50 Celebrities Whose Real Names You Likely Don't Know

Some of the most famous people in the world go by a middle name, a nickname, a family name, or another name entirely.

<p><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com/search/photographer?photographer=Jeff%20Kravitz"></a>Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images</p>

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

From Oscar-winning actors to Grammy-winning artists, many of the most widely-known and loved celebrities go by names other than the ones they were born with. A name is akin to a first impression, especially in Hollywood. A unique and memorable name is advantageous, but it needs to roll off the tongue easily, too.

Choosing the right stage name is an art of its own, whether that name is a shorter version of a person’s birth name (think: Bella Hadid), a borrowed family name (see: Katy Perry), or a creation all its own (like Lana Del Rey). The options are endless.

Read on to learn more about 50 celebrities who go by names other than the ones they were born with originally.

Reese Witherspoon (Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon)

<p>Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images</p>

Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

In the actress’ first film appearance in The Man in the Moon, when she was just 14 years old, Witherspoon shortened her full name to use Reese as her first. It was her mother’s maiden name.

Meghan Markle (Rachel Meghan Markle)

<p>Charles McQuillan/Getty Images</p>

Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Many celebrities go by their middle names, and the Duchess of Sussex is no exception. Although her first name is legally still Rachel, Markle has been using “Meghan” as a first name since before she became a professional actress.

Emma Stone (Emily Stone)

<p>Michael Buckner/Getty Images</p>

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Years ago, Emma Stone began using the name “Emma” because another actress named Emily Stone was already a member of SAG-AFTRA. However, in an April 2024 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Stone expressed that in an ideal world, she’d prefer to go by her real name and not the stage name she chose out of necessity. (Or, as she said, just call her Em!)

Gigi Hadid (Jelena Noura Hadid)

<p>Dave Benett/Getty Images</p>

Dave Benett/Getty Images

In a 2015 interview with Vogue, the supermodel explained that the nickname name “Gigi” was born from some classroom confusion in elementary school. "In first or second grade, there was a girl named Helena and it got confusing with the teacher who had to call out our names," Hadid said. "And so the teacher asked my mom, 'If I needed to call Jelena a nickname, what would it be?' And my mom was like, 'I call her Gigi sometimes,' and the name stuck."

Bella Hadid (Isabella Khair Hadid)

<p>Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images</p>

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Similar to her sister, Bella Hadid also goes by a nickname for her first name—though, in her case, just a shorter version.

Natalie Portman (Natalie Hershlag)

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty Images</p>

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

The Oscar-winning actress chose the last name “Portman” because it was her grandmother's maiden name.

Olivia Wilde (Olivia Cockburn)

<p>Vivien Killilea/Getty Images</p>

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

The actress and filmmaker chose her stage surname for the novelist Oscar Wilde. In a 2007 interview with The Observer, she explained her reasoning: "At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest—I was playing Gwendolyn, and I was so in love with it,” she said. “Oscar Wilde is someone I respect for so many reasons—a revolutionary, a comedian, and a profound thinker."

Katy Perry (Katheryn Hudson)

<p>Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images</p>

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Originally, Katy Perry released Christian music under her given surname, Katy Hudson. When the singer moved to Los Angeles and began recording pop music, she adopted the last name Perry, which is her mother’s maiden name, to avoid any confusion with the actress Kate Hudson.

Julianne Moore (Julie Anne Smith)

<p>Christopher Polk/Getty Images</p>

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Moore changed her stage name for a simple reason: Another actor SAG-AFTRA actor already had her same birth name. For her stage name, she created a combination of different family names. "My father's middle name is Moore; my mother's name is Anne. So I just slammed the Anne onto the Julie,” Moore told told The New York Times in 2001. “That way I could use both of their names and not hurt anyone's feelings. But it's horrible to change your name. I'd been Julie Smith my whole life, and I didn't want to change it."

Brad Pitt (William Bradley Pitt)

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images</p>

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Like many other celebrities, Brad Pitt uses a shortened version of his middle name as his first name.

Lucy Hale (Karen Lucille Hale)

<p>Amy Sussman/Getty Images</p>

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Lucy Hale also uses a shortened version of her middle name as her first name—but she’s not without a sense of humor about it. In a 2016 interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the Pretty Little Liars actress joked that "Karen is [her] alter ego.”

Miley Cyrus (Destiny Hope Cyrus)

<p>Valerie Macon/Getty Images</p>

Valerie Macon/Getty Images

At age 15, the actress and singer legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus. Her chosen first name, Miley, was a reference to a childhood nickname (“Smiley”), while her middle name, Ray, is her father’s middle name.

Olivia Colman (Sarah Caroline Colman)

<p>Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images</p>

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

When Colman discovered there was already an actress named Sarah Colman, she began going by Olivia. In a 2013 interview with The Independent, the actress shared her reason for the choice: “One of my best friends at university was called Olivia and I always loved her name," she said. "I was never Sarah; I was always called by my nickname, Colly, so it didn't seem so awful not to be called Sarah."

