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Famous faces who don't use their real name: From Tom Cruise to Meghan Markle

A plethora of A-listers go by their stage names including Will Ferrell, Emma Stone, and Lady Gaga

Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
July 10, 2024
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Some of Hollywood's biggest stars spent years making a name for themselves which helped them become instantly recognizable around the world.

However, some of those names weren't the monikers they were born with, and many of the celebrities we know and love today actually go by stage names.

From big-screen hitters like Tom Cruise, Will Ferrell, Emma Stoneand Reese Witherspoon, to music icons like Elton John and Lady Gaga – and even former working royal Meghan Markle.

Check out the celebrities who don't use their real name below…


Meghan Markle smiling© Getty

Meghan Markle

The former Suits actress' full name is actually Rachel Meghan Markle – the same Christian name as her on-screen character, Rachel Zane.

The mother-of-two has never explained the reason behind her name change. We suspect, like many actors, the star scrapped her original moniker for a catchier stage name.


Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell

Anchorman star Will Ferrell was "embarrassed" by his given name, John William Ferrell.

"I remember feeling so embarrassed because my real name is John, John William Ferrell, so first day of school, I'd be John," he said on the MeSsy podcast.

"The teacher would be like 'John Ferrell?' and it was so embarrassing to me to have to say 'Here, but I go by Will, I don't go by John.'"

When asked why he chose to ditch John, he said: "It wasn't my choice. My parents named me John but they called me Will. I grew up as Will, but on a rule sheet, my legal name is John Ferrell."


Emma Stone smiling at the Oscars© Getty

Emma Stone

Emma Stone was born Emily Jean Stone but had to ditch her first name after joining the Screen Actors Guild and discovering there was another girl who shared her moniker.

However, in a recent interview, the Cruella star confessed she "would like to be" referred to by her original name whenever possible.

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter whether she would correct a fan who called her Emily rather than Emma, she responded: "No. That would be so nice. I would like to be Emily."


katy perry gold bra and skirt gday usa arts gala 2023© Getty Images

Katy Perry

Katy was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson to Pentecostal pastors Mary Christine (née Perry) and Maurice Keith Hudson, but for her stage name, Katy chose to adopt her filmmaker uncle Frank Perry's last name.


tom cruise mission impossible dead reckoning part one premiere nyc© Getty Images

Tom Cruise

Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise's full name is Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, after his father, Thomas Mapother III, but he shortened his moniker before his Hollywood career took off.


Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta got her stage name from one of her producers, Rob Fusari. Rob texted her the Queen song Radio Gaga but somehow 'Radio' was autocorrected to 'Lady' and Lady Gaga was born.


Executive producer/actress Reese Witherspoon of the series 'Big Little Lies' speaks onstage during the HBO portion of the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour© Getty

Reese Witherspoon

Reese's birth name is Laura Jean Reese Witherspoon, but she shortened her moniker to her mother, Betty's maiden name before she began her acting career in the 90s.


Nicolas Cage wearing a red suit at The Red Sea International Film Festival 2023© Getty

Nicolas Cage

In a bid to avoid the dreaded 'nepo baby' label, Nicolas changed his surname from his original Coppola to Cage. 

He decided to opt for a different name so as not to be associated with his famous uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. Nicolas allegedly took inspiration from comic book hero, Luke Cage.


Gigi Hadid at the Met Gala © Getty

Gigi Hadid

American supermodel Gigi Hadid changed her name from Jelena to her nickname "Gigi." According to Vogue Paris, the model's famous mother Yolanda invented the name "Gigi".

Speaking to, the blonde beauty revealed: "In first or second grade, there was a girl named Helena and it got confusing with the teacher who had to call out our names, and so the teacher asked my mum, 'If I needed to call Jelena a nickname, what would it be?' And my mum was like, 'I call her Gigi sometimes,' and the name stuck."


Elton John giving a speech at Davos© FABRICE COFFRINI

Elton John

Sir Elton John's original name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Later in life, the star reportedly grew to dislike his name. In a 1987 interview, the Rocket Man singer explained: "When I became Elton John, it was like a new lease on life.

"I didn't particularly like being Reg Dwight. It had too many unhappy memories." 

According to various reports, the global star's new first name was inspired by his fellow bandmate, Elton Dean. John, meanwhile, was borrowed from musician Long John Baldry.


Lana Del Rey smiling at Variety 2021 Music Hitmakers Brunch © Getty

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey's full name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant. She experimented with the stage name Lizzy Grant before settling on Lana Del Rey. 

Her source of inspiration? A Miami road trip with her sister, where she realized, she "wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of like the seaside on the Floridian coast."


Bruno Mars at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards© Getty

Bruno Mars

Peter Gene Hernandez is now known as Bruno Mars. The star's dad was reportedly behind the name change. "My dad has nicknamed me Bruno since I was two years old," he told Latina Magazine. 

As for his surname? "I was going to go by 'Bruno,' one name. Mars just kind of came joking around because that sounds bigger than life. That was it, simple as that," he explained.


Helen Mirren© Marc Piasecki

Helen Mirren

Dame Helen was born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff. In 1951 her father – a Russian taxi driver - changed the family name to the more Anglicised Mirren. 

Despite her Russian birth name and ancestry, she does not speak Russian but is fluent in French.


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