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Stage Names
aka: Stage Name
AKA Screen Names.

A name used by an actor or actress when:
  • Their own isn't exciting or exotic enough
  • It may be embarrassing or difficult to pronounce
  • Their own isn't British enough (more common in the past but still not a Discredited Trope)
  • Someone in the local actors' union already has that name
  • Someone very famous outside the union already has that name

Musicians will also take stage names for the first of the reasons listed above or when:

Performers can go a lot of ways when choosing a new name. Some add a middle name, some add an initial somewhere, some add their mother's maiden name or the name of someone they respect, while others just choose a name at random. Carole Lombard chose her professional surname from a shop sign, for instance. In the old days, a lot of actors had their professional names chosen for them by the studio they were signed to, and others were given a list of approved names to pick from.

It has been fairly common for voice-over actors to do non-union work (video games, anime dubs, independent animation projects) under assumed names for less-than-negotiated rates, to avoid the consequences from the union. Often, they are still recognizable. It's becoming less common these days, as many dubbing and game projects can now afford union pay rates.

Many female actors retain their maiden names for professional purposes when they get married, since an important part of an actor's marketing is his or her name. Some unions also make it harder for a member to change her name if she already has a long list of credits. Of course, if the new name's already in use by someone else, the actor can't change her professional name anyway.

Picking one name can turn into weird coincidences.

A common choice is one's mother's maiden name; see Nom de Mom.

See also Porn Names for a particular variant of this.

Authors have their own equivalent of this, the Pen Name, which is treated as a separate trope. See also Nom de Guerre. Sometimes may be a form of Meaningful Rename.


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Real Life examples:

