Revealed: Celebrities' REAL names before they were famous

What’s in a name? Just ask Amethyst Kelly and Olivia Cockburn! Celebrities’ REAL names before they were famous, revealed – as Sam Neill shocks fans by sharing HIS birth moniker

  • Jurassic Park star Sam revealed that he was actually born under the name Nigel
  • Halsey’s name came from rearranging her real first name: Ashley
  • Jamie Foxx changed his name from Eric so he could mistaken as a woman

Roll call! Celebrities have taken on stage names since the beginning of Hollywood for a variety of reasons whether it’s to stand out from the crowd, disguise their relation to a family member or just because they don’t like their birth name.

For instance, Jurassic Park actor Sam Neill, 75, revealed in his memoir that he changed his name from Nigel to his current moniker as a child. 

‘The one thing I resent about my parents, the only thing, is that they called me Nigel,’ Sam writes in his book.

‘Changing my name to Sam at the age of 11 was probably the best decision I made in my life.’

Sam Neill recently revealed in his memoir he changed his name from Nigel to his current moniker as a child

While some celebrity names are evidently made up, like Halsey or Jay-Z, fans may be surprised to learn that celebrities monikers Julianne Moore and Elton John were not the ones given to these stars at birth.

Here are the celebrities who have changed their names and why they decided to do it.

Iggy Azalea: Amethyst Kelly

Iggy Azalea was born with an equally unique name – Amethyst Kelly – in Sydney, Australia, and grew up in Mullumbimby, a town more than 470 miles north of the city.

She started rapping with a girl group when she was 14. However, when she moved to Atlanta to pursue a solo career, she decided she wanted to create a new identity.

The 32-year-old’s name came from two different aspects of her childhood. The first came from her dog’s name.

‘I had a dog called Iggy, who I loved very, very much,’ she explained during a 2014 appearance on Vevo’s original series A.K.A. 

‘I got a name-plate necklace made in his honor.’ 

She added: ‘Everybody started to think that my name was Iggy so it kind of became my nickname and I took it on board and started rapping with it.’

As per her grandfather’s request, she decided to come up with another surname. 

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was born with an equally unique name: Amethyst Kelly

‘[He] said to me, “You can’t have a one-word stage name,”‘ she recalled, ‘So I had to think of a good last name.’

After giving it some thought, the Black Widow rapper settled on Azalea ‘because that is a street name that my mom and family live on… and it sounds very feminine and I thought it would balance out Iggy being so masculine.’

She prefers for people to call her Iggy Azalea even off the stage and once announced that only the people closest to her can call her Amethyst Kelly. 

‘Only a VERY select group of people in my life are allowed to call me Amethyst,’ she tweeted. ‘If I let you call me that you are elite.’

Jamie Foxx: Eric Bishop

The name change was strategic and inspired by his girlfriend at the time, Jamie said

Jamie Foxx, 55, was originally known as Eric Bishop when he grew up in Texas.

It wasn’t until he started doing comedy in 1989 that he decided to change his name to Jamie. 

The name change was strategic and inspired by his girlfriend at the time, as per Yahoo. 

At that time, to be equitable, women were often called up on stage to perform ahead of men. 

Tired of waiting, he changed his name to a unisex moniker, hoping that he would be mistaken for a woman.  

As for his last name, ‘Foxx’ was his way of paying tribute to one of his favorite performers, Redd Foxx.

Halsey: Ashley Frangipane

During an interview with Cosmopolitan, the 28-year-old singer revealed that she had no money and ‘all the odds against me’

Halsey’s birth name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane and her decision to change her name was rooted in a desire for a new identity. 

During an interview with Cosmopolitan, the 28-year-old singer, who uses she/they, revealed that she had no money and ‘all the odds against me.’

Because they felt their dreams of making it were ‘so far fetched’ that they had the ‘foresight to know that being me wasn’t enough.’ 

‘I had to become somebody completely different,’ she told the outlet.

‘At the time, I felt that Ashley didn’t deserve to be famous and successful because she wasn’t that special, but if I made Halsey, maybe she could be,’ they added.

She continued: ‘[Changing my name] gave me the opportunity to create a new persona that wasn’t bound by the expectations I had for myself or the limitations that others placed on me because of my upbringing or my socioeconomic situation.’

Halsey felt they had ‘created a person’ that ‘could do everything.’

‘There was no way that Ashley was going to become a king, but I made a new name for myself and took her to paranormal, supernatural heights,’ she stated.

They got the name ‘Halsey’ from rearranging the letters of their name ‘Ashley.’ 

Macklemore: Ben Haggerty 

 Ben didn’t become Macklemore until he turned 17 years old while he was spending a summer in Brooklyn

Macklemore, 39, grew up with the name Ben Haggerty. He was 14 years old when he first started writing lyrics.

Ben didn’t become Macklemore until he turned 17 years old while he was spending a summer in Brooklyn, NY – a time during which he claims he was ‘young, creative, boney and drunk a lot of the time.’ 

He explained to MTV that like in his famous song Thrift Shop, ‘I use to go to thrift shops and buy the most flamboyant plaid outfits.’ 

‘When I’d go out in the city and kick it, I would dress up in these garments,’ he explained. ‘When I did this I was known as “Professor Macklemore.”‘

He took to that nickname and even used it for a high school art project.