Nicki Minaj (Onika Tanya Maraj

<p> Frazer Harrison/Getty Images</p>

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Minaj’s chosen first name, Nicki, is a derivation of her real first name; her last name was suggested by a producer early on in her career: "One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail,” the rapper told The Guardian in 2012. “But he convinced me. I've always hated it.”

Frank Ocean (Christopher Edwin Breaux)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty Images</p>

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

In 2014, Frank Ocean legally changed his name for a simple reason: He just liked “Frank Ocean” better than his birth name. "[The name] just felt cool,” he told Complex in 2011. “None of us are our names. If you don't like your name, then change your name."

John Legend (John Roger Stephens)

<p>Paras Griffin/Getty Images</p>

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

John Legend’s stage name is a version of a nickname given to him by a spoken-word artist named J. Ivy: "We were all in the studio together,” the singer explained to Jimmy Fallon in March 2021. “[Ivy] just started calling me 'The Legend' because he thought I sounded like one of our old-school soul legends."

Ashton Kutcher (Christopher Ashton Kutcher)

<p>Michael Kovac/Getty Images</p>

Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Another day, another star who goes by his middle name. When Kutcher started acting, he dropped his given first name, Christopher, and began using the first name “Ashton.”

Mila Kunis (Milena Markovna Kunis)

<p>Rich Polk/Getty Images</p>

Rich Polk/Getty Images

Ukrainian-born Kunis moved to the United States when she was very young. When she began booking acting jobs, she shortened her birth name.

Demi Moore (Demetria Gene Guynes)

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images</p>

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Moore goes by a shortened version of her first name; for her last name, the actress married a rock singer named Freddy Moore in 1981 and kept his name after the two divorced in 1985.

Mindy Kaling (Vera Mindy Chokalingam)

<p>Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images</p>

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Mindy Kaling, who uses her middle name as her first name, shortened her last name for professional purposes. "Emcees for these comedy shows would have trouble pronouncing it, and then, they'd make a joke about my last name," the actress told New Hampshire Public Radio in 2020.

Alicia Keys (Alicia Augello Cook)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty Images</p>

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Alicia’s chosen stage surname, Keys, is a direct reference to her preferred instrument: "It's like the piano keys,” she told Newsweek in 2007.

Tina Fey (Elizabeth Stamatina Fey)

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images</p>

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Tina Fey created her stage name by shortening “Stamatina,” her given middle name.

Lana Del Rey (Elizabeth Grant)

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images</p>

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Lana Del Rey originally released music under her birth name, Elizabeth Grant, as well as several other stage names. The name “Lana Del Rey” was inspired by actress Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey sedan.

Dove Cameron (Chloe Celeste Hoffman)

<p>Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images</p>

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Dove Cameron legally changed her name as a tribute to her late father. "He called me Dove more than he ever called me Chloe," she told StyleWatch, according to PEOPLE. "He passed away when I was 15, and I decided to legally change it. So it's on my passport—everything legal is Dove."

Jason Sudeikis (Daniel Jason Sudeikis)

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty Images</p>

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Sudeikis’ given first name, Daniel, was the same as his father’s, which proved confusing for his mother. "My mom decided to call me Jason so that we knew which one she was yelling at," he told TODAY in 2021.

Whoopi Goldberg (Caryn Elaine Johnson)

<p>Lou Rocco/Getty Images</p>

Lou Rocco/Getty Images

Whoopi Goldberg’s stage name was born from an exceedingly literal joke. "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,” she said in a 2006 interview with The New York Times. “So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from."

Alexis Bledel (Kimberly Alexis Bledel)

<p>Jason LaVeris/Getty Images</p>

Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

The Gilmore Girls actress goes by her given middle name, though she’s never shared the reasoning behind the decision.

Lea Michele (Lea Michele Sarfati)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty Images</p>

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Lea Michele dropped her given last name because of its pronunciation  "I don't use [Sarfati] a lot because I got ‘Lea So-fatty,’ ‘Lea So-farty’ at school,” the actress told Jay Leno in a 2011 interview. “When I was little and I went on my first audition, they were like, 'And may we have your name?' And I was like, 'Lea Michele.' And I've been Lea Michele ever since."

Jack Black (Thomas Jacob Black)

<p>Mario Tama/Getty Images</p>

Mario Tama/Getty Images

For his stage name, the School of Rock actor dropped his first name and began using the common shortened version of Jacob, his middle name.

Pedro Pascal (José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal)

<p>Arturo Holmes/Getty Images</p>

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

The Last Of Us actor chose to shorten his full name but kept his late mother's maiden name, Pascal, to honor her.

Chace Crawford (Christopher Chace Crawford)

<p>Phillip Faraone/Getty Images</p>

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

Crawford also goes by his middle name, which has a slightly unconventional spelling.