    Actors 
  • Terry Quinn became Terry O'Quinn becase there was already a Terrance Quinn registered with the actors' guild.
  • Susan Antonia Williams Stockard combined her last name with that of her husband at the time and became Stockard Channing.
  • Michael Andrew Fox became Michael J. Fox upon joining the Screen Actor's Guild because there was a very busy character actor called Michael Fox who was already a member. He chose the fake middle initial "J." so no one could make "Michael, A Fox" jokes (or Canadian "Eh?" jokes), as well as in tribute to actor Michael J. Pollard.
  • Ben Kingsley's birth name is Krishna Bhanji. He changed it after it was mispronounced as 'Kristina Blange' during an audition for a high-school play.
  • Hynden Walch (Starfire on Teen Titans) is actually Heidi Hynden Walch.
  • Tim Allen was born Timothy Allen Dick (who is no relation to Andy Dick, who was born Andrew Thomlinson). He dropped his last name mostly because he didn't think anybody would believe he didn't make it up for a cheap laugh.
  • Don Adams' birth name was Donald James Yarmy. He was once married to an actress with the stage name Adelaide Adams. He became Don Adams because auditions were frequently in alphabetical order.
  • John Wayne's birth name was Marion Michael Morrison, although as it turns out he was called "Duke" (which was the name of a dog) long before he became "John Wayne".
    • There's a Shout-Out to this in the webcomic Everyday Heroes. Mr. Mighty's real first name is Marion; his two younger brothers are Michael and Morrison. His parents were obviously movie fans.
  • Don Knotts' full name was Jesse Donald Knotts.
  • As revealed in Ray, Ray Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson, but dropped his surname due to the famous boxer "Sugar" Ray Robinson.
  • Thomas Cruise Mapother IV basically cut his full name in half.
  • Nicolas Coppola didn't want to ride on his director uncle's fame, so he took the last name of Super Hero Luke Cage to become Nicolas Cage.
    • Later Jason Reso would combine this surname with Christian Slater's first name to become Christian Cage. Only the first half of this stage name was used in WWE so they could place a copyright on it, but he was able to use the full name in TNA.
  • David "Doctor Who" Tennant is actually David MacDonald, but Equity already had someone with that name. He took his stage name from Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys.
    • Tennant is actually the third Doctor to use a stage name. Peter Moffet changed his name to "Davison" to avoid confusion with director Peter Moffat (who worked with him on Doctor Who). James Percy Patrick Kent-Smith took the stage name "Sylveste McCoy" while touring with Ken Campbell, and later added an R to the first name. (According to one account, it was originally a joke about stage names — "Sylveste McCoy is only my stage name, of course, my real name is... Sylvester McCoy" — that he decided to run with after a theatre critic failed to get it and thought Sylvester McCoy actually was his real name.)
    • According to his autobiography, Jon Pertwee's real name is Jean Roland Devon de Perthuis. (French and Austrian descent.) People in his family use Pertwee as a phonetic spelling. He also went by the anglicised John, before a playbill misspelt his name.
    • It also extends to companions too. Lalla Ward's real first name is Sarah.
      • Lalla and Lally (Sally) are old nicknames for Sarah, dating back to the fad for rhyming nicknames that also gave us Bob (Rob) for Robert, Bill (Will) for William, and Peggy (Meggy) for Margaret.
  • Film actor Stewart Granger's real name was James Stewart, and in fact changed it before Jimmy Stewart came into Hollywood.
  • Kim Novak's first name is actually Marilyn, but was changed when she signed her contract with Columbia to avoid confusion with Marilyn Monroe. Of course, "Marilyn Monroe" was itself a stage name, her real name being Norma Jeane Baker. Many bombshells and sex symbols of old-time Hollywood have real names that are depressingly prosaic in comparison to their better-known stage names.
  • Joan Fontaine's real name is Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (she's the sister of Olivia de Havilland). Fontaine had been their mother's stage name.
  • Shirley MacLaine was originally Shirley MacLean Beaty.
    • Her brother Warren simply added an extra T to the family name.
  • Catherine Dorleac chose her mother's maiden name Deneuve as her stage surname, to differentiate herself fron her (initially) more famous sister Francoise.
    • Also in French cinema, Colette Dacheville became Stephane Audran, while Marie-France Ogier dropped her first name after becoming generally known by the nickname "Bulle" ("Bubble").
  • Cyd Charisse's was born Tula Ellice Finklea. (As you can see, sometimes it's very much to the advantage of the performer to adopt a stage name!)
    • "Sid" was a childhood nickname. Nico Charisse was her first husband.
  • Yvonne De Carlo's real name is Margaret Yvonne "Peggy" Middleton. (In her pre-The Munsters career, De Carlo generally played exotic-beauty roles; "Peggy Middleton" just wouldn't have cut it for an actress playing such roles. See remarks on Cyd Charisse above.) Her mother's name was Marie De Carlo.
  • Claudette Colbert was born as Émilie Chauchoin.
  • Judy Garland's real name was Frances Ethel Gumm. It's hard to blame her for not using her birth name.
  • Ginger Rogers's real name was Virginia Katherine McMath. Ginger is a standard nickname for Virginia; Rogers was her stepfather.
  • Diana Dors's real name was the unfortunate Diana Fluck. As she said: "They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name Diana Fluck was in lights and one of the lights blew..."
  • Triple or quadruple the "wouldn't cut it" comment for Archibald Leach, who went on to play Cary Grant in the movies. (Interviewer: "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant" Cary Grant: "So would I.")
  • Italian TV and film actors Terence Hill and Bud Spencer were born Mario Girotti and Carlo Pedersoli.
    • Spaghetti Western actor Giuliano Gemma is credited in some movies with anglophone name "Montgomery Wood".
  • Child actress Parker McKenna Posey uses her middle name so as not to confuse her with older actress Parker Posey.
  • Actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier also uses her middle name so as not to confuse her with her father, Sidney Poitier.
  • Idina Menzel's last name is really "Mentzel". It was changed to better reflect the pronounciation it gained in America.
  • A famous fake real name story: Walter Matthau was once famously credited for a cameo under the alias "Walter Matuschanskayasky"; fan folklore then turned this pseudonym into his supposed real name, which he allegedly changed to sound less ethnic. In reality, his real real name was Walter Matthow, which he changed to Matthau because it was the usual American spelling. He only used Matuschanskayasky as a stage name once, in the movie Earthquake, when he agreed to play a cameo role only if his real name wasn't used.
  • Which doesn't mean that the practice of changing your name to sound less ethnic wasn't widespread:
    • Bernadette Peters real name is Bernadette Lazzara; her father's first name was Peter.
    • Lee J. Cobb's real name was Leo Jacob.
    • Alan Konigsberg changed his name to Woody Allen.
    • Jake Cohen used the stage name Jack Roy before he changed it to Rodney Dangerfield.
    • Louis Feinberg, Henry Moishe Horwitz and Jerome Horwitz - a/k/a Larry Fine and Moe & Curly Howard.
    • Several early comics creators were Jewish, and disguised their names in print. Stan Lee's real last name is Lieber (now legally changed to Lee because he liked being Stan Lee so much), and Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg.
    • Melvin Kaminsky became Mel Brooks (Brooks being a take on his mother's last name, Brookman).
    • Ramón Estevez wanted his name to sound less ethnic, so he changed it to Martin Sheen. His son, Carlos, chose to follow in his footsteps and became Charlie Sheen, some of the family (his brother and some sons) switch between, while his daughter and one kept their original names - most notably Emilio Estevez.
    • The story goes that Arnold Schwarzenegger's first US agent told him he'd never be successful in Hollywood for three reasons: he was too muscular, his accent was too thick and no one could pronounce his name. Hercules In New York was his first US movie (as Arnold Strong, with his voice redubbed.)
    • Bernard Schwartz changed his name to Tony Curtis.
    • Frederick Austerlitz became Fred Astaire. He started using the name "Astaire" as a kid, when he appeared in vaudeville acts.
    • Natalie Wood was born as Natalia Zacharenko. Her name was changed to Gurdin, then, when she started to appear in movies, Wood.
    • Lauren Bacall was born as Betty Joan Perske.
    • Phoebe Cates's original name is Phoebe Belle Katz. (This is likely a phonetic spelling, since "Katz" is sometimes pronounced "Cates".)
    • Doris Day's real name is Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff.
    • Jack Palance was born Volodymyr Palahniuk.
    • Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, which was the Latinized version of either Karolis Bučinskis, Casimir Businskis, or Karol Buczyński. He changed the name on the suggestion of his agent, who was concerned that someone with an Eastern European last name would wind up getting in trouble due to the McCarthy hearings going down in the 50s.
    • Margarita Carmen Cansino underwent extensive follicle removal to become the famous Rita Hayworth. Hayworth was her mother's maiden name, though.
    • Hedy Lamarr was born as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler.
    • Yvonne Strahovski's actual last name is Strzechowski. Josh Schwartz asked her to change it to a phonetic spelling so people would actually know how to pronounce it.
    • Izabella Miko's actual last name is Mikołajczak. Most probably it was too long to pronounce.
    • Also appears to be the case with Mia Sara, whose actual last name is Sarapocciello.
    • Barbara Bain was originally named Millicent Fogel.
    • Meet Millie writer Francis Allen Goldstucker changed his name to Frank Galen.
  • David S. Cohen was credited as David X. Cohen in the opening credits of Futurama because the WGA already had a completely different David S. Cohen on the books. He chose X because it sounded "sci-fi-ish".
  • Reportedly, Jon Voight gave his children middle names that could act as last names, so they wouldn't be hooked to their famous father. James Haven isn't that well-known, but Angelina Jolie certainly has made a name for herself. Jon Voight's brother, James Voight, is better known as the musician Chip Taylor, who wrote the song Wild Thing, performed by the Troggs.
  • Richard E. Grant (Richard Grant Esterhuysen) used a twist on the dropping-your-last-name technique: the middle initial in his stage name is the first letter of his real surname.
    • Same thing with Edward G. Robinson, formerly Emanuel Goldenberg.
  • Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz dropped his last name because of issues with his father. Now he's just Jon Stewart.
  • Jim Moir took the name Vic Reeves from his two favourite singers, Vic Damone and Jim Reeves.
  • Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice, Batman, etc.) was born Michael Douglas, but adopted "Keaton" as a stage name because the Michael Douglas (The Streets of San Francisco, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, etc.) had established a prior claim. He took his name from the actress Diane Keaton. And her name is in fact Diane Hall.
    • Keaton happens to be her mother's maiden name, though according to The Other Wiki it is also a tribute to Buster Keaton.
      • And just to make this even more fun, Buster Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton VI.
    • Michael Douglas' father, Kirk Douglas was born as Issur Danielovitch.
  • Robin Williams is often credited under assumed names (if he's credited at all) when he does a cameo: "Ray D. Tutto" for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, "Sudy Nim" for A Wish for Wings that Work, "Marty Fromage" for Shakes the Clown, "George Spelvin" in The Secret Agent.
    • George Spelvin, in fact, is a rather long-running one. According to Playbill, back in the early 1900s people were unaccustomed to actors playing more than one part, and so Spelvin was credited with roles taken by an actor credited for a different one already. He became a long-running tradition but was eventually dropped in the late 1980s when audiences became more okay with the idea.
  • Albert L. Einstein, for obvious reasons, changed his name to Albert Brooks when he started performing comedy (the inspiration for the surname is homage to Mel Brooks). His brother Bob Einstein performs as "Super Dave Osborne" for less obvious reasons.
    • Obvious reasons? Albert L. Einstein is the best stand-up comedian name ever.
      • Obvious reasons being that people would assume that "Albert L. Einstein" was a stage name he'd chosen to draw attention to himself or to poke fun at the physicist.
  • Another "the name was taken": when Joseph Lane went to register for Actors Equity, he discovered there was already a member by that name. So he took the first name of Guys and Dolls character Nathan Detroit, becoming Nathan Lane.
  • Vin Diesel was born Mark Sinclair Vincent and picked up the 'diesel' part from his his friends, due his 'non-stop energy' (at least according to The Other Wiki).
  • Jerome Silberman changed his name while studying acting in New York as he felt it would look/sound odd on a marquee if he played Macbeth. He created a new name from his mother's first (Jean) and playwright Thornton Wilder's last. Though he did serious roles early in his stage career, Gene Wilder became famous for film comedies.
  • Richard Henry Sellers was the second child born to his parents. The first died very, very young, and his name - Peter - became a nickname for the second, used so often that Richard Henry ultimately changed his name permanently.
  • Whoopi Goldberg's birth name was Caryn Elaine Johnson. Not exactly an attention-grabber.
    • Reportedly, she was originally going to call herself "Whoopi Coushin", after the gag gift, but her parents convinced her that - even as a comedian - the name would prevent anyone from taking her seriously.
      • Goldberg replaced Coushin because her mother told her that her name "wasn't Jewish enough" to make her a star.
  • Sir Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, Jr. is better known as Sir Michael Caine. Originally, he wanted his stage name to be Michael Scott, but that was taken. Pressed for a new one, he looked at a nearby cinema billboard and saw The Caine Mutiny. And the rest, as they say, is history.
    • He jokes that if he had looked the other way, he would be Sir Michael One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
  • Theda Bara, the original vamp, was born Theodosia Goodman. Her screen name combined a childhood nickname and a variation on a family surname — and, conveniently enough, was an anagram for "Arab death."
  • William Henry Pratt took the stage name Boris Karloff, possibly because he felt his surname had unwanted humorous connotations. He never legally changed his name, however.
  • Greg Pead changed his name in 1980 to Yahoo Serious (of Young Einstein fame).
  • Alexander Siddig (Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was originally credited under his real name - Siddig El Fadil.
    • Which itself is just an abbreviation of his full real name, for obvious reasons: Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi
  • Jackie Chan is really Chan Kong Sang. Likewise, Jet Li is really Li Lianjie.
    • Ever hear of Saedo Maeda? That's Sonny Chiba's real name.
    • It is quite common for Asians, particularly Chinese, to adopt a western given name for use in dealings with westerners.
    • Like Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
  • Kal Penn's real name is Kalpen Modi. Obviously, he just took his first name and divided it in two (and added an extra N). The late Italian actress Pier Angeli did something similar, only with her surname (Pierangeli).
  • Heather Renée Sweet became Dita Von Teese.
  • Jonathan Michael Francis O'Keefe changed his name to Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
  • Laszlo Loewenstein - "Lazzy" to his friends - was a struggling stage actor in Vienna when his mentor suggested he use a catchy new name. Combining a friend's name with the German word for parrot, the actor was redubbed Peter Lorre.
    • That either has to be a misunderstanding or rather uncommon/regional usage; German 'parrot' is Papagei.
  • Jean Harlow's original name was Harlean Carpanter, a combination of the last and first name of her mother, Jean Harlow. When Harlean went into acting, she adopted her mother's name.
  • Alphonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto d'Abruzzo took the first two letters of his first and last names as his surname and an Anglicised version of one of his middle names to come up with the name Robert Alda. When his sons (by different wives) Alphonso and Antonio followed their father into acting, they took his stage surname and Anglicised their first names (approximately in Alphonso's case) to create the names Alan Alda and Antony Alda.
  • Japanese actress/J-pop singer Meisa Kuroki's real name is Satsuki Shimabukuro.
  • If the Playbills for the premiere performance for the play M. BUTTERFLY had listed one of its stars' names as "Brad Wong", it would have spoiled show's big twist — so he became "B.D. Wong".
  • The Marx Brothers (who were actually brothers, surnamed Marx): Groucho (Julius Henry), Harpo (Adolph, changed to Arthur in 1911), Chico (Leonard), Zeppo (Herbert Manfred) and Gummo (Milton). Their stage names were coined for them by stand-up comedian Art Fisher during a poker game, and only adopted full-time when their act was well established. In an aversion of the ethnicity camouflage motivation, while the family was Jewish, their real names were passably not. (However, Chico did develop his trademark accent in order to divert antisemitic bullies.)
  • Rose Louise Hovick was a vaudeville performer, movie actress, and novelist. She's better known as Gypsy Rose Lee.
  • Jayne Mansfield is actually an aversion: she was born Vera Jayne Palmer, but she went by her middle name and Mansfield was her married name (which she kept even after divorcing and remarrying).
  • Lee Mack (real name Lee Gordon McKillop) takes his stage name from his great-grandfather, vaudeville performer Big Billy Mack.
  • Olivia Wilde's original surname was the rather unfortunate "Cockburn" (pronounced "co-burn," but we can't really blame her for not wanting to spend her whole life correcting people on that). She took her stage name from Oscar Wilde.
  • Born to vaudevillian parents, 7-year-old Joseph Yule Jr. landed a role as Mickey McGuire in a series of film shorts, and became identified with that name, even legally adopting it for a short period during legal wrangles over the series. Prohibited from using the name when touring as a comedy act, he chose a similar one, modifying his mother’s suggestion of "Mickey Looney", and becoming Mickey Rooney.
  • Harris Glenn Milstead was better known as the outrageous drag diva Divine.
  • Laurence Tureaud’s birth name didn’t really suit a tough guy, so he became Mr. T.
  • Adrian Paul, of Highlander fame was born Adrian Paul Hewitt. He takes advantage of using his real last name when traveling, to keep a lower profile.
  • Anthony Head had to alter his name when he began working in the USA, due to someone else already being registered with his name. That's why in the US he's billed as Anthony Stewart Head, but often just Anthony Head in the UK.
  • Nicholas Brendan dropped his last name, as did his brother, to avoid confusion.
  • James Roday of Psych fame was born James Rodriguez (his dad is Mexican, even though he doesn't look it.) Since there was already someone with that name in the Screen Actors' Guild, he had to either use a middle initial (which he wasn't too thrilled about) or choose a different last name. Apparently, when he got his first job out of college, a TV exec suggested he change his name so they wouldn't get flack for trying to pass off a white guy as Latino for diversity reasons, hence the more Anglo-sounding "Roday", named after a character in The Three Sisters.
  • Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti. He used the stage name Dino Martini (a Shout-Out to Italian tenor Nino Martini) when he began performing as a singer in local bands, and then anglicised it.
  • Back when he was starting out, Keanu Reeves used the name Casey Reeves for auditions. He eventually started using his given name and the rest is history.
  • Stan Jefferson was told by his wife that his name was unlucky because it contained thirteen letters. Searching for something that would symbolise success, he hit upon the Roman emblem of victory, changed his last name to 'Laurel', and became immortal.
  • Well-upholstered comedian Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle disliked being referred to and billed under his lifelong nickname "Fatty", but accepted it as inevitable. In a straighter example, when he was barred from acting following legal accusations, he directed a number of comedies under the name William Goodrich.
  • When Jason Geiger came to a talent agency in California, they thought his name wasn't strong enough for an actor and created with him another inspired by Steve Austin: Austin St. John. And the rationale became Hilarious in Hindsight given the breakout role St. John got was Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott.
  • Randolph Severn Parker III is better known to audiences as Trey Parker, with "Trey" based off a nickname from being the third Randolph in line in his family. He also used the alias "Juan Schwartz" for Cannibal! The Musical, and for his work in the unaired pilot of South Park (an extended version of "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe").
  • Anne-Sophie Lennerfors, an actress in Japan known for her mixed heritage (Japanese-Swedish), is usually simply credited as "LiLiCo" or "LILIKO" for her film and voice acting work. In the case you don't know her significance as far as her acting goes, she was most prominently known as the (first) Japanese dub voice of Eric Cartman.
  • One of the child actresses who played Anne of Green Gables in the 1930s, Dawn Evelyeen Paris, adopted her character's name (Anne Shirley) as her stage moniker; previously she was billed as "Dawn O'Day."
  • Christian Camargo, better known as the Ice Truck Killer from Dexter, was born Christian Minnick, but he changed his surname to his maternal grandfather's out of pride in his Mexican-American heritage.
    • Ironically, his grandfather—Ralph (born Rafael) Camargo, who was also an actor—urged his daughters to change their last name to something more Anglicized to avoid being locked out of roles in the acting world because of their heritage.
    • Christian's mother is former soap actress Victoria Wyndham, originally Victoria Camargo. You'd never guess she was Mexican, and apparently, the same goes for her son.
  • David Harvard Lawrence wanted to make himself stand out from the other David Lawrences in the SAG database. Seeing he was the seventeenth guy with that name on IMDB (who differentiates people with Roman algarisms), he became David H. Lawrence XVII.
  • Tony Malanowski, director of the infamous Night of Horror (and its remake Curse of the Cannibal Confederates), is billed among the cast and writers of that movie as Tony Stark ("I believe he came up with this "original story idea" during the same six-month bender back in the 80's that found him wandering around town in an alcoholic haze and a dirty tuxedo.")

