A-Z of celebrity name changers

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What's in a name, you ask? Well, rather a lot when it comes to the arduous task of becoming rich and famous. In the wonderful world of celebrity, a host of personalities have chosen to change their names to something more memorable, catchy or simply more pronounceable. Read on to find out who's ditched their birth name in favour of a more showbiz-friendly moniker and reinvented themselves in the process...

Click on an image below to launch the gallery. Are the name changes better, worse or merely bizarre? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section, below.

Picture credit: Getty Images

  • Celebrity name changers: Agyness Deyn

    Agyness Deyn used to be known as plain old Laura Hollins.

    "Lauras can be childlike, they're naturally inquisitive and might love dressing up, as this Laura did, but coupled with Hollins, it was never going to work," said Laurence Y Payg, the name analyst who claims to be behind Agyness' name change - so kick-starting her career.

  • Celebrity name changers: Audrey Hepburn

    Screen sensation Audrey Hepburn was christened Audrey Kathleen Ruston. Her mother changed her name to Edda in Nazi-occupied Holland during the war, fearing Audrey sounded too British. After the war ended, her father unearthed evidence of the family's Hepburn ancestry, making her Audrey Kathleen Hepburn-Ruston - later shortened for the big-screen.

  • Celebrity name changers: Billie Holiday

    Billie Holiday began life as Eleanora Fagan Gough. Her name change was influenced by her love of silent movie star, Billie Dove.

  • Celebrity name changers: Bob Dylan

    Once upon a time, Bob Dylan was known as the rather less rock 'n' roll-sounding Robert Allen Zimmerman. He changed his name in the late teens, shrewdly judging it to be more cool. Some believed it was driven by an admiration for the poet Dylan Thomas, although Bob Dylan denied this.

  • Celebrity name changers: Bruce Willis

    You can hardly imagine Walter Bruce Willis playing the tough guy in Die Hard, could you? Little wonder Bruce ditched his first name.

  • Celebrity name changers: Carmen Electra

    Carmen Electra was persuaded to change her name from the non-sensational sounding Tara Patrick in the early 1990s, a couple of years before her film career took off in earnest.

  • Celebrity name changers: Cary Grant

    Screen legend Cary Grant began life as Archibald Alexander Leach. When Paramount signed him in 1932, they insisted he changed his name to something more glamorous - and a movie star was born.

  • Celebrity name changers: Charlie Sheen

    Charlie Sheen adopted his father Martin Sheen's stage surname, as well as an English first name - he was born Carlos Irwin Estévez. However, unlike the rest of his family, his name change is legally binding and he passed it onto his children.

  • Celebrity name changers: Cher

    This best-selling artist legally changed her name from Cherilyn Sarkisian to Cher - with no surname or middle name - in 1979. However, she had been known as Cher, of Sonny and Cher fame, for over a decade before that.

  • Celebrity name changers: Courtney Love

    Courtney Love started out as Courtney Michelle Harrison. She suggested she would change her name again in an interview with NME in 2010, saying, "Courtney Love is dead. We've all decided we don't like her any more."

    But her spokesperson later dismissed the notion: "She's not changing her name, unless it's to Courtney Love Mellencamp or Big Baby Jesus."

  • Celebrity name changers: David Bowie

    Way back in time, David Bowie was known as David Robert Jones. In 1965 he "seriously wanted a name change" and experimented with several, including Tom Jones.

    He eventually settled on Bowie because it was "the ultimate American knife."

  • Celebrity name changers: Demi Moore

    Demi Moore started life as the impressive-sounding Demetria Gene Guynes - her first name was inspired by a shampoo bottle her mother saw in a magazine. She got her present surname from her first husband Freddy Moore.

  • Celebrity name changers: Dido

    Dido was born Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong - but was nicknamed Dido from childhood.

    "To be called one thing and christened another is actually very confusing and annoying. It's one of the most irritating things that my parents did to me," she later said.

