I think we’d all be lying if we said we haven’t come up with at least a few fake names for ourselves. I mean, just think of all the times it would come in handy: you’d already have the work halfway done if you were going to be a spy, or if you had to join Disney’s Princess Protection Program, or if you just wanted to see if Starbucks could spell something right on a cup for once.
Of course, we usually dismiss this idea as soon as we think of it. Our names are pretty ingrained, whether we like it or not. But you’d be surprised just how many celebrities have gone to great lengths to change their names before hitting the big time — and, in honor of Name Yourself Day, we compiled a whole list of celebs you might not even realized were born with different names. Hey, maybe your fave secretly has the same name as you! Even if they don’t … well, it’s Name Yourself Day, so today you can be named whatever the heck you want. Here are the people who already did just that:
1. Katy Perry
Real name: Katheryn Hudson
Katy Perry actually did release one of her early Gospel CDs under her original name, but this change was merely one of practicality, since Kate Hudson was already a famous actress at the time.
2. Emma Stone
Real name: Emily Jean Stone
Emma reason for changing her name was similar to Katy Perry’s: It turned out there already was an Emma Stone registered in the actor’s union, so she decided to change her name slightly. She briefly went by Riley while acting in Malcom In The Middle, but decided it would have to be Emma when she accidentally ignored everyone calling her name.
Real name: Ella Yelich-O’Connor
She always knew she wanted to have a stage name, and “Lord” sounded very regal to her. She decided the perfect touch would be adding the “e” to the end to make it more feminine (although she’s still Ella to her BFF Taylor Swift!).
4. Natalie Portman
Real name: Natalie Hershlag
After she was cast in her first film, Natalie decided to go with her paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Portman, in the interest of protecting her family’s private life.
5. Dakota Fanning
Real name: Hannah Dakota Fanning
Her mother wanted to name her Hannah and her father wanted to name her Dakota, so her original name was how they compromised. As fate would have it, her mother may have won the battle, but her father clearly won the war.
6. Elle Fanning
Real name: Mary Elle Fanning
Apparently Dakota set a trend: the story behind Elle Fanning’s name switch is the exact same as her older sister’s. Guess their dad was a champion name picker?
7. Lana del Rey
Real name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
Lana del Rey actually performed with some success under the stage name Lizzy Grant in the early millennium, but when she rebranded herself she wanted to go in an entirely different direction. She said about change: “I wanted a name I could shape the music towards. 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.”
9. Nicki Minaj
Real name: Onika Tanya Maraj
Her original stage name was Nicki Maraj, her nickname and original last name. “Big Fendi,” her former manager, is the one she credits with changing it to something that flowed better off the tongue.
10. Demi Lovato
Real name: Demetria Devonne Lovato
“Demi” was a childhood nickname that eventually became the star’s professional name as well. The unique name she was given derives from Demeter, the goddess of the harvest in Greek mythology.
11. Lea Michele
Real name: Lea Sarfati
She said originally she was annoyed by playground bullies: “I got Lea So-fatty, Lea So-farty at school,” she explained on The Tonight Show in 2011. ‘When I was little and I went on my first audition, they were like, ‘And may we have your name?’ And I was like, ‘Lea Michele.’ And I’ve been Lea Michele ever since.”
12. Shay Mitchell
Real name: Shannon Mitchell
Shay didn’t ever intentionally change her name. As much as she liked it, she started going by Shay as a teenager working as a hostess in a sports bar, and it stuck professionally after that.
13. Lucy Hale
Real name: Karen Lucille Hale
Two pretty little liars in a row! Lucy revealed the truth of her first name promoting her album on the Ellen show this past October, although she didn’t clarify exactly why the switch was made.
14. Reese Witherspoon
Real name: Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon
There’s not a lot of background on why Reese decided to go with her mother’s maiden name rather than her first or middle name, but it was established legally before her star really took off.
Real name: Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Oh now, now, what’s her name? Turns out it’s actually Robyn. She still thinks of herself as Robyn, but thought her middle name made a catchier stage name.
16. Blake Lively
Real name: Blake Ellender Brown
OK, here’s a dose of confusion: Blake’s father’s last name is Brown, but when her parents married, her dad took her mother’s surname, which is Lively. At some point Blake just decided to join the party and take her mother’s last name, too.