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Most Pro Wrestlers operate under a stage name. Some are easy to pick out, while others are subtle.
    • WWE did a rather fun storyline on this, with Tough Enough season 3 winner John Hennigan being completely unable to decide on a stage name, and thus changing his name each and every week. He went through Johnny Blaze, Johnny Spade, Johnny Onyx, and Johnny Superstar before finally settling on Johnny Nitro — which was intended to be a kissass maneuver towards Eric Bischoff, the former architect of WCW Monday Nitro and then-current general manager of the Raw brand. Now, in his new gimmick as the second coming of Jim Morrison (lead singer of the Doors, who Hennigan looks remarkably like), he's taken the name John Morrison.
    • "Hulk Hogan" was born Terrence Eugene Bollea. (What, not intimidating enough...?)
      • He started out wrestling as Terry Boulder, than added "Hulk" as a nickname to that, before dropping the first name and changing the last name to Hogan.
      • The name "Hulk Hogan" was suggested by Vince McMahon Sr., and Hogan went along, despite feeling that the idea of an orange-skinned blonde-haired Irishman was kind of silly. He got way more over under the new name than anybody expected, but there was a slight hitch — Vince's penchant for billing him as "The Incredible" Hulk Hogan caught the attention of Marvel Comics, and they sued and won, taking the trademark for the name until Hogan bought it back more than two decades later.
      • He started out under a mask as Super Destroyer. Also went by Sterling Golden before Hulk.
    • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was born Steve Anderson and later known as Steve Williams, but changed it to differentiate himself from already-established wrestler Dr. Death Steve Williams.
    • Shawn Michaels was born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, a name which just doesn't fit a man who was billed as the "Sexiest Man Alive."
      • Referenced on a 2009 Raw, when Michaels worked as a chef and tried to avoid recognition by using the "fake name" Hickenbottom.
    • As he transitioned the wrestling world to Hollywood, The Rock gradually dropped his stage name, going from "The Rock" to "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson", and is now making films under his given name, Dwayne Johnson.
      • "The Rock" is trademarked by the WWE, so he had to stop using it when he stopped wrestling. Or when they felt like saying "no".
    • Legendary nutcase the Ultimate Warrior legally changed his name to "Warrior" ("Ultimate Warrior" is copyrighted by the WWE). His birth name? Jim Hellwig.
    • Ditto for another wrestler famously spiraling out of control, Chyna (born Joanie Marie Laurer.)
    • Ask a non-smark if they've ever heard of James Janos. More likely than not you'll get a "huh?" or somesuch in reply. Until you mention that he's more famous as Jesse Ventura, a name he adopted to shield his family from nutcase fans.
    • Brian Lawler went by Brian Christopher when he entered wrestling, to distance himself from his famous father, Memphis wrestling legend and current WWE commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler. It didn't work very well for a number of reasons (not the least of which is an extremely strong family resemblance), and Brian Christopher's lineage soon became the single worst-kept secret in wrestling history (and keep in mind, this is the "sport" that spent the better part of a century badly hiding the fact that it was all a show).
    • Virgil Riley Runnels? Not a wrestling name. Dusty Rhodes? Better.
      • His sons have continued the tradition. Dustin Runnels, better known as "Goldust", wrestled as "Dustin Rhodes" in the early part of his career, and Cody Runnels also uses the "Rhodes" surname.
      • It's actually quite common for second-generation wrestlers to use their fathers' kayfabe surname, such as the Von Erich Family, whose real last name was Adkisson.

