What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot! Names are how we are known by the world, and they become attached to our legacy. The names of corporations, TV shows, movies, games…they are how we identify and differentiate between certain things. Celebrity names are equally important, forming a kind of symbolic contract between society and the individual. A name is fully loaded, holding meaning, a reputation, memories and an attached face all within a few words.
Frequently, we find that celebrities go by one name. Sometimes, they have dropped their middle and last names and merely prefer to be referred to by their first one. For example, Beyoncé, Madonna, and so many others have chosen to take this route. However, there are some instances when celebrity hopefuls create different names or shorten their real names before making it big on the road to stardom. This may be done to make the name easier to remember because their real name is quite long. Other times, their newly “created” name holds some sort of significance in their life which provides a reason for the change. Find out the real monikers of these 15 famous females who go by a name other than their birth one.
15 Dakota Fanning
Winning her first role around the age of 7, in I am Sam which resulted in her becoming the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award, Dakota Fanning has claimed several formidable roles such as Hide and Seek and playing Jane in the popular Twilight Saga. However, the actress’s real name is Hannah Dakota Fanning. It seems her mother liked Hannah while her father liked Dakota. Unfortunately, Dakota must have sided with her dad since she’s always gone by that name professionally.
14 Demi Moore
Most people know Demi from her breakout role in 1990’s Ghost and for being the noteworthy ex-wife of both Bruce Willis and, most recently, Ashton Kutcher. However, it was her first marriage to musician Freddy Moore that provided her with the name we all know her by. She was actually born Demetria Gene Guynes. She shortened her given name to Demi and held on to her first hubby’s name long after the four-year marriage ended.
As the only female and lead singer of the Black Eyed Peas, Fergie is certainly memorable to all who are fans of her music. Yet, just like most famous people who go by one-word names, she was born with a full and proper name: Stacy Ann Ferguson. The “Glamorous” mommy to little Axl and wife to hunk Josh Duhamel fully committed to the name in 2013 went the official route. Her name is now Fergie Duhamel.
12 Helen Mirren
English actress Dame Helen Mirren has won a slew of awards for her royal performances portraying Queen Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. She was born in London with an equally regal name, Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironoff, to an English mother and a Russian immigrant father. Her father changed the family name in the 1950s, thus she assumed the identity as we know her today.
11 Katy Perry
The perky, eccentric California Girl who has topped the charts with songs like “Firework” and “I Kissed A Girl” actually began as a Christian artist singing in her parent’s church. Katy Perry was raised in a deeply religious household, the child of pastors. Her birth name is Kathryn Elizabeth Hudson. She pulled her stage name from a shortened version of her first name, Kathryn, and her mother’s maiden name, Perry. She also wanted to refrain from being mistaken as a well-known actress with a similar name, Kate Hudson.
10 Lady Gaga
The revolutionary cultural icon, crooner of “Bad Romance”, and flamboyant Fame Monster has been known to go for shock value. This is why it does not astonish that she chose her current stage name over the one that’s listed on her birth certificate. According to Flybe Magazine, the singer who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, got the inspiration for the name from ex-boyfriend and former music producer, Robert Fusari. He thought she sounded like Freddie Mercury of Queen so he began to call her Gaga after their song “Radio Gaga”. Whatever the root, Gaga’s stage name seems to suit her extraordinary presence so much better.
9 Lana Del Rey
While she became an overnight singing sensation with the release of “Video Games” in 2011, Lana Del Rey’s musical history goes back much further than that. This songstress actually created a moniker that she thought fit her personality and her style of music. She was born in New York as Elizabeth Grant and set out singing for fun in clubs around the city. She was originally known by her birth name, Lizzy Grant, and also Sparkle Rope Jump Queen and Lizzy Grant and the Phenomena. She told British Vogue that she chose a new name to reflect her current direction: “I was going to a Miami a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba…[Lana Del Rey]sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue.”
Another formidable newcomer to the music industry who doesn’t go by her real name is Lorde. The soulful teenager took home two Grammy’s this year thanks to her wildly popular single “Royals”, but the singer-songwriter who hailed from New Zealand was born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor. She goes by the stage name Lorde because she feels it has a certain aristocratic grandeur to it that is much different than her real name. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a one-named alias?
7 Meg Ryan
The actress who stole our hearts in the all-time favorite romance film When Harry Met Sally… started her life simply known as Peggy. Shocking, of course. Her birth name is a lengthy Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. We don’t blame her for changing it since that is quite the mouthful. But, why Meg Ryan? She took a liking to Meg instead of Peggy and switched to using her mother’s maiden name instead of Hyra.
6 Miley Cyrus
The child star of famed Disney show Hannah Montana who recently shed her youth in a huge way with raunchy twerking and barely-there get-ups was born with the sweet, gently name of Destiny Hope Cyrus. Daughter of legendary “Achy Breaky Heart” musician, Billy Ray Cyrus was called “Smiley” as small child because she kept a grin plastered on her face. The “S” was eventually dropped and the moniker of a star was born. With the completely new vibe that is her newest album “Bangerz”, we expect an even greater evolution for Miley over the next several years.
5 Nicki Minaj
Born in Trinidad and Tobago as Onika Tanya Maraj, Ms. Nicki has loaded up quite a few awards since her rise on the scene: BET’s Best Female Hip-Hop Artist in 2010, People’s Choice Awards: Favorite Hip-Hop Artist in 2013, and the first female hip-hop artist to make Billboard’s #1 since 2003. The fierce and extremely eccentric rapper has been known by many names—both Cookie and Harajuku Barbie—before settling on her current title as Nicki Minaj which as suggested to her by a former manager.
4 Olivia Wilde
The blue-eyed, husky-voiced star who rocked us with her performance in TRON: Legacy began life under the Olivia Jane Cockburn. Perhaps, her family name itself influenced her to change it once she made clear her aspiration to go in the opposite direction of the family trade of journalism into acting. Olivia headed up all the naughty one-liners sure to come her way with fame by changing her name to Wilde after she played the high school role of Gwendolen in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
Everyone knows pop singer Pink for her couldn’t-care-less, aggressive attitude and propensity to tell it like it is in music, but this over-the-top, chart-topping musician started out in a small Pennsylvania town as Alecia Beth Moore. The rebellious singer’s stage name which also influences the color of her hair was derived from a character from the movie Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink. Another reason? The girly shade also brings to mind a completely opposite persona since the star has always been known as a tomboy.
2 Portia de Rossi
Australian actress Portia de Rossi who rose to fame as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal began life as Amanda Lee Rodgers. We know her as the wife of Ellen DeGeneres but it seems her name change goes back much further and stems from her deep-seated confusion of her sexuality at an early age. Apparently, blonde TV star changed her name to Portia at 15 after The Merchant of Venice heroine. She chose the Italian surname de Rossi because it sounded mysterious.
1 Tina Fey
The woman who juggles various roles—writer, producer, and actress—in addition to being the witty comedian who incites knee-slapping, bowled over laughter is legally named Elizabeth Stamatina Fey. The head writer turned performer at Saturday Night Live and star of hit TV sitcom, 30 Rock, and movies such as Baby Mama, shortened her name mainly for ease and aesthetics. No worries, her three-syllable moniker will always come to mind when we think of comedy.