Sometimes, people are stuck with unfortunate names. From unfortunate first name-last name combinations, like Tim Allen’s real name, Tim Dick, to impossible-to-pronounce names, ‘X Æ A-12’. Until now, we still don’t know how exactly to pronounce Elon Musk’s youngest son’s name.
And other times, people legally change their names just because they want to. While something like Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock is odd, it is still within the laws. This is why some people opt to change their names.
This is especially common for celebrities. While they don’t necessarily legally change their names, celebrities adopt a different stage name instead of using their birth name.
This could vary. They could drop their last name, go by their middle names or nicknames, or even come up with a completely different name. No matter the case, the stage names do stand out and make an impression.
So here are 21 celebrities whose on-stage last names differ from their birth ones.
#1 Olivia Wilde was born Olivia Cockburn.
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Olivia Wilde changed her surname after portraying Gwendolen in her high school performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
#2 Alicia Keys was born Alicia Augello Cook.
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When she was younger, Alicia Keys wanted a stage name and considered going by Alicia Wild. “It seems like you’re a stripper,” her mother remarked when asked. Alicia chose the surname Keys. “It’s similar to the piano keys. And it has the potential to open a plethora of doors.”
#3 Katy Perry was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson.
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Katy changed her name to avoid being confused with Kate Hudson. Her stage name was created by swapping her last name for her mother’s maiden name.
#4 Joaquin Phoenix was born Joaquin Rafael Bottom.
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After his parents left the Children of God cult, they changed the surname of their family from Bottom to Phoenix.
#5 Demi Moore was born Demi Gene Guynes.
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Demi Moore married guitarist Freddy Moore when she was 18 and adopted his surname. She opted to keep his surname after they divorced four years later.
#6 Julianne Moore was born Julie Anne Smith.
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When Julie Anne Smith attempted to join SAG under her own name, she was informed that there was already a Julie Smith in SAG. Since her father’s name was Peter Moore Smith, and her mother’s name was Anne Smith, she created a new name that included both of their names to join the SAG.
#7 Erykah Badu was born Erica Abi Wright.
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She changed her name from Erica to Erykah when she was younger because she thought her original name was a slave name. She picked Badu as her surname since it is an African name for the 10th-born child used by the Akan people of Ghana.
#8 Winona Ryder was born Winona Laura Horowitz.
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Winona appeared in the 1986 film, Lucas. She apparently picked Ryder as her stage last name since a Mitch Ryder record was playing in the background when she was asked how she wanted her name to appear in the credits.
#9 Blake Lively was born Blake Ellender Brown.
Source: Dia Dipasupil / FilmMagic / Getty Images
Blake was officially recorded as Blake Brown when she was born, and she was registered as Blake Brown by school officials and state officials. When Blake chose to become an actress, she adopted her mother’s surname, Lively.
#10 Aaron Paul was born Aaron Paul Stutevant.
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Aaron changed his surname since it was difficult for people to pronounce. He now just uses his middle name as his last name.
#11 Tim Allen was born Timothy Allen Dick.
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Tim utilizes his middle name as his stage name since he does not want to be known as Tim Dick. When he appeared on Good Afternoon Detroit, he was ordered to come up with another name since they would not allow “Tim Dick” to be written on the screen while he was on camera. But can you blame them?
#12 John Legend was born John Roger Stephens.
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The stage name John Legend began as a nickname given to him by friends. He stated, “‘Legend’ is a title that I would never have selected for myself. It eventually got to the point where more individuals in my circle knew me by that moniker than by my given name.”
#13 Theo James was born Theodore Peter James Kinnaird Taptiklis.
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He opted to alter his surname after attending the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. He thought the surname Taptiklis was unrecognizable and difficult to say. He also enjoyed the concept of not revealing everything about himself to the public. Because of “a very significant personal link to a family member,” he picked his second middle name as his theatrical last name.
#14 Nicolas Cage was born Nicolas Kim Coppola.
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Nicolas is filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew. He appeared in some of his uncle’s films and reportedly changed his name to avoid being accused of nepotism. His stage name was inspired by Marvel comic book character Luke Cage.
#15 Jonah Hill was born Jonah Hill Feldstein.
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Unlike him, Beanie Feldstein, his sister, is an actress who keeps her surname.
#16 Chelsea Kane was born Chelsea Kane Staub.
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Chelsea stated that she began using her middle name as her stage name since it is simpler to pronounce.
#17 Courtney Love was born Courtney Michelle Harrison.
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Courtney discontinued using her stage name in 2010. “We adore her [Courtney Love] when she gets on stage, but I don’t need her in the rest of my life,” she stated. “The name Courtney Love is a kind of oppression for me.” She now goes by her given name, Courtney Michelle Harrison.
#18 Natalie Portman was born Natalie Hershlag.
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Natalie Portman was born in Israel and was given the customary Hebrew name Natalie. When her family immigrated to the United States in 1984, they changed their surname from Hershlag to Portman.
#19 Julie Bowen was Julie Bowen Luetkemeyer.
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Actresses sometimes modify their names to make them simpler to spell and pronounce. Julie Bowen hasn’t said why she omitted “Luetkemeyer” from her stage name, although this is likely the case.
#20 Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas.
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Michael altered his surname at the start of his acting career to prevent confusion with another famous actor named Michael Douglas.
#21 Stevie Wonder was born in Steveland Judkins.
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Stevie’s parents split when he was four, and his mother officially changed his surname from Judkins to Morris. A record producer gave him the stage moniker Little Stevie Wonder when he was just 11 years old. They selected Wonder as the moniker since it alluded to his youth and incredible skill.