They say that fame changes people, but sometimes, only sometimes, people change themselves – or, at least, their names, for fame. Usually the change is a practical one, such simplifying a last name that is long or difficult to pronounce, or giving an ordinary, everyday moniker a bit more pizzazz.
However, that’s not always the case. Just ask Engelbert Humperdinck, who was born Arnold George Dorsey!
We’ve rounded up a selection of celebs that have changed their names, and you may be surprised to see who’s made the list!
Famous for her role in Suits, and even more famous after her marriage to Britain’s Prince Harry, Meghan Markle was first known to family and friends as Rachel Meghan Markle.
Born on 4 August 1981 in Los Angeles, California, the Duchess of Sussex spent her formative years at private schools in Hollywood before attending Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Markle had already begun her acting career with a role in a TV commercial as a child, but worked as an intern at the US embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before continuing pursuing acting. Her reasons for preferring her middle name are unknown, but we bet that when she plays at a casino online she also adopts a pseudonym, just in case she wins big!
One of the greatest musical icons of the 20th century, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is still thought by some to have been a Caucasian British man. He wasn’t.
Instead, the man who started calling himself Freddie while at boarding school in now-Mumbai, India, was born to Parsi parents on the African island of Zanzibar. His real name? Farrokh Bulsara.
One of the most powerful and respected actresses of our time, Helen Mirren’s given name was Ilynea Lydia Mironoff. Her father, a Russian nobleman, changed his daughter’s name during the Cold War.
This was because the family did not actually live in Russia at the time. Instead, they had been in London during the Russian Revolution, and were pretty much stuck there. The actress’ name was changed to stop people from discriminating against her during those difficult years.
Always a flamboyant child, Reginald Dwight knew he was destined for stardom. He was, his name wasn’t.
Inspired by saxophonist Elton Dean and rhythm ‘n blues vocalist Long John Baldry, he started calling himself Elton John. He went as far as changing his name legally, and when he did, he also adopted Hercules as a middle name.
The flame-haired singer-songwriter as famous for straddling her piano bench as she is for her emotionally raw music, Tori Amos was born Myra Ellen Amos.
Her first flirtation with a name change came when her Methodist minister father took her to perform in gay bars as a teenager. She initially performed under the name Ellen Amos, but changed it to Tori in the 1980s, after a friend’s boyfriend told her she looked more like a Tori.
10 More Celebs
Just in case the first 5 weren’t enough, take a look at these 10 celebs who have also adopted a new moniker:
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Chloe Bennet was born Chloé Wang.
Model Irina Shayk’s real name is Irina Valeryevna Shaykhlislamov.
Canadian rapper, songwriter, and actor Drake’s real name is Aubrey Drake Graham.
Judy Garland? Forget it. Her name was Ethel Gumm.
Joan Rivers was born Joan Molinksy.
Eric Bana changed his name from Eric Banadinovi.
Antonio Banderas simplified his name from the longer Jose Antonio Dominguez Banderas.
Actor Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite. He started calling him by his famous moniker after a brief stint as Michael Scott.
Actress and partner of Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi’s real name is Amanda Lee Rogers.
Before changing her name, Lana Del Rey was known as Lizzie Grant.
In some cases it is easy to see why a new name has been chosen, but in others it remains something of a mystery. Would you change your name if fame came calling?