16 celebrities who have changed their names: from Ye to Mindy Kaling

Michael Keaton's real name is a shocker, while Bruno Mars changed his to avoid being labelled

Kanye West is now simply Ye.

This week, a Los Angeles judge approved the name change, which the rapper, 44, had filed for in August citing “personal reasons”.

Why Ye? “I believe ‘ye’ is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means ‘you’,” he said in a radio interview back in 2018, the same year he released his album Ye.

“So it’s ‘I’m you, I’m us, it’s us’.”

The Runaway singer is hardly the first celebrity to change his moniker. Here are a few of the more surprising and drastic A-list name changes we’ve come across.

Katy Perry

Did you know the American singer, songwriter and television show judge was actually born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson? She reportedly changed her surname in the early 2000s because, with the aim of becoming famous in mind, she didn’t want to get confused with actress Kate Hudson. Perry is her mother’s maiden name.

Sir Elton John

Reginald Kenneth Dwight was born in 1947 and by 1972 he’d legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John. “When I became Elton John, it was like a new lease on life,” he said in a 1987 interview. “I didn’t particularly like being Reg Dwight. It had too many unhappy memories.”

While biopic Rocketman suggested fellow musician John Lennon had inspired the name change, that’s not accurate. It was actually Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and singer “Long John” Baldry who the Your Song singer took his cues from. He then added the title of “sir” to that name after he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998.

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix (Joe) in You Were Never Really Here. Courtesy Why Not Productions

The Joker star was actually born Joaquin Rafael Bottom, but, when he was about 4, his parents left the religious cult Children of God they were part of, and changed their last name to Phoenix, as a symbol of their rebirth.

Joaquin also changed his name to Leaf around that time, as he wanted it to be more nature-based, like his siblings River and Rain. He kept that moniker until he was about 15 or 16, and even has a few acting credits under it.

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars was in fact born Peter Gene Hernandez in Honolulu, Hawaii back in 1985. His father comes from Puerto Rican, Ukrainian and Hungarian ancestry, while his mother emigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii, and was of Filipino and Spanish descent.

While the Just the Way You Are singer, who decided to choose an “out of this world” surname, has been accused of trying to hide his heritage, he actually chose to go by his stage name in a bid to prevent labels from pushing him into Latin genres.

Bruno was a childhood nickname that stuck.

Iggy Azalea

The Australian rapper says only a “select” group of people call her by her real name, Amethyst Amelia Kelly. “If I let you call me that, you are elite,” she tweeted in 2020. When answering a fan’s question about whether she’d name an album that, she said: “No, because I feel names are very personal and I never wanted strangers to be able to use mine.”

Her name is based on her first pet’s name and the street she grew up on.

Sir Michael Caine

Michael Caine in Inception. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

While Maurice Joseph Micklewhite Jr had been going by the stage name Michael Caine, reportedly inspired by a poster for the Humphrey Bogart drama The Caine Mutiny, since 1954, he only officially changed it in 2016. He was 83 by then, but he’d experienced enough airport hold-ups because of it to make the hassle worth it.

“I changed my name when all the stuff started with ISIS,” he told Yahoo Movies. “An airport security guard would say, ‘Hi, Michael Caine,’ and suddenly I’d give him a passport with a different name on it. I could stand there for an hour.”

Lana Del Rey

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 16:  Singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey performs during a stop of her LA to the Moon Tour in support of the album "Lust for Life" at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on February 16, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The American singer-songwriter’s real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, and she's gone through a few stage names before settling on her now world-famous moniker, including Lizzy Grant and Sparkle Jump Rope Queen. She chose Lana Del Rey because she “wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of like the seaside on the Floridian coast”, according to Vogue.

Jamie Foxx

It may not come as a surprise that Jamie Foxx’s name isn’t his real one, but you may be intrigued to know it is actually Eric Marlon Bishop. The actor and comedian reportedly chose a more androgynous moniker so he’d be called up to set earlier, having noticed women were often given preference on the line-up, as the actor and comedian paved his path to success. He chose the gender-neutral Jamie and Foxx in tribute to comedian Redd Foxx (Sanford and Son), according to the Independent.

Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren may be known as a quintessential British starlet today, but she was actually born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff. Her father, a Russian-born taxi driver, decided to Anglicise their name when she was aged 10.

John Legend

He may be a legend, but that is not his name. The All of Me singer was born as John Roger Stephens. Legend explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon how it’s thanks to the rapper formerly known as Kanye West that he got this new moniker.

“The first guy to call me that was J Ivy,” Legend said. “He’s a spoken word artist from Chicago. I met him through Kanye [West]. We were all in the studio together. He just started calling me ‘The Legend’ because he thought I sounded like one of our old school soul legends. And it just caught on with our little group of friends, and then they were like, ‘We should call you John Legend.’ And it just really was in our little circle.”

He said Ye then put a mixtape out, referring to him as John Legend on it, and “it just started to spread among more of the people that were listening to our music”.

Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Kim Coppola reportedly wanted to separate himself from his famous filmmaker uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, and so changed his name to Nicolas Cage in the early 1980s. He chose the surname as a tribute to superhero Luke Cage.

Mindy Kaling

American actress Mindy Kaling, whose parents are Indian, was born with the name Vera Mindy Chokalingam. She’s gone by the name Mindy since childhood, but after having her full surname mispronounced on numerous occasions on the standup comedy circuit, she decided to shorten it and make it easier for the American audience.

Natalie Portman

American-Israeli actress Natalie Portman changed her name from Neta-Lee Hershlag as she was starring in Leon (1994), when she was about 13, to protect her privacy because of the role, which had sexual overtones, according to Britannica. Portman is her maternal grandmother’s last name.

Winona Ryder

The award-winning actress was born Winona Laura Horowitz, but she reportedly changed her surname on a whim when asked how she wanted it to appear in the credits of her first film. A Mitch Ryder album was playing in the background, and that was that.

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton’s real name is actually Michael Douglas. You know, like the Academy Award-winning actor of the same name? No prizes for guessing why Keaton decided to change the surname. He chose Keaton after reading an article on actress Diane Keaton (whose real name is actually Diane Hall; Keaton is her mother’s maiden name).

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Updated: October 19th 2021, 1:01 PM