What’s in a name? A lot, actually. A name becomes a large part of our identity. When we win an award or achieve something, we take pride seeing our name on display. It’s also an important part of our identity. Our name is on our drivers license, passport and COVID-19 vaccination card.

Sometimes little kids and young adults dream about seeing their name on an award or even on a TV screen. It’s easy to assume that today’s celebrities must feel a sense of joy and pride seeing their names in the credits of movies or hearing their name announced at awards shows.

We’re sure they do, but the names we see in the credits or hear announced at awards shows aren’t always the names these celebrities were given at birth. In fact, many celebrities have chosen to take stage names. It’s possible that they dreamt of hearing their name announced for an award, but that name that is announced when they win might be a completely different name than the one they went by in grade school.

Sometimes the name change is a personal choice. Other times, a producer or executive suggests a different name. Read on to discover 21 celebrities who go by stage names. You might be surprised what their real names are.

  1. Alicia Keys

    Her real name is Alicia Augello-Cook. She changed her last name to Keys because keys open doors, and it’s also in honor of piano keys.

  2. Meghan Markle

    While the duchess didn’t exactly change her name, she doesn’t go by her first name. Her real name is Rachel Meghan Markle. Meghan is her middle name.

  3. Brad Pitt

    Like Meghan Markle, Brad Pitt also goes by his middle name instead of his first name. His real name is William Bradley Pitt. Back in 2018, Page Six reported that when Pitt flirts with a woman, he introduces himself as William. We’re pretty sure she’d still recognize him.

  4. Lady Gaga

    It’s probably no surprise that Lady Gaga is not the name on the star’s birth certificate, but do you know her real name? It’s Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The name was inspired by the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga.”

  5. Miley Cyrus

    Yes, Cyrus is her real last name, but her parents did not name her Miley. She was named Destiny Hope Cyrus, but she smiled so much that her parents used to call her “smiley.” Eventually, it was shorted to Miley. The name stuck, and she legally changed her name in 2008.

  6. Rihanna

    Obviously any celebrity who goes by one name has a last name you may not know; however, in the case of Rihanna, her stage name is not her first name. Her real name is actually Robyn Rihanna Fenty. While the general public knows her as Rihanna, her friends and family still call her Robyn.

  7. Reese Witherspoon

    Her real name is Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon. Reese was her mother’s maiden name, and she decided to use it as her stage name.

  8. Emma Stone

    When Emma Stone was first trying to make her mark on Hollywood, she went by her real name, Emily Stone; however, there was another actress named Emily Stone. To avoid confusion, she decided to go by Emma instead of Emily. She chose a name close to her real name, and she explained to W Magazine that her friends call her “Em,” so the nickname works with either name.

  9. Olivia Wilde

    Like Alicia Keys, Olivia Wilde changed her last name to one she thought would be more appropriate for the stage. Her real name is Olivia Cockburn. (That must have been painful in her school days.) She chose the name Wilde in honor of Oscar Wilde. The actress stared in her high school’s rendition of Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

  10. Ashton Kutcher

    Like many other celebrities, Ashton Kutcher doesn’t use his real first name. In this case, his real name is Christopher Ashton Kutcher. Ashton is his middle name. It seems that lots of celebrities choose to use their middle name as if it’s their first name.

  11. Spike Lee

    No, Spike Lee’s mom did not look at her newborn baby and decide to call him Spike; however, she did give him the nickname “Spike” while he was still young because she thought he was “tough.” His real name is Shelton Lee.

  12. Whoopi Goldberg

    Her real name is Caryn Johnson. Whoopi started out as a not so flattering nickname. The star explained on “The Graham Norton Show” that she “was a bit of a farter.” She added that “people would say I was like a Whoopee cushion.”

  13. Bruno Mars

    His real name is Peter Gene Hernandez, but Bruno has been his nickname since he was a toddler. People thought he looked like wrestler Bruno Sammartino. He changed his last name so that it wouldn’t sound Spanish. When he was going by Bruno Hernandez, people wanted him to perform Latin or Spanish music.

  14. Helen Mirren

    At birth, she was Ilyena Lydia Mironoff. Her dad decided to change the family’s last name to Mirren back in the 1950s. The actress later decided to change her first name to something simpler when she first started acting.

  15. John Legend

    He may be a legend, but no, that’s not his real last name. He was born John Roger Stephens. His friends gave him the nickname John Legend, and he decided to go with it and try to live up to the name.

  16. Katy Perry

    Kate Perry’s real name is Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson. She created the alter ego Katy Perry during her teen years because she felt more confident pretending she was someone else. She told The Guardian, “I didn’t want to be Katheryn Hudson. I hated that, it was too scary for me, so I decided to be someone else.”

  17. Julianne Moore

    Her real name is Julie Anne Smith. When she first started acting, there was another actress going by Julie Smith, and there was another actress going by Julie Anne Smith. In order to join the Screen Actors Guild, she had to pick a different name. Julianne is kind of a combination of her real first and middle names. Moore was her father’s middle name.

  18. Tina Fey


    Her real name is Elizabeth Stamatina Fey. Like many celebrities, she doesn’t use her first name. In this case, Tina is a shorter version of her middle name.

  19. P!nk

    Obviously her parents didn’t name her a color and leave off the last name. The singer’s real name is Alecia Beth Moore. She chose the name P!nk from the character Mr. Pink in the movie “Reservoir Dogs.”

  20. Mindy Kaling

    Her real name is Vera Mindy Chokalingam. She has never really liked her first name, which she thinks of as “an old Russian lady’s name,” so she has always gone by her middle name instead. When she started acting, she shortened her last name, just using the middle part.

  21. Mandy Moore

    She didn’t change her name much. Her real name is Amanda Leigh Moore. Mandy is a fairly common nickname for Amanda, and Mandy Moore has a nice ring to it.