If you were alive in 1993, then you probably remember Prince dominating the headlines after he decided to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol said to represent "love." The story goes that Prince was frustrated with his record label, Warner Bros., so he changed his name in order to make promoting him more difficult, then started releasing albums more quickly to get out of his contractural obligations. Of course, the unintended consequence is that no one knew what to call the singer, leading to his less cool name, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. (Thankfully, he switched back to Prince in 2000.) In honor of the 25th anniversary of Prince's famous name change, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at other celebs who transformed their monikers after they began their careers. Keep reading to find out more…
The rap mogul born Sean Combs in 1969 has had more than his fair share of name changes throughout his career. When he first arrived on the music scene on Notorious B.I.G.'s debut album "Ready to Die," he was known as both Puffy and Puff Daddy — a name that he earned in childhood for allegedly "huffing and puffing" when he was upset. Then in 2001, Sean announced to the world that he was changing his name once again, this time to P. Diddy. In '05, he dropped the P and became simply Diddy, although in '06, he sometimes used P. Diddy anyway. In 2008, he once again reinvented himself, this time with the same name he gave his fashion label, Sean Jean. For one week in 2011, he changed his name to Swag and in 2014, he referred to himself as Puff Daddy once again. Confused? It's okay, we're pretty sure the rest of the world is too. For a hot second in 2017, the rapper, producer and fashion designer was even called Brother Love, although Sean later said he was only joking. Today? We're not sure what he wants to be called. On the reality TV competition series "The Four: Battle for Stardom," on which he's a judge, he goes by Diddy (it's also his Twitter handle), so we're going to stick with that until he tells us otherwise.
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Although she's still professionally known as Lisa Bonet, the woman who took hottie Jason Momoa off the market's actual legal name is Lilakoi Moon. The name change happened in 1993, two years after the former "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World" actress divorced rocker Lenny Kravitz. The name change, she's said, was to "honor my personal life" outside of the image she'd created in Hollywood.
Before he was a Grammy-winning rap star, Drake was a Canadian actor using his given name, Aubrey Graham, on the hit series "Degrassi: The Next Generation." After leaving the show in 2009, Aubrey was ready to reinvent himself. Instead of using his actual name, the up-and-coming rapper used his middle name, Drake, to represent his new musical persona. It worked. In 2010, Drake released his debut studio album, "Thank Me Later," and we're still singing his praises.
She's the daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus and his wife, Tish Cyrus, and was given the name Destiny Hope Cyrus at birth. As a child, her family nicknamed her Smiley because she was always grinning, which she cutely pronounced as "Miley." When the young talent began her career as an actress back in 2001, she was credited as Destiny, but by 2007, she'd decided to go by Miley. In 2008, after finding fame on Disney's "Hannah Montana," the actress-turned-pop star legally changed her name to Miley Cyrus.
Following a life-changing trip to Jamaica in 2012, rapper Snoop Dogg announced to the world that he was changing his name to Snoop Lion. He didn't stop there. The lyrical gangster, known for hits like "Gin and Juice" and "Drop it Like it's Hot," also shared that he believed he was the reincarnation of Bob Marley and that he was ready to make music his "kids and grandparents could listen to." Just a year later, Snoop changed his mind and decided he'd rather be known as Snoopzilla, which was so short-lived, hardly anyone actually referred to him as such. Today he's Snoop Dogg again, but who knows who the man born Calvin Broadus Jr. will be tomorrow?
"Walk the Line" star Joaquin Phoenix was actually born Joaquin Bottom in 1974, although his family later changed their last name to Phoenix. Following in the footsteps of his famous siblings, River Phoenix and Summer Phoenix, Joaquin decided to use the stage name Leaf Phoenix when he made his Hollywood debut in 1982. For nine years, Joaquin was known professionally as Leaf in films like "SpaceCamp" and "Parenthood." In 1991, the young actor decided to retire his earthy stage name and once again became Joaquin.