  • Celebrity name changers: Dita Von Teese

    Heather Renée Sweet landed upon her genius stage name via a less-than-logical route. "Dita" payed homage to the Burlesque star's muse, silent film actress, Dita Parlo. The "Von Teese" bit was selected at random from a phone book.

  • Celebrity name changers: Elle MacPherson

    Eleanor Nancy Gow is nice enough but not the sort of name you associate with a supermodel.

    Yet Elle MacPherson is not entirely contrived; MacPherson is Elle's stepfather's surname, adopted during her school days due to a clerical error.

  • Celebrity name changers: Elton John

    Elton John started life as the undeniably brilliant Reginald Kenneth Dwight. In his early days as a musician he went simply by the name of "Reggie," before changing to Elton John in the mid-1960s. The moniker was inspired by the saxophonist and frontman of Bluesology (and his one-time band mates), Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.

  • Celebrity name changers: Eminem

    Marshall Bruce Mathers III became Eminem in stages: he first took the stage name "M&M" as a play on his initials, before later writing it phonetically.

  • Celebrity name changers: Etta James

    Blues icon Johnny Otis discovered Jamesetta Hawkins aged 16 and inverted her first name to create one that would make a lasting legacy.

  • Celebrity name changers: Freddie Mercury

    The Queen frontman was born Farrokh Bulsara to Persian parents. His friends began calling him Freddie at his English boarding school. In 1970, he changed his surname to Mercury - around about the same time as he changed the name of the band he had just joined from Smile to Queen.

  • Celebrity name changers: George Michael

    Wham! star George Michael was first known as Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, with a Greek Cypriot father and a British mother. With worldwide fame beckoning in 1982, he changed his name to something more accessible.

  • Celebrity name changers: Jamie Foxx

    The Oscar-winning actor was born Eric Marlon Bishop. He changed his name in his early career as a stand-up: he chose Foxx after one of his favourite comics, Redd Foxx, and Jamie because it was androgynous.

    He found female comics were often allowed to perform before male comics when names were read out on a list, and believed the ambiguity of the name would put him at an advantage on the comedy circuit.

  • Celebrity name changers: Jodie Foster

    Alicia Christian Foster was nicknamed Jodie by her siblings as a child; a name that stuck throughout her long and celebrated movie career.

  • Celebrity name changers: Julie Andrews

    Julia Elizabeth Wells changed her surname as a child, to simplify her singing act with her mother and stepfather, Ted Andrews. She also authored a number of children's books under the pen name Julie Edwards.

  • Celebrity name changers: Katy Perry

    It was a case of too many stars in too close proximity for Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, when she first started out under the stage name Katy Hudson. Fearing that she would be confused with the actress Kate Hudson, the singer swiftly changed her surname to her mother's maiden name, Perry.

  • Celebrity name changers: Kid Rock

    Kid Rock changed his name from Robert Richie when he was just a teen - but has since lived to regret it.

    "It's the worst name in the world," he told Esquire. "The only person who had a dumber name than me was the Fresh Prince. Hey, it sounded like a cool rap name when I was 16, but it stuck, and now it's me. I'll be an 88-year-old man, 'Call me the Kid!'"

  • Celebrity name changers: Lady Gaga

    Music producer Rob Fusari helped Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta morph into Lady Gaga - a transformation inspired by the Queen song Radio Ga Ga.

    Legend has it that Fusari sent Gaga a text about the song that used predictive words to change "radio" to "Lady" - however, others claim the title came about as a result of a marketing meeting.

  • Celebrity name changers: Lana Del Rey

    Elizabeth Woolridge Grant began performing as Lizzy Grant before hitting on her stage name.

    "I wanted a name I could shape the music towards," she told Vogue. "I was going to Miami quite a lot at the time, speaking a lot of Spanish with my friends from Cuba - Lana Del Rey reminded us of the glamour of the seaside. It sounded gorgeous coming off the tip of the tongue."

  • Celebrity name changers: Marilyn Monroe

    Marilyn came into the world as Norma Jeane Mortenson. As her career in the limelight rocketed, 20th Century Fox suggested the stage name Carol Lind - although she disliked it.

