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14 Celebrities Who Picked A Stage Name Then Said, “Wait, I’d Rather Make My Real Name Famous”

Many actors and musicians work under a stage name. Sometimes, though, they pull out what I would describe as a “Hannah Montana is actually Miley Stewart” moment and drop her stage name for her real one.

Here are 14 celebrities who changed their stage name to their real name:


The first casting director James Rodríguez auditioned for refused to cast him as the lead due to his Mexican last name. His second audition landed him a role in a television pilot, but the production encouraged him to “seriously consider” changing his name because they didn’t think it would “look[ed] Mexican enough.” So, after discussing the decision with his father, he chose the stage name James Roday from a Chekhov play he was in.

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However, 20 years later, he realized that he was “essentially perpetuating an institutionalized element of what’s wrong with this industry.” So, he decided to change his professional name to James Roday Rodríguez (which is also his legal name).


In 1991, the Flirting The credits misspelled Thandiwe Newton’s name as Thandie Newton. She used the misspelling as her stage name for 30 years, but in 2021 she decided she was “taking back who she is.” [hers]and returned to the original spelling of Thandiwe.


When he was six years old, Shad Moss got the stage name Li’l Bow Wow from his mentor Snoop Dogg. In 2002, he dropped “Li’l”, then in 2014, he dropped the stage name entirely.


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Nicholas Diego Leanos rose to fame under the name Lil Xan, but after moving towards anti-drug messages in his music, he started going by the name Diego.


Born Dante Terrell Smith, the rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def decided to change his name to Yasiin Bey both personally and professionally in 2011. He had already been using the name Yasiin with family and friends since 1999.


In order to release his 1976 debut album, John Mellencamp had to give in to the wishes of his manager Tony Defries and change his name to Johnny Cougar. His management team thought no one would buy records from someone with his “weird” German last name, and instead wanted “something uniquely American.”

After that management team and his record label dropped him, he changed the name to John Cougar. As his fame grew in 1983, he went by the name John Cougar Mellencamp and released some of the most successful songs of his career. Finally, in 1991, he dropped “Cougar” from his name and never looked back.

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Kesha Sebert launched her music career under the stylized name of Ke$ha. However, in 2017, she decided to call herself Kesha after checking into rehab for an eating disorder. She dropped the dollar sign because she “dropped [her] facade of being a girl who didn’t care” and “he realized that that was part of the facade.


Early in Jsu Garcia’s career, his agent had him change his name to Nick Corri because “there were no Latino actors except Ricardo Montalbán, and he was lucky.” He had to be “this fake Italian guy” because his agent thought “no Latino actor would pull it off.”

He landed his first role (a guest spot on Fame) under the name Thom Fox in 1982. He was subsequently credited as Nick Corri until 1999, when he finally began using his real name as an actor.


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As a teenager, Jermaine Cole chose the stage name “Therapist,” but a few years later, he realized it “sounded like a wrestler’s name.” Since he didn’t like the name to feel like “an alias”, he changed it to J. Cole, which “fitted naturally” and “didn’t feel like [he] I was trying to be anything.”


For most of his career, Prince Rogers Nelson used his name as a mononym. However, in 1993, he began using the “symbol of love” as his stage name because Warner Bros. “own[ed] the Prince name and all related music marketed under Prince, and [he] it simply became a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros.”

However, after his contract with Warner Bros. expired in 2000, he began using Prince again.


When Mamie Gummer played her first role in 1986 Acidity Along with her mother Meryl Streep, she was credited as Natalie Stern. However, after she booked the next role for herself in 2003, she has always been credited as Mamie.

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Similarly, her sister Grace Gummer was first credited as Jane Gray when she appeared in The House of Spirits (starring Meryl) in 1993. She has been credited under her real name since her acting career took off in 2010.


Actor and producer Ramón Luis Estévez (whose father, Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, uses the stage name Martin Sheen) was often credited as Ramón Sheen during the 1980s and 1990s. However, he has been listed as Ramón Estévez since 1995. His brother Charlie Sheen still uses the family’s stage name.


And finally, when Tori Spelling’s agent told her about Beverly Hills, 90210, chose to audition under the stage name Tori Mitchell (inspired by a Heather Locklear character) without telling her father, producer Aaron Spelling. After booking the role of Donna, she was credited under her real name.

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