When pop star Katy Perry first began her music career in 2001 (as a Christian music singer), she went by her given name, Katy Hudson, which was also the name of her debut album. By 2007, however, Katy had scored a deal with Capitol Records and didn't want her name, which was almost identical to actress Kate Hudson's, to be confusing for new fans, so she changed it to Katy Perry, using her mom's maiden name. Although she's still professionally known as Katy Perry, the Grammy-nominated pop star revealed in 2017 that she considers her stage persona "a character" because being herself was "too scary."
In 1984, a 12-year-old boy named Enrique José Martín Morales IV joined one of the biggest boy bands in Latin America, Menudo, starting himself on a path to superstardom. Just a year later, Enrique, who'd lived with his father, decided to move in with his mom and change his name to Ricky Martin. Ricky shared that his choice to change his name cost him a relationship with his father for the next 10 years. Thankfully, in 1995, Ricky and his father reconciled.
"Easy A" and "La La Land" star Emma Stone might be an Oscar-winning actress today, but back in 2005, she was still finding her way in Hollywood. Born Emily Jean Stone, the young star began her career using her given name, but when she became a card-carrying SAG member, she learned "Emily Stone" was already taken. Faced at 16 with the serious decision of what to be called, she opted for Riley Stone. However, six months later, she re-evaluated her decision while guest starring on "Malcolm in the Middle" because when they called her Riley, she wouldn't respond. So she settled on Emma because her friends and family already called her "Em" and she knew the name would be familiar enough.
Around the same time that David Jones began getting traction as a singer in London, another musician named Davy Jones from the TV series "The Monkees" was making waves in America. Although David Jones wasn't yet famous, he was successful enough to land a record deal in 1966. That was also the year his manager told him, "No one is going to make a Monkee out of you," so the singer changed his name to David Bowie, in honor of one of his favorite real-life historical characters, Jim Bowie.
Born John Roger Stephens, this University of Pennsylvania graduate spent the late '90s and early 2000s building his reputation as a musician while performing at nightclubs. Known for his soulful, old-school sound, his friends began calling him "Legend." The nickname grew so popular that by the time he was offered his first recording contract in 2004, he decided to use it as his stage name, therefore becoming known to the world as John Legend.
Another University of Pennsylvania grad who changed their name after embarking on their career path is actress Elizabeth Banks. During her earliest on-screen appearances, Elizabeth was credited by her given name, Elizabeth Maresal Mitchell. By 2000, Elizabeth was landing numerous film and TV roles and decided to change her stage surname to Banks in order to prevent being confused with actress Elizabeth Mitchell.
One of Drake's closest friends also changed her name after establishing her career. Born Onika Tanya Maraj, Nicki Minaj originally started her music career under the name Nicki Maraj, but later changed her surname to Minaj as an homage to the French word ménage. In 2010, after the release of her album "Pink Friday," Nicki announced to the world that she had another name — this one for her gay male alter ego, Roman Zolanski, who she claims is "leading the way when it comes to makeup and hair." Another well-known alter ego of hers is Nicki Lewinsky, which, as the last name suggests, is a reference to Bill Clinton's former mistress, White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
A quick peek at Michael Keaton's IMDb page reveals that this longtime actor once performed using his given name, Michael John Douglas. After his first on-screen role in 1974 on "Mister Roger's Neighborhood," Michael joined the Screen Actors Guild, but he wasn't able to use his own name since there was already an actor in the union by the name of Michael Douglas. So, after scanning a list of surnames, Michael settled on "Keaton" for his professional moniker (claiming it sounded "good enough"), though he has always used his real name in his personal life.
While it's not unusual for up-and-coming stars to change their names, the story behind musician Lana Del Rey's stage name is less about creative inspiration and more about finding a profitable business angle. Born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, she embarked on a music career in 2007 as Lizzie Grant but couldn't seem to find success. After a few years of failed starts and two unsuccessful EPs, Lizzie's management team came up with the idea of changing her name to Lana Del Rey, thinking a transformation was the missing ingredient. They carefully scrubbed the internet of nearly every trace of Lizzie Grant before changing her name and releasing her self-titled debut studio album in 2010.