    She settled on her mother's maiden name Monroe, with teams drawing up a series of potential first names, from which Marilyn was chosen. Marilyn obtained a licence to officially change her name in 1956 and so legend goes, asked how to spell it when she first performed an autograph.

  • Celebrity name changers: Meg Ryan

    Finding Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra a bit of a mouthful (we're guessing), Meg changed her name when she first started acting - Ryan was her maternal grandmother's surname and she opted for Meg instead of Peggy, her nickname at the time.

  • Celebrity name changers: Michael Caine

    Who knew Maurice Joseph Micklewhite would go onto win two Oscars? His stage name came about purely by chance; first it was Michael Scott - but with another actor of the same name trending at the time, he was forced to re-think.

    Talking to his agent from a phone box, Michael spotted ads for 1954 movie The Caine Mutiny and landed on a gem.

  • Celebrity name changers: Natalie Portman

    Natalie Hershlag was born with dual American and Israeli citizenship. She took the screen surname Portman from her grandmother's maiden name.

  • Celebrity name changers: Nicolas Cage

    Most stars change their names to boast their profile; but Nicolas Kim Coppola adapted his to downgrade attention. As a young actor and the nephew of film director Francis Ford Coppola, he wanted to avoid charges of nepotism.

    Nicolas' new name was inspired by Marvel Comics superhero Luke Cage.

  • Celebrity name changers: Portia de Rossi

    Amanda Lee Rogers fancied a name change at the tender age of 15; drawing from Shakespeare, she named herself after a character from The Merchant of Venice, teamed with an Italian surname.

    In 2010, she changed her name once more to Portia Lee James DeGeneres, reflecting her original middle name Lee and her marriage to chat show host Ellen DeGeneres.

  • Celebrity name changers: Queen Latifah

    Dana Owens chose her regal stage name as a reaction to the negative portrayal of women in rap songs.

    "We didn't treat ourselves like queens. We made bad decisions with men and thought we weren't beautiful just because we were told we were too fat, too skinny or our butt was too big. We were tearing away at our self-esteem," she said in 2003.

    "(So) that was the name I chose, but my mom laughed at me. 'Queen? I'm the queen, I raised you,' she said. So she is the real queen and just lets me borrow the title. And she still makes me take out the trash when I go home."

  • Celebrity name changers: Rita Hayworth

    Margarita Carmen Cansino was born in New York to a couple of Spanish and Irish-English dancers. She was signed by an LA studio in the 1930s under the name of Rita Cansino. This was later changed to Rita Hayworth, using her mother's maiden name, in an attempt to shrug off her exotic background and conform to that era's concept of a classic American screen icon.

  • Celebrity name changers: Sigourney Weaver

    Sigourney Weaver began life as Susan Alexandra Weaver, her first name shared with her mother's best friend.

    In 1963, aged 14, she changed it to Sigourney, inspired by a minor character in Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

  • Celebrity name changers: Tom Cruise

    Originally known by the grand title Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, Tom Cruise shortened his name at the request of one of his first agents in a gamble that evidently paid off.

  • Celebrity name changers: Whoopi Goldberg

    Caryn Elaine Johnson altered her name in part thanks to a whoopee cushion - and who else could say that?

    "If you get a little gassy, you've got to let it go. So people used to say to me, 'You're like a whoopee cushion.' And that's where the name came from," the comedian-turned-actress explained.

    Her mother changed her surname to Goldberg, figuring that a Jewish title would allow her daughter to progress further in Hollywood.

  • Celebrity name changers: Winona Ryder

    Winona Laura Horowitz was named after the town in which she was born - Winona, Minnesota. She chose the stage name Ryder in homage to the musician Mitch Ryder of Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.

  • Celebrity name changers: Woody Allen

    He began life as Allan Stewart Konigsberg, but by the age of 17, the award-winning actor and director had legally changed his name to Heywood Allen - and referred to himself on a day-to-day basis as Woody.

    The decision came about because he wanted to become a comedian.


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