Stage names have been around since the dawn of Hollywood, and some of the most famous stars in history have gone by stage names, leaving behind fans who don’t even know their real names. For example, many people don’t know that Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm. Cary Grant was born Archibald Alexander Leach. Both of their birth names are quite the mouthful compared to the sleek, crisp sounding stage names they adopted, so it’s easy to understand why those stars opted for stage names.
Even some singers use stage names these days. Lana Del Rey debuted as Lizzie Grant, as her birth name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant. Due to difficulty finding success, she changed her name, reinvented herself an emerged as Lana Del Rey, songstress that teenage girls in crop tops and floral crowns are crazy about. Katy Perry was born Katheryn Hudson so her name was Katy Hudson, which sounded a bit too similar to the already mega-star Kate Hudson. She went by Katy Perry so as to not be confused with the actress.
Actresses change their names for an assortment of reasons. Like Perry, they can sometimes change their name because there is already someone mega famous with their name or a name way too similar to theirs. The Screen Actors Guild does not allow two actors to register with the same name so if someone beat them to it, they won’t even really have a choice. The decision to change one’s name can also be based on the appeal of their birth name. Longer names that are difficult to say are deemed less likely to become a household name. This list is comprised of 10 beautiful actresses who, for one reason or another, adopted a stage name.
10. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman was actually born Natalie Hershlag. She adopted Portman, which is her mother’s maiden name. It has been stated that she did this before the release of Léon: The Professional in order to protect her family in case the performance wasn’t good. There was apparently no need for such precautions to be taken since her performance would be well received and launch her acting career at a very young age. She would go on to be nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Closer in 2005. Finally in 2011, Portman would be nominated and win for her role in Black Swan. She has chosen to continue using her stage name in order to have some privacy for herself.
9. Demi Moore
Demi Moore has been a superstar for years now, but she was actually born Demetria Gene Guynes. You’d think that she might have changed her name simply because Demetria Gene Guynes is a mouthful, but it was actually much more simple than that. She simply kept the last name of her husband, Freddy Moore, after they divorced in 1984. “Demi” came about because it is the nickname that she had been called, short for Demetria. Like her mother, Demi’s daughter Tallulah legally changed her name to her nickname “Lula.” There is definitely something a bit more sexy about the name Demi Moore rather than Demetria Gene Guynes.
8. Olivia Wilde
It’s easy to imagine why Olivia Wilde changed her name from Olivia Jane Cockburn. I mean, can anyone really become a hugely successful actress with the last name Cockburn? The gorgeous actress adopted the last name Wilde as a nod to Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish author. Since both of her parents were writers and she is of Irish descend, she felt that this last named worked for her. Also, Olivia Wilde just sounds good. Wilde is best known for her role on House, as well as starring in dozens of movies throughout her career.
7. Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder was born Winona Laura Horowitz. Charlie Sheen, the Two and a Half Men star, claims to have created her stage name, but Winona has never actually given him credit. Sheen’s story goes that the pair were listening to the Doors song “Riders on the Storm” when Sheen told Winona that he thought Winona Ryder sounded cool and so, that is how Charlie Sheen claims the name Winona Ryder was born. Though she changed her last name, her first name stayed the same so Johnny Depp was always fated to end up with a “Winona Forever” turned “Wino Forever” tattoo.
6. Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth was born with a different name and a completely different look than what she would later become known for. She was born Margarita Carmen Cansino and was of Latina descent. That last fact may surprise some, as she is known for her long red locks and a look that doesn’t necessarily scream Latina. The star underwent a makeover that included dyeing her hair and undergoing electrolysis to reshape her hairline for her new look. With the new look, came her new name: Rita Hayworth. Rita stems from her birth name Margarita. Though many people take credit for the invention of the margarita cocktail, there are origin tales claiming the popular drink was named after this Hollywood starlet.
5. Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall has a serious resume, having acted in films and television shows since the 80s. The actress is most widely known now for her role as the very, very sexually active PR executive Samantha Jones on Sex and the City. She may have played a quintessential New York City girl for years but ol’ Kim actually hails from Liverpool, England, and actually wasn’t named Kim Cattrall at birth. She was born Clara Woodgate, but later adopted the name Kim Cattrall as her stage name. There’s a piece of info that even the biggest Sex and the City fan might not know.
4. Portia De Rossi
Portia De Rossi is such a cool name that it sounds too good to be true. It actually is too good to be true. She was actually born with a much duller name: Amanda Lee Rogers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Amanda Lee Rogers but it just doesn’t have the same zest that Portia De Rossi has. She reportedly changed her name at the age of 15. “Portia” was inspired by The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Supposedly “De Rossi” was chosen was as an attempt to reinvent her image. The actress as since found much success on shows such as Scandal and Arrested Development.
3. Emma Stone
The beautiful redhead that is Emma Stone was not born a redhead; nor was she born with the name Emma Stone. Her natural hair color is blonde, but after Judd Apatow suggested she dye her hair red, she did so; only to become known she her fair complexion and fiery red hair. Her name change was actually suggested by the Screen Actors Guild. She was born Emily Jean Stone and when she went to register with SAG, she found out that apparently another Emily Stone was already registered. Due to SAG’s rule against members having the same working name, she had to adopt a different name. She choose Emma as a nod to Baby Spice (whose real name is Emma Bunton) because she was a huge Spice Girls fan growing up. Another reason she chose Emma was because of how close it sounded to her birth name.
2. Blake Lively
Blake Lively seems to fit the blonde, leggy embodiment of the California girl perfectly but she wasn’t born Blake Lively. She was born Blake Ellender Brown but took her mother’s maiden name Lively when she began acting, feeling it suit her better. Many would agree that Lively fits the bright, smiling blonde perfectly. Blake seemed to blast onto the scene with roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Gossip Girl, The Town and most recently The Age of Adaline. She is also hailed as a fashion icon. Lively’s biggest 2015 moment was arguably when onlookers criticized her husband, Ryan Reynolds, for not safely securing their baby in a carrier. Chances are she snapped this photo.
1. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe has been a legendary sex symbol for nearly 60 years. Her name instantly brings to mind the vision of her in that infamous white dress standing over the city grate or her breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday” for JFK. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson but began using Marilyn Monroe in 1946 and legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe in 1954. There are many different stories floating around about the origin of this name, but that’s understandable because you could imagine basically everyone wanting to take credit for the creation of Marilyn Monroe. The most common and widely believed to be true story is that Fox talent executive Ben Lyon chose the name Marilyn during her first screen test and then she suggested Monroe to be the last name. This may be the most successful (and sexiest) use of a stage name because can anyone really image a world in which Marilyn Monroe wasn’t Marilyn Monroe?