Musical genius Frank Ocean may have arrived on the world's stage with a suave and sophisticated-sounding name, but he was born Christopher Edwin Breaux. By the time he debuted his first studio album, "Channel Orange," in 2011, he'd been performing as Frank Ocean, a name he derived from the classic 1960 film "Ocean's 11" and one of the film's stars, Frank Sinatra. After unofficially performing with the name for years, the Grammy-winning artist filed legal documents in 2014 to permanently change his name to Christopher Francis Ocean. In 2015, his request was granted.
Former "Pretty Little Liars" star Lucy Hale was actually born Karen Lucille Hale in 1989. From her earliest roles beginning in 2005, the actress, who claims she's always gone by an abbreviated version of her middle name, decided to use the stage name Lucy Kate Hale. She eventually dropped her made-up middle name around 2010 and has since been known as simply Lucy Hale.
Long before Bob Dylan became a folk rock icon, he was a fresh-faced teenage musician going by the name Elston Gunn while performing in the late 1950s with Bobby Vee and his band. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, the future music star actually changed his name several times before settling on his now-famous moniker. For a short while, he went by Robert Allen and even Robert Allyn until, he's claimed, he randomly selected "Bob Dylan" before releasing his self-titled debut album in 1962. Although Bob's alluded to being inspired by poet Dylan Thomas, he's also denied it, making his stage name even more mysterious. Interestingly, he's performed under other stage names since, including as Tedham Porterhouse on an album with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and as folk singer Blind Boy Grunt, both in the mid-'60s. In 1972, Bob also performed as a pianist by the name of Robert Milkwood Thomas on Steve Goodman's album "Somebody Else's Troubles."
Throughout most of his career, the world's known this legendary screen and theater star by his stage name, Michael Caine. Born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, the British actor briefly toyed with the name Michael Scott in the early 1950s before settling on Caine as his surname. But it wasn't until July 2016 that he officially changed his name through the courts at the age of 83, claiming he'd finally grown weary of airport delays due to confusion over his legal name on his passport and his well-known Hollywood persona.
It turns out this blonde bombshell actually had several names. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, she would later be baptized Norma Jeane Baker. By 1946 (a year before her first movie role), Norma Jeane was already going by her stage name, Marilyn Monroe, which was inspired by her favorite actress, Marilyn Miller, and her mother Gladys Pearl Baker's maiden name, Monroe. In 1956, the "Some Like It Hot" star made it official and legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.
Former Jackson 5 member Jermaine Jackson has undergone two name changes throughout the course of his career. In 1989 after converting to Islam, Jermaine unofficially changed his name to Mohammad Abdul Aziz. Then in 2012, the performer decided to change his name once more, but this time, opted to do it through the courts. The name he settled on? Jermaine Jacksun. Citing "creative reasons," Jermaine's request was officially granted in 2013.
Years before Lady Gaga was a pop music queen, she found fame in New York's underground music scene under her real name, Stefani Germanotta. In 2005, she even founded a band called, wait for it, the Stefani Germanotta Band (also known as SG Band for short). While recording in the studio, Stefani's boyfriend at the time, Rob Fusari, coined the nickname "GaGa" because her musical style reminded him of the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga." As Rob's side of the story goes, he one day sent Stefani a text, calling her "Radio GaGa" but the phone autocorrected it to "Lady GaGa." Stefani, however, has a different recollection. She claims she's the one who came up with "Lady" as it evoked class and elegance, which was so different from the crazy connotation of "GaGa."
Her birth name, Myra Ellen Amos, was "awful" and had "no flow," according to the musician we now know as Tori Amos. So after releasing one single in 1980 under the name Ellen Amos, she changed her name, claiming her boyfriend came up with the idea when he said she resembled the grand Tori pine tree one night at a bar. The name stuck and she went on to release her first studio album, "Little Earthquakes," in 1992 as Tori Amos.