Stage names are nothing new in the entertainment industry. I mean, come on, you didn’t actually think “Carrot Top” was really the guy’s name, did you? I’d feel pretty bad for him if it was.
Stage names provide a sense of separation of real life and what you do on stage or on screen. It creates a kind of persona that you yourself don’t have to be when you’re at home. In some cases, it even serves as a branding tool to make yourself more cool-sounding and more marketable in your field. Let’s face it, a name like the awesome “Ricky McBadass” is much more marketable than the incredibly lame-sounding “John Doe.” Celebrities and performers have been exploiting this fact of show business since practically forever, and usually it’s pretty easy to spot a stage name.
Sometimes, however, the names just seem so normal, or the name fits the person so well and becomes such a part of them, that we never actually realize it’s a stage name at all. Let’s take a look at some examples of stars whose names we just might have thought were actually their birth names, only to find out that they in fact aren’t.
12. Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg is not really a name many people question. For some reason, looking at her and her name, it just seems to make sense. However, it is, in fact, a stage name. Goldberg was born the very vanilla-sounding Caryn Johnson. In an interview with Andy Cohen, she revealed that her name “Whoopi” actually originated from the fact that she farts a lot. For all you kids out there, “whoopi” is sometimes a word used about a million years ago to refer to farting, like those whoopie cushions. And she’s a comedienne. Oh, Whoopi. You’re just so lovable.
11. Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart broke all of America’s collective hearts when he decided to leave The Daily Show to pursue other interests. His most devout fans may remember, however, that Stewart is in fact of Jewish descent. He also has a birth name that reflects that. Opting to go with his first and middle name as a stage name, Stewart was actually born Jon Stewart Leibowitz. It seems Stewart thought that Leibowitz was a name more suited to be running Hollywood and not starring in TV shows and movies. We applaud his choice, since Jon Stewart is so catchy and is now the name of a late night icon that will be surely be missed by many.
10. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix is one of those names that’s just so bizarre, you may buy that it’s actually a real name. Of course, it isn’t, or it wouldn’t be making this list. Phoenix was actually born Joaquin Rafael Bottom, a name that would be pretty cool if it weren’t for that last part. The name Joaquin is so exotic and cool, and the name Rafael just furthers that appeal, but the name “Bottom” just conveys a lot of unfortunate jokes all throughout high school. Joaquin probably didn’t want to be subjected to the same thing by the public, so he decided to go with “Phoenix,” an awesome name of a mythological creature that rises from the ashes, just as he rose from the ashes after all that probable bullying.
9. Vin Diesel
The name Vin Diesel conveys the awesomeness and toughness suiting the muscled actor in such high-octane movies as the Fast & Furious series and The Last Witch Hunter. His actual name is Mark Sinclair Vincent, taking the Vin from his last name. Of course “Diesel” is just a really tough-sounding word that captures his toughness. But actually, his name is not all that bad. We all know Mark Wahlberg can get away with being a tough guy while using the name “Mark,” so why not Vin as well? Oh, well, at least his name actually fits his persona, which is all we could hope to ask for.
8. Tim Allen
Tim Allen was one of America’s iconic dads, playing the role of a grunting father and tool man on the popular sitcom Home Improvement, for many years. He’s even played Santa Claus, so you know he’s important. He also has about one of the plainest sounding names of all time. So perhaps you wouldn’t think that his name is actually not the name he was given at birth. Actually, Allen was born Tim Allen Dick, choosing to drop his last name in favor of a name that wouldn’t get him constantly laughed at by all his peers and viewers alike.
7. Tina Fey
Tina Fey is one of those normal sounding names that completely gets the pass by the American public, but actually it isn’t in fact her birth name. Tina Fey was born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey. I guess the name Tina, coming from the last section of her middle name, just had more of a punch to it. Interestingly enough though, Fey’s popular 30 Rock character Liz actually is based off of her actual given birth name. I guess the name Liz Lemon is more suiting her character, though with the alliteration bringing it over the top. But we can’t help but think that should have just been her stage name. It seems to suit her.
6. Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde is an amazing actress that has really taken off since her stint on the medical drama, House M.D. Wilde has since gone on to star in many movies, even Disney’s sequel to Tron. Wilde was born Olivia Jane Cockburn. Perhaps for reasons that don’t even need explaining, she decided to have it changed to sound more like a common name instead. The name is definitely different and sounds much more catchy.
5. Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton is a well known and an extremely talented actor. He has even portrayed Batman on the big screen years before Ben Affleck or Christian Bale would ever don the cape. Recently, he’s even starred in the critically-acclaimed Birdman. The name Michael Keaton just has such a normal sound to it, you might have given him the benefit of the doubt that this was his real name. But it is, in fact, a stage name. Keaton was born Michael Douglas, the name of another famous actor in Hollywood. Perhaps he didn’t want people to confuse him for Douglas.
4. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman has starred in a lot of great movies. Recently, she’s starred alongside Chris Hemsworth in the Thor movies. People may not know that she is actually an immigrant to the US from Israel. She is even a US/Israeli dual citizen. “Portman” is actually her grandmother’s maiden name. She was born in Jerusalem as Natalie Herschlag. While it’s extremely sweet that she would adopt her grandmother’s name into her acting career, it actually seems that Herschlag is not too bad of a stage name, either. It has a strength to it that may be fitting to the star of such movies as V for Vendetta.
3. Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is kind of like what you would get if pain were personified. Just think of her as Sadness in the movie Inside Out. Her music and her voice are so jarringly emotional, that you just can’t help but feel her pain listening to it. She’s also just kind of the embodiment of the whole ‘indie chic’ thing. So perhaps it isn’t actually too surprising that her chic-sounding name Lana Del Rey, isn’t actually her name at all. Lana was born a very normal sounding Elizabeth Grant. But that’s not a name that gets you famous at all.
2. Miley Cyrus
Miley has sure gone through a lot of changes recently. She used to be so sweet and innocent. She was truly one of the voices for a generation of young girls. Now she’s become a voice for, well, who can even guess anymore. But one of the first changes she made in her life was actually her name. Miley Cyrus was actually born Destiny Hope Cyrus, but her parents would always call her “Smiley Miley.” The name seemed to stick, even into her professional career. It’s interesting that the name we’ve come to know her as was nothing more than a cute nickname given to her by her parents.
1. Katy Perry
Katy Perry may be one of the most popular singers in the world at the moment, known throughout the world as one of the new queens of pop, but many people don’t know that Katy Perry is not actually Katy Perry. Her birth name is a much less exciting Katherine Hudson. She claims to have changed it in order to avoid confusion with another famous person with an eerily similar name. Give up? It’s actress Kate Hudson, of course. But it works out since Perry is much catchier. It just has that presence that seems to match her music and her bubbly onstage personality. It worked out quite well for her.