Kit Harington (Christopher Catesby Harington)

<p>Emma McIntyre/Getty Images</p>

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Fun fact: It took Kit Harington a whole 11 years to realize his real first name was Christopher. "I think [my family] could see that I wanted to be Kit, but Christopher was a bit of a tradition," the Game of Thrones actor told Glamour in 2014. "My brother's name is Jack, but his real name is John. Kit is traditionally an offshoot of Christopher—it's just not used that often.”

Camila Cabello (Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao)

<p>Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images</p>

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

When Camila Cabello began her professional singing career, she shortened her birth name into two of her middle names.

Portia de Rossi (born Amanda Lee Rogers, legally Portia Lee James DeGeneres)

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

The actress, who still goes by Portia de Rossi professionally, originally chose her stage name as a reference to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In 2008, when she married Ellen DeGeneres, she legally changed her last name to DeGeneres.

Elton John (Reginald Dwight)

<p>Harry Durrant/Getty Images</p>

Harry Durrant/Getty Images

Elton John’s stage first name is a reference to a former band member. "I used to be in a band, and I wanted to become a singer in my own right, and I wanted to choose a name,” the singer said in 1991. “And the saxophone player in the band was called Elton, so I chose that name." The surname “John” is a reference to the English musician and actor Long John Baldry.

Meg Ryan (Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra)

<p>Amy Sussman/Getty Images</p>

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

When Meg Ryan began her professional acting career, she shortened her first name and used her grandmother's maiden name as her stage surname.

Winona Ryder (Winona Laura Horowitz)

<p>JC Olivera/Getty Images</p>

JC Olivera/Getty Images

According to PEOPLE, when Winona Ryder was asked how she'd like to be credited in her first acting role—the 1986 film, Lucas—she chose the surname of the musician Mitch Ryder. Why? His album was playing in the background at the time.

Vin Diesel (Mark Sinclair)

<p>Frazer Harrison/Getty Images</p>

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Vin Diesel adopted his stage name even before breaking into acting: When he worked as a bouncer at Tunnel, the New York City nightclub, he chose the name because it sounded tougher.

Spike Lee (Shelton Jackson Lee)

<p>Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images</p>

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For his stage name, the filmmaker and actor chose “Spike” because his mother had given him the nickname as a baby.

Mandy Moore (Amanda Leigh Moore)

<p>Frazer Harrison/Getty Images</p>

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The singer and This Is Us actress goes by the shortened version of her birth name.

Lily James (Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson)

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

The English actress chose the surname “James” for her stage name to honor her late father.

Elle King (Tanner Elle Schneider)

<p>Jason Kempin/Getty Images</p>

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

The daughter of actor Rob Schneider, Elle King chose her stage name to separate herself from her famous family. "It’s not that I wanted to be a famous person. I wanted to be a performer," she told ABC News in 2015. "But I worked really hard and I did everything myself and I took a name that ... is my mother’s name ... I took that name because I wanted to be myself."

Faith Hill (Audrey Faith Perry)

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images</p>

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

For her stage name, the country singer uses her middle name as her first name. The last name “Hill” was her married name; when she divorced her first husband, Daniel Hill, in 1994, she kept his last name because fans already knew her as Faith Hill.

Winnie Harlow (Chantelle Brown-Young)

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images</p>

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The story of Winnie Harlow's stage name couldn’t be sweeter. In a 2018 interview with Fashion Week Daily, the Canadian model said she chose the first name for her favorite childhood character, Winnie the Pooh; she chose the surname “Harlow” for the actress Jean Harlow.

Carmen Electra (Tara Leigh Patrick)

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

In the early 1990s, Carmen Electra signed with Paisley Park Records, Prince’s record label—and it was the legend himself who suggested she change her stage name. She took his suggestion.

Nina Dobrev (Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva)

<p>Gilbert Flores/Getty Images</p>

Gilbert Flores/Getty Images

The Vampire Diaries actress, who was born in Bulgaria, decided to shorten her name at the very beginning of her acting career.

Michael Keaton (Michael John Douglas)

<p>Christopher Polk/Getty Images</p>

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

The Award-winning actor began using the last name “Keaton” to avoid any confusion with the actor Michael Douglas.

Topher Grace (Christopher John Grace)

<p>Phillip Faraone/Getty Images</p>

Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

In a 2021 interview with The Ellen Degeneres Show, Topher Grace explained his reason for choosing the unconventional first name “Topher” for his stage name: "I'd say, 'Hi, my name's Christopher,' and they'd say, 'Nice to meet you, Chris.’ And I'd say ...'Topher.'"

Magic Johnson (Earvin Johnson Jr.)

<p>Derek White/Getty Images</p>

Derek White/Getty Images

The legendary basketball player began going by the first name “Magic” after earning it in high school for his creative ballhandling skills, according to Brittanica.

Diane Keaton (Diane Hall)

<p>Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images</p>

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

For her stage name, the actress chose the surname “Keaton” because it was her mother's maiden name.

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