    Voice Actors 
  • Anime example: The original North American dubs of Tenchi Muyo! were all done outside union agreements, and every cast member uses an assumed name. These are very specific to the show and sometimes in-jokes as well, such as Debi Derryberry's use of "Marie Cabbit" for her work voicing the hybrid cat-rabbit critter Ryo-Ohki.
    • This is a fairly common practice in voiceover acting. The cast of Metal Gear Solid all appeared under their standard pseudonyms because of uncertainty over the union situation. Of the main cast, only Doug Stone and (production staff member) Scott Dolph used their real names from the outset, while David Hayter was able to get the all-clear from the union between the printing of the game's manual and production of the disks. Later games ditched the pseudonyms completely.
      • Stage name adopted by David Hayter for the Metal Gear Solid dub, "Sean Barker", comes from the character he played in the live-action Guyver movie.
      • Cam Clarke's alias, "Jimmy Flinders", was taken from the name of a character he played in the '70s Mormon musical "Saturday's Warrior". He had also used the name for his work in Robotech, as well as other '80s dubs of anime.
  • A few other voice actors with multiple stage names:
    • Steve Blum (who has performed under the names Daniel Andrews, Roger Canfield, Richard Cardona, Steven Jay, David Lucas and Andrew Watto)
    • Melissa Charles (Tina Dixon, Melissa Fahn and Heather Lee Joelson).
    • Dorothy Elias Fahn (Dorothy Elias, Dorothy Fahn, Midge Mayes, Dorothy Melendez, Dorothy Melendrez, Jacky Morris and Annie Pastrano).
    • Stephanie Sheh (Jennifer Sekiguchi, Tiffany Hsieh, Lulu Chiang, and Laura Chyu)
    • Both Dan Green and Wayne Grayson appear in SlayersNEXT (among other anime) as James Snider and Vinnie Penna, respectively.
    • Barbara Goodson (Betty Gustafson, Barbara Larsen, Bertha Greene, and Shirley Roberts)
    • Brianne Siddall (Jetta E. Bumpy, Brianne Brozey, Ian Hawk, and Noah Fergie)
      • This is a common practice for SAG members, because most voice work is actually non-SAG... but they still want paychecks.
  • It's more-or-less standard in the dubs of Hentai anime for everyone to use an assumed name — usually the funniest porn-actor names that the voice actors can think of.
    • The ghost of the school librarian in Ghost Hunter is voiced by an actual pornstar using a pseudonym.
    • In the dub of Puni Puni Poemi, one of the Aasu sisters (Mutsumi) was voiced by an unknown voice actress under the pseudonym, "Yu Haul", a pun on U-Haul and related to the character's enormous bosom.
  • In Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity and Super Smash Bros.. Brawl, Sonic the Hedgehog's voice actor, Jason Anthony Griffith, used "Adam Caroleson", even though his real name is used in every other game. The dubs of Sonic X, One Piece and Pokémon also credit him as "J. Griff".
  • In Douglas Adams's video game Starship Titanic, John Cleese voiced the "Mega Scuttler" (a bomb) under the name "Kim Bread". The role mostly consisted of counting down from 1000 to zero. As a meta addendum, John's family name was actually "Cheese" - his father changed it when he joined the army, 25 years before John was born.
  • Voice actor Jan Rabson used the name Stanley Gurd Jr. when dubbing for anime, ironically these are pretty much the only times he plays major characters aside from Leisure Suit Larry, most notably he voiced Tetsuo in the original dub of AKIRA and Han and others in Street Fighter II under this name.
  • Pokémon had a few cases of actors that initially used aliases, but would later drop them:
    • Erica Schroeder was usually credited as "Bella Hudson" (along with her work in other 4kids dubs), although her later roles were credited under her birth name.
    • Roxanne Beck originally went by "Annie Pondel"/"Annie Pandel" for the first two seasons.
  • Mary Kay Bergman used the stage name "Shannen Cassidy" for the first season of South Park, as well as part of the second seasonnote . This was due to the fact that she was Disneyland's official voice of Snow White at the time, and had worried about her name being associated with adult animation. She dropped the alias around the time of the episode "Clubhouses".
    • Eliza Schneider was credited under the name "Blue Girl" in a few season 4 episodes, with it being an alias that she used as a performance artist.
    • April Stewart initially used the name "Gracie Lazar" in order to work on the show, due to the fact that it was a non-union project (a union and salary dispute had previously lead to Eliza Schneider quitting). She dropped the alias around season 9.
    • Jessica Makinson was sometimes credited under her actual name, although more current seasons have credited her under "Jessie Thomas"/"Jessie Jo Thomas".
    • Elisa Gabrielli has gone under the alias "Elise Gabriel" for her occasional guest spots in the show.
    • An actress with the pseudonym "Laylo Incognegro" note  was credited for the role of Nichole in the episode "Cartman Finds Love". It is unknown who actually provided the voice, although the usage of the alias may have been due to the show being a non-union project, or done for the sake of a gag.
  • Cheryl Chase used the alias "Carole Wilder" for her work on some non-union dubs of anime in the late '80s (including Harmony Gold's version of Dragonball).
  • A bit of a convoluted case happened with Battle of the Planets: The voice actor Alan Dinehart was actually the son of an elder Alan Dinehart, but opted to drop any "Junior" title. His own son, the third Dinehart in line, was instead credited with "Jr.", causing much confusion for a time.
  • Sally Donovan was initially credited under the alias "Elizabeth Mann" for her work in the third episode of Superjail!, though later episodes began crediting her under her actual name.
  • Latin American and Spaniard voice actors has an enteresting twist on this: Unless stated otherwise, most of them use their second first name and their first (maternal) or second (paternal) name of their last name. As an example, Mexican voice actor Luis Eduardo Garza Escudero (Krillin and Ichigo) goes credited as only Eduardo Garza. Unlike Japanese and American voice actors, they rarely use stage names for hiding their identities in non-union or risky works (as it's considered rather stupid anyways there) and when they do, it's mostly because they like to use that name for other reasons unrelated with their work or maybe because their fans and friends prefers to call them with those names instead:
    • Gabriela Schietter Castañon goes credited as Gaby Willer or Gabriela Willert (Li Meiling and Motoko Kusanagi)
    • Gabriel Basurto (Sesshoumaru) is quite a complex example: He was credited sometimes as such and sometimes as "Alfredo Basurto" as his full name is Alfredo Gabriel Basurto Contreras. This caused many fans to think both names refered to two unrelated voice actors with the same last name.
    • Maria Hiromi Hayakawa Salas (Draculaura) only goes as Hiromi Hayakawa, causing many fans to think she is a native Japanese voice actress (She's a Japanese-Mexican born in Japan, but raised in Mexico)
  • Japanese voice actors also has a twist on this, too: While sometimes using an alias when working in risky works like Hentai, sometimes their stage names are also their real names, except written with a different alphabet, due of the way how Japanese language works:

