Sometimes you need to change your name to make it as a star in Hollywood or the music business.
When Michael Keaton accepted his Best Actor Golden Globe for “Birdman,” he told the crowd his birth name was actually Michael Douglas.
He changed his name early in his career to avoid confusion with the actor and TV host Mike Douglas. He is believed to have chosen Keaton because of comedian Buster Keaton.
Similarly, plenty of today’s biggest stars don’t go by their birth names, such as Reese Witherspoon, Mila Kunis, and Drake.
But you probably aren’t familiar with how they ended up with their current monikers.
Here are 45 stars who have changed their names:
Reese Witherspoon — Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
The Oscar nominee traded her first and middle name in for her mother’s maiden name, Reese.
Mila Kunis — Milena Markovna Kunis
At 7, Milena Markovna Kunis and her family moved from Ukraine to Los Angeles.
Mila’s mother, Elvira, and father, Mark, soon enrolled her in acting classes and allowed Mila to shorten her name when she started booking her first roles on “Days of Our Lives” and “7th Heaven” and playing a young Angelina Jolie in “Gia.”
Katy Perry — Kathryn “Katy” Hudson
Before she was a chart-topping singer, Perry was producing Christian music under her birth name, Kathryn Hudson. She released the gospel record “Katy Hudson” under the former label Red Hill Records before adopting her mother’s maiden name to avoid confusion with actress Kate Hudson.
Lorde — Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor
Talk about a mouthful! The 18-year-old Grammy winner explained how she chose her stage name to Interview magazine.
“I thought ‘Lord’ was super rad, but really masculine — ever since I was a little kid, I have been really into royals and aristocracy,” Lorde told Interview magazine. “So to make ‘Lord’ more feminine, I just put an ‘e’ on the end! Some people think it’s religious, but it’s not.”
Joaquin Phoenix — Joaquin Rafael Bottom/Leaf Phoenix
Joaquin Rafael Bottom is the third of five children, all with equally interesting names, including River (1970 to 1993), Rain (born 1973), Liberty (born 1976), Summer, and a half-sister Jodean.
After Joaquin’s parents, John Lee and Arlyn Bottom, married in 1969, the couple joined the religious cult the Children of God and traveled around South America. But they soon became disenchanted with the cult and moved back to the US in 1978, and they changed their last name to “Phoenix” to symbolize a “new beginning.”
Around this same time, a young Joaquin began calling himself “Leaf,” desiring to have a similar nature-related name as those of his siblings. In a past Jay Leno interview, Joaquin said he had originally called himself “Antleaf” as a child.
Leaf would become the name he would use as a child actor until, at 15, he changed it back to Joaquin.
Natalie Portman — Natalie Herschlag
After being born in Jerusalem in 1981 to an Israeli gynecologist father named Avner Hershlag and American mother named Shelley Stevens — her mother’s family changed its last name from “Edelstein” to “Stevens” when arriving in the US from Russia and Austria — Portman now holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.
Christopher Walken — Ronald Walken
According to a 2000 Salon article, Walken was originally named after actor Ronald Colman.
The change in name came about after singerMonique Van Vooren, whom Walken worked for at the time, renamed him Christopher for no apparent reason. The name stuck, though his friends still call him “Ronnie.”
Louis C.K. — Louis Szekely
The comedian’s Hungarian surname is pronounced SEK-kay, but after people had a tough time pronouncing his name, he decided to change it to an easier English translation: SEE-kay.
Whoopi Goldberg — Caryn Elaine Johnson
The actress and “The View” correspondent didn’t become Whoopi Goldberg until friends noticed that, while working in a theater in San Diego, she had a bit of a flatulence problem. They began calling her Whoopi after the whoopee cushion.
“If you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go,” Whoopi has said. “So people used to say to me, ‘You’re like a whoopee cushion.’ And that’s where the name came from.”
Whoopi’s mother felt her daughter should take a Jewish-sounding last name to advance her Hollywood career. And thus Whoopi Goldberg was born.
Drake — Aubrey Drake Graham
When he played wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian TV show “Degrassi,” the actor went by the name Aubrey Graham. But when the Toronto native switched his career focus to rapping in 2009 after signing a recording contract with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment, he started using one name only: Drake.
Miley Cyrus — Destiny Hope Cyrus
Cyrus’ father, Billy Ray, gave her the nickname “Smiley” to match her cheery persona.
Over the years, the nickname became shortened to “Miley.” Cyrus legally changed her name in 2008.
Julianne Moore — Julie Smith
The Oscar-nominated actress told The New York Times in 2001 she decided to take up acting after a suggestion by her drama teacher. Moore didn’t want to change her name but said it was too popular to stand out.
Instead, she adopted a name that honored her parents.
