27 Stars With Secret Past Identities: Their Surprising Birth Names Revealed

Why do many Hollywood actors choose to swap their birth names for ones they’ve invented? Here are 27 stars who’ve shared why they reinvented themselves with stage names and simplified birth names for their careers on the big screen.

Vin Diesel

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The action star we know as Vin Diesel was born Mark Sinclair. He adopted the name Vin Diesel during his teenage years before his Hollywood career.

Tom Cruise

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The actor known as Tom Cruise was initially named Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. At his agent’s suggestion, he started using his middle name instead.

Jennifer Aniston

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While many know her as Jennifer Aniston, her real name is Jennifer Linn Anastassakis. Her Greek father, also an actor, Americanized their surname when he entered the entertainment industry.

Natalie Portman

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Before achieving fame, Natalie Portman was Natalie Hershlag. She reportedly took her grandmother’s maiden name to maintain her privacy as a child actor.

Kirk Douglas

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Kirk Douglas, who recently passed away, was born Issur Danielovitch. He changed his name when he entered Hollywood, feeling it was more suitable for show business. In hindsight, he expressed regret over not keeping his original name.

Alicia Keys

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The singer and pianist Alicia Keys changed her name from Alicia Augello to reflect her love for music. Keys symbolizes her skill on the piano.

Diane Keaton

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The actress famous for her role in Annie Hall was born Diane Hall. She took her mother’s surname, Keaton, to avoid confusion with another actress named Diane Hall.

Meg Ryan

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Meg Ryan’s birth name was Margret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. When she joined the Screen Actors Guild, she chose to use her grandmother’s maiden name, Ryan, for simplicity.

Whoopi Goldberg

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Whoopi Goldberg, previously named Caryn Elaine Johnson, embraced her unique nickname. She adopted the nickname “Whoopie Cushion” due to a flatulence incident on stage, and it stuck.

Elton John

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Reginald Kenneth Dwight became Elton John, taking inspiration from blues musicians Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. He legally changed his name in 1972, adding “Hercules” as his middle name.

Jamie Foxx

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Comedian Eric Marlon Bishop changed his name to Jamie Foxx after witnessing female comedians getting called first during open mic nights.

Tina Fey

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Elizabeth Stamatina Fey decided to go by her middle name, Tina, to make it easier for people to say and remember.

Elizabeth Banks

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To avoid confusion with another actress named Elizabeth Mitchell, Elizabeth Irene Mitchell changed her name to Elizabeth Banks after joining the Screen Actors Guild.

Demi Moore

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Born Demetria Gene Guynes, the actress shortened her first name to Demi and adopted her first husband’s surname, Moore.

Joaquin Phoenix

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Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock.

The Oscar-winning actor changed his name from Joaquín Rafael Bottom to Joaquin Phoenix. He went through different name variations, including “Leaf,” before eventually returning to his birth name, Joaquin.

John Legend

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John Roger Stephens became John Legend after friends started calling him “legend.” He embraced it, and so was born his stage name.

Katy Perry

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Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson chose the stage name Katy Perry to avoid confusion with actress Kate Hudson. She originally released music under her birth name, Katy Hudson.

Nicki Minaj

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Trinidad-born rapper Onika Tanya Maraj shortened and modified her name to create her stage name, Nicki Minaj.

Charlie Sheen

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Carlos Irwin Estévez, the youngest son of Martin Sheen, decided to use a variation of his father’s stage name for his own career.

Miley Cyrus

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Destiny Hope Cyrus transitioned to Miley Cyrus while on the show Hannah Montana to shed her child star image.

Queen Latifah

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Dana Owens adopted the name Latifah as a child and later added “Queen” when signing her first record deal.

Winona Ryder

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Winona Laura Horowitz selected Ryder as her stage name when asked how she wanted her name to appear in the credits for her debut film, Lucas.

Michael Keaton

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Michael Douglas was already an established actor, so the actor born Michael John Douglas opted for the name Michael Keaton to join the actor’s union.

Ice Cube

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While the world knows the rapper by his stage name, his family still calls him by his birth name, O’Shea Jackson. The rapper adopted the name Ice Cube when his older brother told him he acted too cool for his age.

Bruno Mars

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Peter Gene Hernandez got the nickname “Bruno” from his father, and he eventually embraced it as his stage name.

Dove Cameron

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While the name on her birth certificate used to read Chloe Celeste Hoffman, the actress decided to change her legal name to Dove as a tribute to her late father, who gave her the nickname. She told Twitter in September 2017 that she still responds to both names.

Martin Sheen

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Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, known as Martin Sheen, never legally changed his name. He felt that adopting a more Americanized name would benefit his career.

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