    Musicians 
  • Bob Dylan's original last name was Zimmerman, but he legally changed his name to Bob Dylan (inspired by Dylan Thomas) many years ago.
  • Kiss has plenty. Chaim Witz became Gene Simmons. Stanley Harvey Eisen = Paul Stanley. George Peter John Criscuola = Peter Criss. Also: Paul Daniel "Ace" Frehley.
    • Paul Caravello = Eric Carr. Vinnie Cusano = Vinnie Vincent. Mark Norton = Mark St. John.
  • In the world of music, David Jones adopted the name David Bowie to distinguish himself from Davy Jones of The Monkees.
    • And in an interesting reversal, his son "Zowie Bowie" reverted to his real name when he entered the film industry; as Duncan Jones, he's become a successful commercial director, with films such as Moon and Source Code.
  • Elton John is something of an exception, as he legally changed his name to Elton John before he became famous.
    • Parodied on an episode of The Vicar of Dibley where a man named Reg Dwight (Elton John's birth name) is hired to appear at the village fair in the mistaken belief that he's the real Elton John.
  • Like Elton John, Lights had her name legally changed to such. It was the only way she could use the name, as there was already a signed band called "Lights".
  • Black Sabbath's first line up were a subversion of this. "Ozzy" and "Geezer" are actually the substantially less cool John and Terry, but they were given the nicknames in school and they stuck.
    • Ozzy's replacement Ronnie James Dio is actually Ronald James Pavadona, but he assumed a stage name modeled after mafia boss Johnny Dio.
  • Similarly, the late Bon Scott of AC/DC was actually called Ron, but, as he was from Scotland, his classmates nicknamed him "The Bon Scott", or Bon for short.
  • Farrokh Bulsara, aka Freddie Mercury, is a prime example of this.
    • The "Mercury" part, yes. "Freddie" had been his nickname since he was a schoolboy, though.
  • Trent Reznor's full name is Michael Trent Reznor, but as he has explained "My father is Michael Reznor."
  • Marilyn Manson (the first lineup, at least) all took their names from the juxtaposition of an American Icon and a serial killer. In the case of the titular frontman, Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.
    • Marilyn Manson is one of those bands who changes their lineup every time you turn around. Eventually, the new members stopped using the icon/killer model for stage names, then stopped using stage names altogether. This caused a pretty jarring effect in later years, when you looked at the lineup and realised that Marilyn Manson and Ginger Fish were in a band with Tim and Mark.
    • Years before, Vincent Furnier also took a feminine first name and named himself and his band after that name. Marilyn Manson, steal ideas from Alice Cooper? Never...
    • Well, I mean, his real name is Brian Warner... How's he supposed to be the antichrist with a name like that?
      • Twiggy Ramirez's not much better off: Jeordie White does not bring to mind crossdressing, epic guitar playing and the occasional makeout session with Marilyn Manson.
  • William Michael Albert Broad got a "William is idle" comment on a report card, so he took the stage name Billy Idol.
  • The most egregious example of this is Buckethead, a guitarist who doesn't only have a stage name (almost everybody only knows his first name, "Brian"), but also a stage identity (which consists of a rather creepy man from a chicken farm, who wears a KFC bucket on his head and a mask to hid his allegedly mangled face). He will never wear anything else when performing.
  • The Beatles' Ringo Starr was originally, and still is legally, Richard Starkey.
    • Paul McCartney is actually James Paul McCartney, but has also been credited under a number of unusual names - some notable ones include The Fireman, Apollo C. Vermouth, Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington (who had a self-titled album) and Paul Ramon, whose name was taken by all of The Ramones (see next example).
      • John Lennon was fond of the pseudonym 'Dr Winston O'Boogie' (Winston was his middle name, after Winston Churchill).
    • Mike McGear, of fellow Liverpool group The Scaffold, was, in reality, Peter Michael McCartney, brother of Paul. He invented the new surname ("gear" being a synonym for "fab" at the time) to avoid accusations of leeching off his brother's fame (and other unwelcome comparisons).
  • The Ramones: Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin), Johnny Ramone (John Cummings), Joey Ramone (Jeffry Hyman), Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi), Marky Ramone (Marc Bell), Richie Ramone (Richard Reinhardt), Elvis Ramone (Clem Burke) and C. J. Ramone (Christopher Joseph Ward). The surname came from the fact that Paul McCartney hid his identity in hotels by registering under Paul Ramone.
    • Clem Burke is a stage name itself - he was born Clement Bozewski.
  • Also Beatles-inspired: Buster Bloodvessel (Douglas William Trendle), the hefty, skinheaded frontman of UK ska group Bad Manners. Buster Bloodvessel was the name of Ivor Cutler's character in the Magical Mystery Tour film.
  • Each member of the band Malice Mizer go under stage names, many of which have hidden their actual identity.
    • Come to think of it, how many {[J rock}}ers in general do you know who actually use their real, full name? Most either abbreviate their first name, use just their first name, abbreviate their surname or make something up altogether. If there is anyone out their who uses both their first name and last name without tampering with either, then they're doing a good job of hiding.
      • Miyavi (formerly of Dué le Quartz, now a solo artist) doesn't seem to much care — it's pretty widely known that his real name is Takamasa Ishihara. Things like his Facebook page are generally under the name Miyavi Ishihara, however, because it entertains him more.
    • Another good Jrock example would be Man With A Mission, whose members are named Tokyo Tanaka, Kamikaze Boy, Jean-Ken Johnny, DJ Santa Monica and Spear Rib. Their real names (or faces for that matter, since they always wear masks) are unknown.
  • Kevin James LaBrie of Dream Theater assumed the stage name James LaBrie because there were already two Johns in the band (John Petrucci on guitars and John Myung on bass) and they didn't want another name match with keyboardist Kevin Moore.
  • W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless is a good example. Everyone knows him as Blackie, mainly because Stephen Duren is a somewhat boring name for someone that wore a circular saw codpiece.
  • Pick a black metal musician. Any black metal musician. They come in four flavors: nods to other bands or songs (Hellhammer, Euronymous, etc.), references to violence or other taboo subjects (Necrobutcher, Nocturno Culto, etc.), references to fantasy or paganism/the occult (Fenriz, Count Grishnackh, etc.), or "evil" sounding gibberish (Ihsahn, Samoth, Gaahl, Abbath, Horgh, Zingultus, etc., etc.). Like most everything about black metal, it is completely ridiculous and silly, yet fans take it very seriously and get offended when people remind them that it is ridiculous and silly. All of the aforementioned stage names are real musicians.
    • It's also worth noting that Count Grishnackh usually went by the name Varg Vikernes. Apparently his original first name, Kristian, just didn't cut it for a black metal musician who enjoyed burning down churches.
  • Prior to becoming famous, the musician Declan MacManus changed his name to Elvis Costello. However, in the mid-80s, Costello legally changed his name back to Declan MacManus. Although he continued to record and perform as Elvis Costello, his songs started being credited to MacManus. This began around the same time he co-wrote several songs with Paul McCartney, and he's said that part of the reason for the change back was just because he thought "McCartney / MacManus" would look cool.
  • Sting was born Gordon Matthew Sumner and got his nickname from a yellow and black striped sweater that he liked to wear on stage.
  • Eminem's real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III. You can see why he uses Eminem.
    • Rappers have a history of this - see Curtis James Jackson III, or "50 Cent".
    • On the other hand, one boy named Shad Moss, possible the best given name for a gangster rapper ever, decided to call himself Lil' Bow Wow instead.
    • Kanye West and Obie Trice thought their own names were good enough. Hell, Obie has a song called Rap Name where he boasts about not using a stage name!
    • Talib Kweli is a slight aversion of this as he was born Talib Kweli Greene.
    • This trope is actually becoming less common in hip hop as nowadays it's not all that uncommon to see rappers with relatively "civilian" names like Keith Murray, Lauryn Hill and Mike Jones forgo adopting a mic name.
  • German singer Freddy Quinn, best known for schlager/shanty-type songs in Germany, was born Franz Eugen Nidl-Petz. And he's actually Austrian.
  • Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones was born John Baldwin.
  • Miley Cyrus was born "Destiny Hope Cyrus". The "Miley" came from a nickname. She legally changed her name though.
  • While reading the original cast list of The Phantom of the Opera, it's easy to assume no one is actually born with a name as pretty as Sarah Brightman. However, that is her real name- but her costar Michael Crawford was born Michael Dumble-Smith.
  • Spanish singer and actress Charo is really María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten.
  • Nicholas James Bates became Nick Rhodes for "aesthetic reasons." His Duran Duran bandmate Nigel John Taylor goes by his middle name.
  • A rare Japanese example: Masato Shimon, who changed his name from Masaharu Fujikawa, has gone under several names, including Akira Tani, Kouichi Fuji and Ryou Kisao.
  • Alecia Beth Moore decided to use the stage name P!nk (either with an I or the exclamation). She's said in interviews she got it as a nickname in high school from Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs.
  • Every member of Mötley Crüe; the lead singer shortened from from Vincent Neil Wharton to Vince Neil, the drummer shortened from Thomas Lee Bass to Tommy Lee, the guitarist's real name is Robert Alan Deal but he uses the cooler stage name Mick Mars, and bassist Frank Carlton Serafino Ferrana Jr. legally changed his name to Nikki Sixx when he was eighteen, before Motley Crue had even formed.
  • U2's Paul Hewson is better known as Bono (from his early stage name "Bono Vox - good voice - of O'Connell Street"; Brazil still adds a "Vox" as his surname) and his bandmate David Evans is The Edge.
  • Ryan Ross, formerly of Panic! at the Disco and now of The Young Veins, had his name changed from George Ryan Ross III.
    • Those bands are guilty of dropping their numerical names in favour of shorter, simpler monikers— such as Spencer James Smith V and Peter Lewis Kingston Wentz III.
      • Let's not forget the switch to Pat Stumph to Patrick Stump to Patrick Vaughn Stump!
  • Geddy Lee is really Gary Lee Weinrib ("Geddy" comes from his mother's heavy accent). Alex Lifeson is really Aleksandar Živojinović ("Lifeson" is a literal English translation). Neil Peart is really Neil Peart.
  • Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield.
  • Howlin' Wolf's real name was Chester Arthur Burnett.
  • B.B. (Blues Boy) King was born Riley B. King.
  • Avenged Sevenfold is a very notable example.
    • M. Shadows= Matthew Charles Sanders, Zacky Vengeance= Zachary James Baker, The Reverend Tholomew Plague(The Rev)= James Owen Sullivan, Synyster Gates= Brian Elwin Haner Jr, Jonny Christ= Jonathan Lewis Seward.
  • Steven Georgiou went by the stage name Cat Stevens, apparently inspired by a girlfriend telling him he had eyes like a cat. After converting to Islam he legally changed his name to Yusuf Islam ("Yusuf" being the Arabic form of "Joseph", a name he'd always liked) — he has recently begun recording music under the single name "Yusuf", in his words "because 'Islam' doesn't have to be sloganised".
  • Peter "Vance Joy" Keogh has a story behind his:
    • "I was going through a Peter Carey phase and reading a lot of his books. There's a book called Bliss. The main character's name is Harry Joy and his grandfather is Vance Joy. He's the storyteller and a crazy old man. Plus, I thought it was a cool name."
  • The difficulty of howling Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck through 45000 watts of Marshall-amps gave us Yngwie Malmsteen.
  • Running Wild: Rolf Kasparek a.k.a. Rock'N'Rolf. The name came to be when one bandmember's little brother came up with it.
  • Iron Maiden: Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain. "Nicko" was one of his favourite puppets.
    • Lead singer Bruce Dickinson's proper first name is Paul. And, back when he was with Samson, he went by the name Bruce Bruce, which he took from Monty Python's Bruces sketch.
  • Pantera: "Diamond" "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. Also Vince "Vinnie Paul" Abbott, his brother.
  • Motörhead: Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilminster got his nickname (as did a number of people) in Hawkwind, note  his first band, note  where he was known for borrowing money from everyone: "Lem'me (lend me) a quid..." etc. His current bandmates are Micael Kiriakos Delaoglou a.k.a. "Mikkey Dee" and Philip "Phil" Campbell. (and the best known formation was Lemmy, "Fast Eddie"note  Clarke, and Phil "Philty Animal" Taylor)
  • Steve "Fuzz" Kmak, former bass player for Disturbed. No one ever asked him what "Fuzz" meant.
  • Vancouver Sea Shanty Punk band the Dreadnoughts are full of this trope: Uncle Touchy (sometimes The Fang) (vocals), Squid Vicious (bass), Seamus O'Flanahan (fiddle), The Dread Pirate Druzil (mandolin), Stupid Swedish Bastard (Drums). Formerly, the Wicked Wench of the West (bass), before she left.
  • Katy Perry's last name was originally Hudson, but she changed it to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson.
  • All the members of ABBA had slightly altered names when they started their respective careers in the 1960s. Anni-Frid Lyngstad started calling herself Frida while performing in a jazz band, Goran Andersson called himself Benny while performing in a rock band, and Agnetha added the H to her name to distinguish herself from another Agneta in a band she sang in. Bjorn's a slightly different case since his father was the one who changed his surname to Ulvaeus, because he felt Andersson was too common. (The elder Ulvaeus certainly had a point, because otherwise all the credited composers in ABBA songs would be "S. Anderson , B. Andersson, and B. Andersson", and chaos hilarity would have ensued.)
  • The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have produced all their albums since the mid-'70s using the name "The Glimmer Twins".
    • Brian Jones billed himself as "Elmo Lewis" prior to forming the band.
    • Bill Wyman was originally William George Perks, and he went by Lee Wyman for a period before joining the Stones. The surname came from a friend and comrade in the RAF during his national service.
    • For several years Keith Richards dropped the "s" from his name and billed himself as "Keith Richard" at the suggestion of band manager Andrew Loog Oldham (who felt the shortened surname looked and sounded more appropriate for a pop star...perhaps by analogy with Cliff Richard?).
  • Cliff Richard was born Harry Roger Webb.
  • cEvin Key (Kevin Crompton) and Nivek Ogre (Kevin Ogilvie) of Skinny Puppy.
  • The Damned has always been rife with this. Past and present members include Dave Vanian (David Lett), Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), Rat Scabies (Christopher Millar), Brian James (Brian Robertson), Monty Oxy Moron (Montgomery Gillan), Pinch (Andrew Pinching), Lu (Robert Edmunds), Moose Harris (Jason James Harris) and Algy Ward (Alasdair Mackie Ward). Furthermore, Lemmy (Ian Fraser Kilminster - see Motorhead example) filled in on bass for a period in the '70s while they were between bassists, and Sid Vicious (John Simon Ritchie) was going to try for lead singer, but failed to turn up for the audition.