However, when he made it to the recording studio, he decided to drop ‘Professor’ because he realized that he ‘wasn’t a professor of anything but the name Macklemore followed me.’

Macklemore is the name that he used on his first official, full-length album. 

Olivia Wilde: Olivia Cockburn 

The actress previously revealed that her last name was inspired by playwright Oscar Wilde 

Olivia, 39, decided to keep her first name when she became a professional actress, but changed her last name from Cockburn to Wilde.

She revealed to the New York Observer in 2007 that she wanted to create a new ‘identity’ to separate her personal and professional life.

Explaining why she chose Wilde, she told the outlet: ‘At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest – I was playing Gwendolyn, and I was so in love with it.’

She decided to take on the namesake of the show’s playwright, Oscar Wilde. 

‘Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons – a revolutionary, a comedian, and a profound thinker,’ she shared. 

‘I had all these reasons – but what I didn’t foresee is that people would think of it as a sexy adjective,’ she added.

Elton John: Reginald Kenneth Dwight

In a 1987 interview, the legendary performer revealed that he changed his name because he wanted to create a new identity

Elton John was given a much more formal name at birth – Reginald Kenneth Dwight.

The 76-year-old grew up in Middlesex and started playing piano at just three years old. 

In a 1987 interview, the legendary singer revealed that he changed his name because he wanted to create a new identity. 

‘When I became Elton John, it was like a new lease on life,’ he said in a 1987 interview with The Daily Express. 

He also didn’t like his birth name so he was more than fine with becoming Elton. 

‘I didn’t particularly like being Reg Dwight. It had too many unhappy memories,’ he shared.

Elton added: ‘I hated the word “Reg” anyway. It was just a horrible name.’

‘As soon as I was Elton, it was just great. It was like a new personality,’ he enthused.

Julianne Moore: Julie Smith

Unlike most of these celebrities, Julianne wasn’t thrilled about having to change her name

Julianne Moore, 62, made a slight change to both her first and last name, which used to be Julie Smith. 

However, unlike most of these celebrities, Julianne wasn’t thrilled about having to change her name.

In 2001, she told The New York Times that changing her name was ‘horrible.’

She had to because the name Julie Smith had been taken by another actress in the union. 

‘There was already a Julie Smith, a Julie Anne Smith, there was everything,’ she explained.

She ended up taking inspiration from her parents’ names in order to create her new moniker. 

‘My father’s middle name is Moore; my mother’s name is Anne. So I just slammed the Anne onto the Julie,’ she shared.

‘That way, I could use both of their names and not hurt anyone’s feelings.

‘But it’s horrible to change your name. I’d been Julie Smith my whole life, and I didn’t want to change it.’

Bruno Mars: Peter Gene Hernandez 

The Hawaii native revealed that his dad inspired him to go by Bruno

Bruno Mars was born under a completely different name: Peter Gene Hernandez.

The Honolulu, Hawaii native revealed that his dad inspired him to go by Bruno.  

‘My dad nicknamed me Bruno since I was two years old,’ he told Latina Magazine.

He would later reveal that his father nicknamed him “Bruno” after professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino.

As for his last name, the 37-year-old initially wanted to be Bruno but found that ‘Mars’ fit his personality and tacked it on. 

‘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.

He also defended himself against accusations that he changed his name to hide his Puerto Rican heritage on his father’s side.

‘I never once said I changed my last name to hide the fact that I’m Puerto Rican… That’s so insulting to me, to my family,’ he stated.

‘That’s ridiculous. My last name is Hernandez. My father’s name is Pedrito Hernandez, and he’s a Puerto Rican pimp.’

Winona Ryder: Winona Laura Horowitz 

Like Bruno Mars, Winona seemingly didn’t change her name to hide her ethnicity

Winona was born with her unique first name, but she made the decision to change her name from Winona Laura Horowitz to the one she is known by now.

Her first name was inspired by the town she was born in: Winona, Minnesota. Her chosen last name also has some meaning, but one might argue it’s more arbitrary if not amusing.

She chose Ryder because her dad was playing a Mitch Ryder song when her agent called and asked how she wanted to appear on the credits of her first film, according to Harper’s & Queen magazine. 

At this point, she was just 14 years old but her decision cemented how she would be known to Hollywood for the rest of her life.

Like Bruno Mars, Winona seemingly didn’t change her name to hide her ethnicity. 

In fact, she has referenced it in interviews and even mentioned how her relatives escaped the Holocaust.

‘I’m Russian and Romanian. So’s most of my family. My grandparents made it out to America,’ she said, as per the magazine.

Jay-Z: Shawn Carter

The producer and rapper’s real name is Shawn Carter, but changed it at the start of his career 

Jay-Z was born in Brooklyn, NY under the name Shawn Carter.

The rapper, 53, decided to change his name at the start of his music career. 

He took to the stage name Jazzy, which was eventually shortened to Jay-Z.

It’s believed that he may have gotten the nickname from the J and Z subway lines, which were the closest lines to his home in the Marcy Projects.

Regardless, Jay-Z was the name that appeared on his first album titled Reasonable Doubt in 1996 and he has stuck with it ever since.

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