”There was already a Julie Smith, a Julie Anne Smith, there was everything,” Moore told The Times. ”My father’s middle name is Moore; my mother’s name is Anne. So I just slammed the Anne onto the Julie. That way, I could use both of their names and not hurt anyone’s feelings. But it’s horrible to change your name. I’d been Julie Smith my whole life, and I didn’t want to change it.”
Jamie Foxx — Eric Marlon Bishop
Rumor has it Foxx picked an androgynous name because he noticed female comedians were often picked over men to perform at comedy clubs.
Nicki Minaj — Onika Tanya Maraj
The rapper doesn’t even like her stage name. According to an interview with The Guardian, Minaj grew up with nicknames “Nicki” and “Cooky.” “Nicki Minaj” was the name given to her during one of her earliest production deals.
“Somebody changed my name,” Minaj said. “One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be ‘Minaj’ and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.”
Ludacris — Christopher Brian Bridges
The rapper has said the stage name explains his split personality.
“The nickname is something I made up,” said Ludacris. “Part of me is calm, cool, and collective, while the other side is just beyond crazy.”
Before becoming a rapper, Ludacris was known as “Chris Luva Luva” on Atlanta’s Hot 97.
Meg Ryan — Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra
Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, to Roman Catholic parents Susan Jordan and Harry Hyra, Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra changed her name to Meg Ryan after she dropped out of New York University one semester early to pursue her budding acting career.
Ben Kingsley — Krishna Pandit Bhanji
Kingsley revealed on “Inside the Actors Studio” that he feared a foreign name could hurt his career.
Oprah Winfrey — Orpah Winfrey
In an interview with the American Academy of Achievement in 1991, Winfrey revealed that she was named after a biblical figure, but her name was misspelled on her birth certificate:
My Aunt Ida had chosen the name, but nobody really knew how to spell it, so it went down as ‘Orpah’ on my birth certificate, but people didn’t know how to pronounce it, so they put the ‘p’ before the ‘r’ in every place else other than the birth certificate. On the birth certificate it is Orpah, but then it got translated to Oprah, so here we are.
Charlie Sheen / Martin Sheen — Carlos Irwin Estevez / Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez
With his paternal grandparents originally immigrants from Spain and Ireland, Sheen wanted to take on a more American name. His children share the Sheen surname.
According to a 2003 “Inside the Actors Studio” interview, Martin Sheen revealed that he took his name from CBS casting director Robert Dale Martin, who gave him his big break, and a Catholic televangelist, Fulton J. Sheen, who he thought was a great actor. Unlike his son Charlie, Martin never legally changed his name.
Emilio Estevez (right), of course, kept his name.
Dakota Fanning — Hannah Dakota Fanning
The youngest nominee ever for a Screen Actors Guild Award, Hannah Dakota Fanning goes by her middle name professionally instead of her legal first name.
Fanning, whose mother, Heather Arrington, played professional tennis — her father, Dakota’s grandfather, was NFL player Rick Arrington — and father, Steven Fanning, a former minor-league baseball player, is of Irish and German ancestry.
Michael Caine — Maurice Joseph Micklewhite
According to IMDb, Caine changed his name after advice from an agent.
In 2009, Caine explained renaming himself after Humphrey Bogart’s character in “The Caine Mutiny” to New York magazine:
“Bogart was my hero, and even though he came from a sort of snobby, aristocratic family — he was a distant relation of Princess Diana — when I was a kid I thought he was a tough guy,” said Caine. “Any person with my working-class background would be a villain or a comic cipher, usually badly played, and with a rotten accent. There weren’t a lot of guys in England for me to look up to.”
Tina Fey — Elizabeth Stamatina Fey
That’s right. Fey shares the name of her “30 Rock” Liz Lemon character. Her stage name is just a shortened version of her middle name.
Bono — Paul David Hewson
The U2 frontman and humanitarian we all know as Bono wasn’t actually born with just one name. Before he became famous, the Irish musician was known by the name Paul David Hewson. But his wife still reminds Bono of his roots, going by the name Ali Hewson.
The name Bono was originally a nickname, short for “Bono Vox” meaning “good voice” in Latin, said to be given by his friend Gavin Friday.
Lady Gaga — Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, 26, was born and raised in New York City.
In the October 2013 issue of Elle magazine, the singer said she changed her name because Stefani was “a perpetually tortured artist” who could not be in public.
Chevy Chase — Cornelius Crane Chase
Cornelius Crane Chase was named after his mother’s adoptive father, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, heir to the successful New York company Crane Plumbing.
The nickname Chevy was given by his grandmother, from the medieval English “The Ballad of Chevy Chase.” As a descendant of the Scottish Clan Douglas, she felt the name Chevy seemed fitting.
Portia de Rossi — Amanda Lee Rogers
The “Arrested Development” actress toldAdvocate.com in 2005 that she changed her name legally at 15 to reinvent herself after coming out as gay.