  • Sid Vicious (John Simon Ritchie) eventually joined the Sex Pistols, performing alongside Johnny Rotten (John Joseph Lydon). They would sometimes be joined on stage by punk model and general hanger-on Jordan (Pamela Rooke).
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees: Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Janet Ballion), Steven Severin (Steven John Bailey) - who took his name from the character in Venus in Furs, and Budgie (Peter Edward Clarke).
  • Mudhoney: Frontman Mark Arm was born Mark Thomas Mc Laughlin.
  • From the band X, we have Exene Cervenka, nee Christine Lee Cervenka. (She replaced the "Christ" in her name with "X", just like with "Xmas." X-ene. Get it?) Guitarist Billy Zoom was born Tyson Kindell; John Doe's real name is John Nommensen Duchac. Drummer D.J. Bonebrake, meanwhile, was born...Donald J. Bonebrake. Yes, he's the only one in the band without a stage name.
  • Englebert Humperdink's real name is Gerry Dorsey.
  • Meat Loaf was born Marvin Lee Aday. The stage name was originally a childhood nickname given to him by his parents, because, for the opening months of his life, his skin was the colour of raw meatloaf. Plus, he changed his legal name to Michael Lee Aday in 2001.
  • Prince, while he did make an example of himself as <symbol> from 1993-2000, has in fact spent most of his career as an aversion of this. His birth name is Prince Rogers Nelson.
  • More musicians who appear to be examples but are actually aversions: Madonna (born Madonna Louise Ciccone), Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch), Seal (born Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel), Taco (full name Taco Ockerse), and Manfred Mann (that's his birth name - they named the group after him when their A&R man pointed out how distinctive his name sounded). Cher isn't an example either: it's short for Cherilyn.
  • Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock. Her marriage to Ike Turner doesn't really subvert this - she had already been performing with him under her stage name for around two years before they actually got hitched.
  • Lady Gaga's legal name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. She chose the name from the song "Radio Gaga" by Queen, given to her by her producer for her theatrical approach to music. Contrary to what some sources say, Gaga had been quoted many times saying that she makes "absolutley no distinction between Stefani and Gaga." She calls this her "favorite question."
  • Iggy Pop was born James Newell Osterberg. The "Iggy" part came about as a nickname, as he used to play drums for a group named The Iguanas. Apparently still goes by "Jim" among friends.
  • May'n is a short form of May Nakabayashi, and also for being a homophone of the English "Main" to express her desire to become a mainstream artist.
  • Green Day has Mike Dirnt (the surname is how he imitates a bass' sound) and Tré Cool (as if Frank Edwin Wright III is not an Awesome Mc Cool Name enough). Yet Billie Joe Armstrong is the singer's actual name.
    • And yet, the side project the Foxboro Hot Tubs lists its members as Michael Pritchard, Frank Edwin Wright III, and the Reverend Strychnine Twitch. (and Green Day's tour guitarist promoted to full-time member after 13 years Jason White is Frosco Lee)
  • Like the Elton John example above, Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos) changed her name before she got famous.
  • Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates. His name was then changed to Ellas Mc Daniel during his childhood.
  • George Michael was born Georgios Kyriakos Panayiotou.
  • Pink Floyd: ex-frontman Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett used a nickname and ex-bassist George Roger Waters dropped his first name.
  • Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich started off performing under their nicknames, spotlighted this by naming the band after them, then racked up three Other Darrins as replacement bandmembers adopted their predecessors’ nicknames. Those names in full: lead vocalist and frontman David John “Dave Dee” Harman, bassist Trevor Leonard “Dozy” Ward-Davies, founding rhythm guitarist John “Beaky” Dymond and successors Paul “Beaky” Bennett and Anthony Stephen “Beaky” Carpenter, founding drummer Michael “Mick” Wilson and successor John “Mick” Hatchman, and lead guitarist Ian Frederick Stephen “Tich” Amey.
  • Superhero-themed ska-band-turned-rock-band The Aquabats!! all go by super hero names while in-character. Their line-up as-of the album Hi-Five Soup! consists of The MC Bat Commander (vocals), Crash McLarson (bass), Jimmy the Robot (keyboard/sax), Eaglebones Falconhawk (guitar), and Ricky Fitness (drums).
  • Swedish Alternative Rock band The Hives all have dangerous-sounding stage names. Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (vocals), Nicholaus Arson (guitar/keyboard), Vigilante Carlstroem (guitar), Dr. Matt Destruction (bass), and Chris Dangerous (drums).
  • Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction was born Peretz Bernstein. His stage name is meant to be a play on "peripheral".
  • Michael Balzary is better known as Flea. During his pre-RHCP stint playing bass for Fear, he apparently went by The Flea, if captions on promo photos are to be believed.
  • My Chemical Romance's Ray Toro and Frank Iero have different birthnames - Ray is Raymond Toro Ortiz and Frank is Frank Anthony Iero Jr. Also - Michael James Way is Mikey Way.
  • Veteran rock and roller Shakin' Stevens was born Michael Barratt. He picked up the nickname "Shaky" at school - it referred to his batting pose when playing cricket.
  • French singer, songwriter, actress and cultural icon Édith Piaf was born Édith Giovanna Gassion. Piaf is a colloquial French term for "sparrow".
  • One of the earliest and greatest bluesmen, Lead Belly: an orthography he repeatedly insisted upon (to no avail, as "Leadbelly" still remains more common; the performer died in 1949). Huddie Ledbetter spent much of his life in prison yet changed American music forever. His most recognizable song today is "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" because of the Nirvana cover on MTV Unplugged. Kurt Cobain asked David Geffen if he'd buy for him an old guitar played by Lead Belly. Presumably Geffen decided he'd already sufficiently compensated Cobain for Nevermind's 25 million copies, and declined to spend $500,000 on the proposed gift.
  • After forming the band Japan, David Alan Batt borrowed a new last name from a David Bowie song: "Drive-In Saturday" from Aladdin Sane, with the line, "He's crashing out with Sylvian." He's long since given up his most-obvious vocal resemblances to Bowie (and Bryan Ferry, which could be regarded as indirectly ripping off Bowie, anyway). But David Sylvian continues to record and perform with the name most recognizable to his audience, however increasingly alienated—or unable to recognize what he's doing—they might have become: particularly from the release of Blemish onward.
  • Karl Learmont and Amelia Tan became ZooG and DestroyX (although DestroyX is also known as Amelia Arsenic.
  • Walden Robert Perciville Cassotto, "Bobby" to his family and friends, became Bobby Darin (possibly taking the surname from a Chinese restaurant sign - i.e. Mandarin Duck).
  • Kanjani8 member, You Yokoyama, was born as Kimitaka Yokoyama. His jimusho felt the kanji used in Kimitaka (侯隆) was far too complicated to catch on so changed it to the much easier to say and spell "You". Fans usually just call him Yoko anyway.
  • Black Veil Brides' guitarist, Jinxx (whose real name is Jeremy Ferguson). The singer started out with the stage name of Andy Sixx, shortened it to Andy Six, then scrapped the stage name altogether for his real name, Andy Biersack.
  • All members of Mindless Self Indulgence:
    • Jimmy Urine (James Euringer)
    • Steve, Righ? (Steven Montano)
    • Lyn-Z (Lindsey Way)
    • Kitty (Jennifer Dunn)
  • Kaizers Orchestra
    • Janove Ottesen - Sjakalen/The Jackal
    • Geir Zahl - Hellraizer Kaizer
    • Terje Winterstø Røthing (born Terje Vinterstø) - Killmaster Kaizer
    • Helge Risa - Omen Kaizer
    • Rune Solheim - Mink Kaizer
    • Øyvind Storesund - Thunder Kaizer
  • When working with fIREHOSE, Ed Crawford was billed as Ed Fromohio (or "ed fROMOHIO", in line with the band's idiosyncratic use of capitalization). The name stemmed both from his being the only member of the band from Ohio instead of California, and from how he signed the fan letter that eventually led to him being in the band in the first place.
  • R&B singer Ginuwine's real name is Elgin Baylor Lumpkin.
  • Uriah Heep's original vocalist, David Byron, was born David Garrick. He probably took the name from poet and author Lord Byron, and perhaps did so partly to avoid sharing a name with David Garrick, pioneering 18th century actor and theatre manager.
  • Anna Shurochkina is the real name of Russian R&B singer Нюша (Nyusha)
  • Brothers Robert Bartleh Cummings and Michael David Cummings are better known as Rob Zombie and Spider One (whose band is filled with those as well).
  • The Offspring is Bryan "Dexter" Holland, Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman (the nickname comes from noodling his guitar), Greg K(riesel) and Peter "Pete" Parada (whose predecessors include Ronald "Ron" Welty and Adam "Atom" Willard).
  • Like Elton John and Tori Amos, Edward Louis Severson III became Eddie Vedder before he got famous (Vedder is his mother's maiden name).
  • Guns N' Roses: William Rose Bailey = W. Axl Rose, Saul Hudson = Slash, Michael Andrew "Duff" Mc Kagan, Jeffrey Dean Isbell = Izzy Stradlin', Darren Arthur "Dizzy" Reed. (in Aerith and Bob style, the drummers and Stradlin's replacement Gilby Clarke went at most with a contraction on their name) The only ones of the current band are Axl, Dizzy, Ronald Jay Blumenthal = Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (though he's also simply referred to as "Bumblefoot") and Daren Jay "DJ" Ashba.
    • The funny thing is that one of the bands William Bailey was in before GNR was called A.X.L. That band broke up and William Bailey used the name for himself.
  • Onika Tanya Maraj became Nicki Minaj when she pursued her musical career.
  • Daryl Frank Dragon, dubbed "Captain Keyboard" when he played with the Beach Boys, and now better known as Captain - one half of the well-known duo with Cathryn Antoinette "Toni" Tennille.
  • Mario Lanza was born Alfred Arnold Cocozza. He adopted a masculine form of Maria Lanza, his mother's maiden name.
  • Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson.
  • Averted with Frank Zappa, whose last name sounds every bit as quirky as most of his musical output but is actually his real family name. His longtime friend/rival Don Van Vliet played this straight as Captain Beefheart, as did many musicians who played in the different lineups of his Magic Band.
  • Practically every K Pop singer. If they don't choose a cool stage name, they will go by their given name only. In Korean you are NEVER called by your given name, unless your are foreign or possibly by your close family. So, 'Hong Gil Dong' would be called as 'Hong Gil Dong,' but if he was a singer he would just be 'Gil Dong' unless he chose a different stage name.
  • Subverted with Goth musician Voltaire (Now going by the name Aurelio Voltaire). His real, full name is Aurelio Hernandez Voltaire. Doubles as Awesome Mc Cool Name.
  • Australian singer Kandiah Kamalesvaran uses the stage name Kamahl (originally spelt 'Kamal' but apparently people kept mispronouncing it as 'camel').
  • From Einsturzende Neubauten:
    • Blixa Bargeld (birth name Christian Emmerich)
    • F.M. Eineit (Frank-Martin Strauß)
    • Alexander Hacke (Alexander von Borsig)
    • N.U. Unruh (Andrew Chudy)
    • Godrun Gut (Gudrun Bredemann)
  • Kid Congo Powers (former member of the Gun Club, the Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) has the birth name Brian Tristan.
  • Cass Elliot, AKA Mama Cass, born Ellen Naomi Cohen. She adopted the "Cass" in high school, apparently, after actress Peggy Cass, and the "Elliot" came some time later, after a friend who had died. The "Mama" part, however, is a straight example - she picked it while the newly-formed band were trying to find a suitable name, and ended up naming the band.
  • Damon Gough, AKA Badly Drawn Boy.
  • Neo Soul artist Maxwell goes by his middle name, however he keeps his real name under wraps to protect his family's privacy.
  • The Horrors, during their early days, chose slightly gothic names to go with their goth garage punk sound (upon going under a Genre Shift to shoegazing on subsequent albums, they reverted to their real names):
    • Faris Rotter (Faris Badwan)
    • Joshua von Grimm (later changed his stage name to Joshua Third) (Joshua Hayward)
    • Spider Webb (Rhys Webb)
    • Coffin Joe (Joe Spurgeon)
    • Tomethy Furse (Tom Cowan, although it's technically a subversion, as his birth name is Tomethy Furse Cowan)
  • The original lineup of The Dead Milkmen:
    • Rodney Anonymous (Rodney Linderman)
    • Joe Jack Talcum (Joe Genaro)
    • Dean Clean (Dean Sabatino)
    • Dave Blood (Dave Schulthise)
      • For the album Soul Rotation, Rodney Linderman was credited as "HP Hovercraft" while Joe Genaro became "Butterfly Fairweather" - Genaro would later combine his two Milkmen stage names and call his solo project Butterfly Joe.
  • Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop, Uncle Snoop, Snoop Eastwood, Snoop Lion — real name Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr.
  • Brazilian musician Marcos Valadão Rodolfo was nicknamed "Nazi" for his punk wardrobe. For obvious reasons, he changed the spelling to "Nasi" when he became the frontman for Ira!
  • Bryan David "Butch" Vig. His Garbage bandmate Duke Erikson (Douglas Elwin Erickson) too.
  • Elizabeth Woolridge Grant did her first record under the nickname Lizzy Grant, but only took off under the name Lana Del Rey.
  • Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens).
  • Lulu (born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie).
  • Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan).
  • Post-Punk duo The Swell Maps were brothers Nikki Sudden (Adrian Nicholas Godfrey) and Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Paul Godfrey). Both continued to use their stage names after the group broke up, and Epic Soundtracks is the reason Epic Records' soundtrack division had to call itself Epic Soundtrax.
  • Adam and the Ants founder Adam Ant (Stuart Leslie Goddard).
  • Culture Club founder Boy George (George O'Dowd).
  • Korn had Brian "Head" Welch (for his big head), and still has Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu (for his big cheeks, he was "gopher", then Garfield, then the current, short for "Fieldy Snuts") and James "Munky" Shaffer (for his monkey-like hands).
  • Rock drummer Cozy Powell, born Colin Flooks. The "Cozy" part came from jazz drummer Cozy Cole.
  • Doctor Steel's real name has never been revealed, although there have been several speculations over the years. Steel prefers to keep his real identity secret, to avoid crazed stalkers.
  • Michael Bolton's real name is Michael Bolotin making this a rather mild example.
  • Aubrey Graham did use his real name when he played Jimmy on Degrassi, but he is far more famous for being rap superstar Drake than he ever was for his acting career.
  • Twisted Sister: Daniel "Dee" Snider, John "Jay Jay" French Segall, Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, Mark Glickman = Mark "The Animal" Mendoza and Anthony Jude "A. J." Pero.
  • GG Allin, the notorious hardcore punk rocker, was born Jesus Christ Allinnote . When his parents' marriage broke up, his mother renamed him Kevin Michael Allin. His stage name derived from his brother Merle's inability to pronounce "Jesus" — "Jeje" became GG.
  • Iggy Azalea, born Amethyst Amelia Kelly, took "Iggy" from her childhood dog and "Azalea" from the street she grew up on, where her family lives to this day.
  • Ariana Grande-Butera dropped the "Butera" for her stage name.
  • Charli XCX is actually Charlotte Emma Aitchison.
  • Alaina Marie Beaton once gave the impression of being more than one person with the stage name Porcelain and the Tramps. She is now known as Porcelain Black.
  • LiSA's stage name is doubly apt, reflecting both her old band Love is Same All, and her real name, Risa.

