From Prince to Snoop Dogg: nine celebrities who changed their names mid-career

As Kanye West vies to become legally known as Ye, we take a look at which other celebrities adopted new monikers after launching their careers

Kanye West is looking to legally become Ye.

The Runaway rapper this week filed a request to the Los Angeles Superior Court, looking to formally change his name to Ye – a nickname he’s been known by for years. The documents cite “personal reasons” as the motive for the change, which must be approved by a judge before it becomes official.

West first revealed he wanted to change his name in a 2018 tweet, stating: “The being formally known as Kanye West. I am Ye.” Ye was also the title of his 2018 album.

But West is far from the first star to change his name after entering the public eye. Here are nine celebrities who adopted new monikers after they began their careers.

Prince

In 1993, Prince was at the peak of his fame when he changed his name to an elaborate symbol that signified love.

"It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified," the Purple Rain singer said in a statement at the time. "It's all about thinking in new ways, tuning into a new free-quency.”

As nobody could pronounce the new name, he became known, for some time at least, as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

But why did Prince make the change? The singer, who died in 2016, wanted to release music as soon as he finished working on it, with more than 500 unreleased tracks languishing in the famous basement vault of his Paisley Park complex.

However, record label Warner Bros refused, believing that a surge of new music would overwhelm the market and diminish public interest. In an act of defiance, Prince changed his name, making it harder for Warner Bros to promote his work.

Prince reprised his original name in 2000, when his contract with Warner Bros elapsed and he became an independent artist.

Snoop Dogg

From DJ Snoopadelic to The Doggfather, Snoop Dogg has perhaps adopted more titles than most in the music industry. But even with his menagerie of monikers, no one saw Snoop Lion coming.

The Drop It Like It's Hot rapper changed his name after converting to Rastafarianism in 2012, releasing a documentary and a record under Snoop Lion before going back to Snoop Dogg in 2013.

Lisa Bonet

Many might be surprised to discover the A Different World actress legally changed her name to Lilakoi Moon in 1995, two years after her split with Lenny Kravitz. Her reason was that she wanted to “protect her privacy”.

Diddy

Diddy’s name changes were, at one point, a seasonal affair. He has gone by Puffy, Puff Daddy, P Diddy and Diddy, as well as his birth name, Sean John Combs, which is the basis of his fashion company Sean John.

However, in 2017, the rapper and business mogul tweeted: “Decided to change my name again”, before saying: "My new name is Love aka Brother Love.”

In May, the star announced that he had legally changed his middle name from John to Love, posting a photo of his new license card on Instagram.

Drake

Before Drake was a Grammy Award-winning rapper, he was an actor who went by his birth name, Aubrey Graham. He was known for playing the role of Jimmy Brooks on the 2001 series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

His role came to an end after the show’s producers found he was working on his music and gave him an ultimatum to either drop that or leave the show.

“Back then, I’d spend a full day on set and then go to the studio to make music until 4am or 5am,” he told W Magazine in 2015. “I’d sleep in my dressing room and then be in front of the cameras again by 9am. Eventually, they realised I was juggling two professions and told me I had to choose. I chose this life.”

However, the show’s executive producer Linda Schuyler denied these claims, saying they were aware of his musical ambitions and even tried to help him.

“From my point of view, the timing was absolutely brilliant because we knew Aubrey was juggling his music,” she told Buzzfeed in 2015. “Not only did we know it, we helped him with it. His character had run its course, so we were nothing but supportive.”

Miley Cyrus

Destiny Hope Cyrus was already two years into her lead role on Disney show Hannah Montana when she legally changed her name to Miley Cyrus in 2008.

Cyrus, who began acting in 2001, had already begun using her now-ubiquitous stage name in 2007.

The inspiration behind it? The nickname "Smiley" her parents had given her, which the young Cyrus could only pronounce as "Miley".

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix has a roundabout history with name changes.

He was born Joaquin Bottom before his family decided to change their last name to Phoenix.

The Oscar-winning Joker actor took up the stage name Leaf Phoenix when he made his Hollywood debut as a child actor, starring in films such as the 1986 adventure sci-fi SpaceCamp.

Phoenix then reprised his birth name in 1991.

Katy Perry

Before Katy Perry established herself as the Firework star, she was Christian music singer Katy Hudson. She released her debut album under that name in 2001.

Six years later, however, the singer landed a deal with Capitol Records and didn’t want to be mistaken for actress Kate Hudson, adopting her mother’s maiden name instead.

Lana Del Rey

When Lana Del Rey began her music career in 2007, she was using the stage name Lizzie Grant.

The moniker, spun from her real name Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, only helped the Summertime Sadness singer get so far. She released two EPs as Lizzie Grant, both of which received a lukewarm reaction.

The singer’s management team decided she needed to rebrand, suggesting a name change and scouring almost every mention of Lizzie Grant before Lana Del Rey released her debut album in 2010.

Updated: August 27th 2021, 4:17 AM
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