Whoopi Goldberg’s real name is Caryn Elaine Johnson.
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.”
Shay Mitchell’s real name is Shannon Ashley Garcia 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.”
Jamie Foxx’s real name is Eric Marlon Bishop.
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.”
Emma Stone’s real name is Emily Jean 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.'”
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.”
Bruno Mars’ real name is Peter Gene Hernandez.
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.”
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.
Lana Del Rey’s real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant.
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.”
Awkwafina’s real name is Nora Lum.
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.”
“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.”
KJ Apa’s real name is Keneti James 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.”
Alicia Keys’ real name is Alicia Augello Cook.
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.”
Nicolas Cage’s real name is Nicolas Kim Coppola.
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.”
Sir Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight but legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John.
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.”
John Legend’s real name is John Roger Stephens.
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.”
Halsey’s real name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane.
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.”
Jo Koy’s real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert.
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.
“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?”
Frank Ocean was born Christopher Edwin Breaux but legally changed his name to Christopher Francis 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.”
And finally, Mindy Kaling’s real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam.
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.'”
“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.”
Know any other famous people who use stage names? LMK in the comments below!