legend

    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 that I never would 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."

    John Legend

    13. Halsey's real name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane.

    Closeup of Halsey

    In 2020, the singer told Cosmopolitan, "I think I had the foresight to know that being me wasn’t enough. I had to become somebody 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 made Halsey, maybe she could be. [Changing my name] gave me the opportunity to create a new persona that wasn’t bound by the expectations I had for myself or the limitations that others placed on me because of my upbringing or my socioeconomic situation."

    Closeup of Halsey

    14. Jo Koy's real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert.

    Jo Koy

    During the Netflix special In His Elements, the comedian shared that people would laugh at his name when he did stand-up early in his career. He was mulling over different options when his aunt called him over to eat with her nickname for him: Jo Koy. For over 30 years, he's used that as his stage name.

    Jo Koy onstage

    "I go, 'Then what do you call me?' She goes, 'I call you Jo ko. That is your nickname. Jo ko.' And for all of you at home who don't know what that means: In Tagalog, ko means my. My nickname is my Jo. Jo ko. How fucking sweet is that?"

    Jo Koy onstage

    15. Frank Ocean was born Christopher Edwin Breaux but legally changed his name to Christopher Francis Ocean.

    Closeup of Frank Ocean

    In 2011, the singer told Complex, "I changed my name on my birthday last year. It was the most empowering shit I did in 2010, for sure. I went on LegalZoom and changed my fucking name. It just felt cool. None of us are our names. If you don’t like your name, then change your name. I’m only a few steps into the process, so I probably shouldn’t even be talking about this, but by the beginning of summer, I’ll be straight. I’ll be boarding planes as Christopher Francis Ocean."

    Frank Ocean at the Met Gala

    16. And finally, Mindy Kaling's real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam.

    Mindy Kaling

    In 2020, she told NHPR, "I shortened my name because emcees for these comedy shows would have trouble pronouncing it, and then, they'd make a joke about my last name. My real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam, and it's a South Indian name, and it's a long name. As a performer, these comedians would just butcher it, and then be like, 'I don't know what it is! Just this girl, Mindy.'"

    Closeup of Mindy Kaling

    "When you do comedy...these are all comedians who changed their names, and I felt it was the easiest thing for me to do, and ultimately, it was really beneficial to do it. It was something that I had a lot of mixed feelings about. But my parents didn't mind. I talked to them about it. And then, I ended up shortening it. It's bittersweet, but I have to say, it was such a help to my career to have a name that people could pronounce."

    Closeup of Mindy Kaling

    Know any other famous people who use stage names? LMK in the comments below!