    Other 
  • Everyone involved in roller derby—the players, the referees, even the medics—takes a stage name, usually some kind of play on words that references their playing style. Examples include Tanya Hyde, Cherry Rockette, Belle de Brawl, Hot Legs Hooligan, Vin Dictive, etc.
  • Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé. He acquired the nickname at school, from circumstances since forgotten. (it's mostly considered to be a mispronounciation of "Bilé", a local goalkeeper)
    • Single-name names are quite popular in soccer.
  • Noms de guerre were common among the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) took his alias from the Lena River in Siberia. Stalin (Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, or Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in his native Georgian) took his from the Russian for steel. Molotov (Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skriabin) took his from the Russian for hammer. And, apparently, Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) took the name of one of his jailers from when he was held in Odessa.
    • Mass-murdering Cambodian leader Pol Pot (born Saloth Sar) supposedly took his nom de guerre from "politique potentielle" (= potential politician), a French rendering of a phrase that the Chinese communist leaders used to describe him.
    • North Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh (born Nguyen Sinh Cung) constructed his final nom de guerre from the common Vietnamese surname "Ho" with the given name "Chi Minh" (= enlightened will). Prior to that, he went under the nom de guerre Nguyen Ai Quoc (= Nguyen the Patriot).
    • Argentinian-born revolutionary and poster icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara acquired his nom de guerre during his revelatory 1951 motorbike trip. He and his travelling companion stopped off at a rural fire station in Chile and volunteered to go and fight a fire with them. In a South American version of Canada, Eh?, the Argentinian dialect appears to other Latinos to be peppered with "che" sounds, so that's what the firemen called them - Ernesto was "Little Che" and his companion "Big Che".
  • Media impresario Janet Street-Porter is a para-example of maiden name retention. She was born Janet Bull. Her first husband was Tim Street-Porter, and she took his surname in the traditional manner. Then she began her career in the media, and has hung on to her distinctive name through all of her subsequent marriages and divorces.
  • Ján Ludvík Hoch, a Czechoslovakian Jew, arrived in Britain in 1940 as a refugee from the Nazis. Having joined the army, helped liberate Europe, and received an officer’s commission and promotion to captain, he was made to adopt a new name: Ian Robert Maxwell. Robert Maxwell, as he later styled himself, went on to achieve fame and infamy with the rise and fall of his media empire, and his eventual death by drowning.
  • Motorcyclist and daredevil Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel.
  • Baseball legend George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr.
  • Record-breaking decathlete Francis Morgan Ayodélé "Daley" Thompson.
  • Fashion designer agnès b (Agnès Andrée Marguerite Troublé).
  • Much like members of actors' unions, registered horses have to have unique names. While race horses are expected to have odd, pun-filled names today, it's due in part because more common names were used when registering systems began in the mid 1800s.

