You’d be surprised to see how many actors have changed their name in Hollywood. Similar to writers with pen names, they change it to a stage handle to make it clicks better among their fans and to actually help their career. Sometimes actors will change their last name because it could be used as inappropriate slang, others will do it because it’s hard to say or too close to their national heritage. Some, such as Vin Diesel and Jamie Foxx, look like stage names, but here are some that you may not have realized.
- Alicia Keys
Born: Alicia Augello-Cook
The singer/songwriter told Newsweek she wanted to to change her last name to be better suited for the stage, and was considering taking on the title “Alicia Wild”—but her mom said no. “She said, ‘It sounds like you’re a stripper,”‘ said Keys, so the singer considered a more musical moniker. “It’s like the piano keys. And it can open so many doors,” she explained.
- Bruno Mars
Born: Peter Gene Hernandez
In a 2013 interview with GQ, the “Finesse” singer explained that he’s been Bruno for almost his entire life. Though he was born Peter Hernandez, he received the nickname Bruno because as a toddler, he looked like the famous wrestler Bruno Sammartino. But Bruno Hernandez wasn’t cutting it in the music world. “Your last name’s Hernandez, maybe you should do this Latin music, this Spanish music… Enrique’s so hot right now,” the singer told the publication of the responses he received while trying to start his music career. Thus, he adopted the Mars surname.
- Brad Pitt
Born: William Bradley Pitt
Despite going by his middle name in his professional life, Page Six reports that the newly-single actor introduces himself by his given name, William, when he’s flirting with women. We’re guessing any woman would see right through Pitt’s not-so-pseudo-nym.
- Cardi B
Born: Belcalis Almanzar
Although we know her as Cardi B, true fans know that the musician was actually given a much longer name at birth: Belcalis Almanzar. Cardi B is actually short for Bacardi, like the rum. My sister’s name is Hennessy,” Cardi B explained to Jimmy Fallon. “So everyone used to call me Bacardi, and I started calling myself Bacardi,” which eventually was shorted to Cardi B.”
- Nicki Minaj
Born: Onika Tanya Maraj
In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, the female rapper explained that she didn’t even choose her stage name. “Somebody changed my name,” she told the publication. “One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.” But around close family, the rapper added, she prefers to be called by her given name, Onika. “My rule is, whatever you were calling me four years ago is what you should be calling me now, because I don’t like it when my family or close friends call me Nicki Minaj,” she explained. “To me I’m not Nicki Minaj when I’m with them.”
Born: Aubrey Drake Graham
In the early aughts, the actor-turned-rapper starred in the Canadian high school drama TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he was known as Aubrey Graham. In 2006, when he started pursuing a rap career, he dropped the Aubrey and started going by Drake.
- John Legend
Born: John Roger Stephens
“John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name,” Legend explained to MTV News in a 2008 interview. “‘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.”
So, Legend explained that he decided to take on the legendary moniker. “I was just like, ‘You know what? Let’s just go for it. People are going to pay attention and I’m going to either live up to my name or I’m not,'” jed added. “My bet was on me trying to live up to the name.”
- Katy Perry
Born: Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson
The “I Kissed A Girl” singer explains that her stage name came about during her adolescent identity crisis. “I created this wonderful character called Katy Perry that I very much am, and can step into all the time, but I created that character out of protection,” the singer told The Guardian.
“It was me going, ‘OK, I’ve been upset my whole childhood so I’m going to show the world I am something, that I am going to do something and that I am enough,'” Perry continued. “I didn’t want to be Katheryn Hudson. I hated that, it was too scary for me, so I decided to be someone else.”
- Jamie Foxx
Born: Eric Marlon Bishop
In an interview with David Letterman in 2015, Foxx explained that he changed his name when he first started doing standup comedy, and tried out a unisex name for more stage time. “I noticed that like 1,000 guys showed up and only three girls, but the three girls would always get a spot,” Foxx explained of signing up for a standup slot. “So I went to the list and wrote down a unisex name… Jamie Foxx.”
- Meghan Markle
Born: Rachel Meghan Markle
It’s now common knowledge that Meghan Markle’s real first name is Rachel, though her birth name doesn’t much matter, as she’s now a Duchess.