The name Portia is from a Shakespearean character in “The Merchant of Venice.” She chose an Italian last name:
De Rossi because I was Australian and I thought that an exotic Italian name would somehow suit me more than Amanda Rogers. When you live in Australia, Europe is so far away and so fascinating, so stylish and cultured and sophisticated.
Vin Diesel — Mark Sinclair Vincent
The “Fast and Furious” star told Conan O’Brien on “Late Night” that he changed his name while working as a bouncer at New York nightclubs. Vin is a shortened version of the actor’s last name.
Diesel was a nickname from friends who said he ran on “diesel” fuel because he had so much energy.
Jodie Foster — Alicia Christian Foster
Foster’s estranged brother Buddy says her name change to “Jodie” came as the result of a nickname, the code “Jo D” for their mother’s partner, Josephina Dominguez, in his book, “Foster Child: A Biography of Jodie Foster.”
Spike Jonze — Adam Spiegel
The director of the critically acclaimed film “Her” got his pseudonym from coworkers of a Rockville BMX store because “he’d come to work without showering, and his hair was usually sticking straight up,” according to New York magazine.
Nina Dobrev — Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva
Nina Dobrev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, as Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva. At 2, she moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she would be raised. She changed her nameto make it shorter and easier to remember.
Bruno Mars — Peter Gene Hernandez
Mars changed his Puerto Rican name “to avoid being stereotyped” into performing solely Latin and Spanish music, according to GQ.
Where did the name come from? Bruno was the nickname his father gave him at 2 because he reminded him of his favorite wrestler, Bruno Sammartino.
The singer told Rap-Up.com that the last name was to give him an edge:
I felt like I didn’t have no pizzazz, and a lot of girls say I’m out of this world, so I was like I guess I’m from Mars.
Kat Dennings – Katherine Litwack
The “2 Broke Girls” star changed her name because she didn’t think it was pretty. She also likes to use her real last name to test people who claim to know her.
Elton John — Reginald Kenneth Dwight
Dwight teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin and changed his name to Elton John, merging the names of saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.
Lucy Hale — Karen Lucille Hale
Her name is actually Karen Lucille Hale, but she had been raised using her middle name as her first.
Woody Allen — Allan Stewart Konigsberg
At 17, Woody Allen legally changed his nameto Heywood Allen. He then began to be called Woody for short and he kept it.
Emma Stone – Emily Jean Stone
Emma Stone changed her name because she wanted to be more like a Spice Girl, who she looked up to.
“My name was taken at the Screen Actors Guild by one of the girls on ‘Australia’s Next Top Model,’ when I was 16,” she told MTV.
The “Spider-Man” star explained why she picked Emma: “It’s close to my real name and then also I had this little thing that recently happened with the Spice Girls talking to me.”
Jason Derulo — Jason Joel Desrouleaux
The singer decided to change the spelling of his last name, but keep its same pronunciation.
Faith Hill — Audrey Faith Perry
The “This Kiss” singer kept her last name from her first marriage to Daniel Hill. Her career took off just after they wed and she was already known by her fans by that name. As for Faith, it was Hill’s middle name.
Stevie Wonder — Stevland Hardaway Judkins
Motown Records boss Berry Gordy renamed the singer Little Stevie Wonder. He would later drop the “Little” part as he got older.
Lana Del Rey — Elizabeth Grant
After a failed album, Elizabeth Grant neededa new start. Del Rey herself has had two stories surrounding her stage name. The first being that it was created by a group of managers and lawyers. In the second, she said she wanted a name that had a Spanish element to it because she was performing in Miami a lot. She wanted something that felt glamorous and reminded her of the sea.
Frank Ocean — Christopher Edwin Breau
Frank took his inspiration from Frank Sinatra for his first name. His last name was taken from the “Ocean’s Eleven” movie.
Carmen Electra — Tara Leigh Patrick
armen Electra signed a record contract with Prince in 1991. It was he who encouraged herto change her name. Reportedly, he said that she looked like a “Carmen.”
Ice Cube — O’Shea Jackson Sr.
Ice Cube’s older brother gave him the name, because he felt like he was acting too cool for his age.
Dita Von Teese — Heather Sweet
Dita Von Teese adopted her first name from silent-film-star Dita Parlo. Von Teese arrived when she did her Playboy shoot in December 2002. She was required to have a surname, so she picked this one from the white pages. Later, they misspelled it in the magazine and she decided to keep it.
Iggy Azalea — Amethyst Amelia Kelly
Clearly, Iggy couldn’t be a tough rapper with her original name, so she changed it. Her first name comes from her dog, Iggy. He had gotten into a fight with a snake and she thought he was a goner. When he recovered, she wore a nameplate necklace in his honor. Soon, others began assuming her name was Iggy. She decided to go with it.
As for Azalea, its origins are pretty close to home, too. Her grandfather insisted she needed something more than one name. So, she took the name of the street she and her family lived on.