Fictional examples:

    Fiction 
  • The classic fictional example comes from the film A Star Is Born, where Esther Blodgett becomes Vicki Lester.
  • Henry Jones, Jr. only goes by Indiana, after the family dog. In reality, his nickname actually came from George Lucas' dog.
  • Syal Antilles, famous actress, went by the name Wynissa Starflare. "Antilles" is said to be a very common name, but she's the sister and only surviving kin of the very prominent Rebel and Ace Pilot Wedge Antilles, and she doesn't want people finding out.
  • In the Friends episode "The One with the Fake Monica", Joey Tribbiani wants to change his name to something less ethnic. Chandler jokingly suggests Joseph Stalin; Joey, being The Ditz, doesn't know how infamous this name is, and tries to use it.
    • In the final scene of that episode he goes to a casting to use the name Holden McGroin.
  • Delysia Lafosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a glamourous American club singer and aspiring actress, whose real name is Sarah Grubb, of the Pittsburg Grubbs.
  • Victor Tugelbend and Theda "Ginger" Withel, better known to the Discworld's Moving Pictures fans as Victor Maraschino and Dolores De Syn.
    • Also from the Discworld — in Maskerade, everyone loves to hear opera singer "Enrico Basilica" ... but no one would pay to listen to Henry Slugg.
  • Ace Attorney gives us Maximillian Galactica, magician extraordinare!... whose real name is Billy Bob Johns. He even has the accent to go with it when he gets nervous. (In Japan, his real name is Kohei Yamada; in both cases, the name intentionally screams "country boy".)
  • In Watchmen, Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, changed her name from Juspeczyk so people wouldn't know she was Polish.
  • In Some Like It Hot, singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) says that her original name is Sugar Kowalczyk.
  • In The Caine Mutiny, singer Marie Minotti uses the stage name May Wynn. Donna Lee Hickey, the actress who played her in the film also used this stage name.
  • In his book I Am America (And So Can You!), Stephen Colbert claims that Joan Crawford was born as Shprintzel Anatevkawitz and Cary Grant was born as Balgok-Uth, Devourer of Souls.
  • In Time Scout, Wagers of Sin, it's doubtful Lupus Mortiferus was his given name. But for a stage name in the Roman Arena, the Killing Wolf isn't bad.
  • The TV Series Tracker had Troy Montana, the actor Cole took his human appearance from. He was originally Percy Greenstein apparently.
  • Bride of the Rat God, set in the Silent Age of Hollywood, features Chrysanda Flamande — real name Christine Flint.
  • In No. 6 one of the main characters goes by "Nezumi" ("Rat" in English). The other protagonist, Shion, doesn't know if this is his real name or not so when they meet someone who calls him "Eve" he asks if this is his real name. In fact, no, Eve is his stage name. Shion later finds out that the reason he goes by "Eve" is because he plays women on stage.
  • Several of the characters in Skip Beat! have stage names. Being a series about show business, this is bound to happen. Most notably we see this with Ren Tsuruga, who uses a stage name both to distance himself from his famous parents and to avoid facing his Dark and Troubled Past until he's ready.
    • Kuu Hiizuri apparently takes this very seriously, a trait Ren probably inherited from him, going so far as to have had an elaborate funeral for his stage name after he went back to using his real one.
    • To a lesser extent, Kyoko goes the Only One Name route with her stage name, not wanting to let Sho know who she was right off the bat.
  • The majority of characters in the webcomic Band Vs Band go by stage names that have some relation to their real names — for instance, Turpentine's civilian name is Clementine.
  • There is a character in one of Dorothy L. Sayers, a successful actor-manager called Garrick Drury; the 'lemony narrator' remarks that his birth certificate reads "Obediah Potts", but you can't be a successful actor-manager with a name like Obediah Potts.

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