Nicki Minaj was forced to use a stage name!
Plenty of aspiring actors and singers choose a stage name before heading to Hollywood. When they finally make it big, that’s the name they’ll see in lights instead of the one they were born with.
While many celebrities strongly identify with their stage names, there are also some who wish they’d never chosen a fake name in the first place. Some are successful in changing their names, but others are stuck with a name they hate.
Here are 13 celebrities who regret changing their names for Hollywood:
Martin Sheen was born Ramon Estévez, but he was convinced to use a stage name early in his acting career.
He told Closer Weekly, “Sometimes, you get persuaded when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later…But, of course, I’m only speaking for myself.”
While his son and fellow actor, Charlie Sheen — whose birth name is Carlos Estévez — adopted a similar stage name, he’s grateful that he was able to influence his older son Emilio Estévez to act under his real name.
Thandiwe Newton uses the real spelling of her name professionally now, but for 30 years, she acted under a slightly altered version — Thandie Newton.
The stage name began as a spelling error in the credits of her 1991 movie Flirting. Even though her character’s name was also Thandiwe, the actor was miscredited as Thandie — and it stuck.
However, in 2021, she reverted to the correct spelling of her name, telling British Vogue, “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”
Anne Hathaway goes by her birth name, but she hates being called Anne and regrets making it her professional name.
We The Tonight Show, she said, “When I was 14 years old, I did a commercial, and I had to get my SAG card and they asked me, ‘What do you want your name to be?’ And I was like, ‘Well, it should be my name. My name’s Anne Hathaway.’ So that seemed like the right choice, but it never occurred to me that for the rest of my life, people will call me Anne.”
She also revealed that she’d prefer for everyone to call her Annie instead, which is the name everyone in her personal life knows her by.
Nicki Minaj was born Onika Maraj — and her stage name wasn’t even her choice.
She told the Guardian, “One of the first production deals I signed, the guy wanted my name to be Minaj and I fought him tooth and nail. But he convinced me. I’ve always hated it.”
To her, Nicki Minaj is a character she plays. She said, “I feel it’s like one big theater piece. It’s a show.”
Nicholas Leanos rose to fame under the name Lil Xan before changing his stage name to Diego, which is his legal middle name.
The “Lil Xan” name — short for Xanax — was a stark contradiction to the anti-drug stance the rapper took in his lyrics. Most notably, in his breakout hit “Betrayal,” he said, “Xans don’t make you / Xans gon’ take you / Xans gon’ fake you / And Xans gon’ betray you.”
His name change followed both his decision to quit the drugs he wrote about in past songs and the loss of fellow rapper, Lil Peep, who died after an overdose.
He told Complex, “The whole thing is like a journey. It’s not like, ‘Oh, Xan made a song a long time ago embracing Xanax, he’s a fucking liar.’ They can see my journey unfold. That many months ago I was going through that and that’s how things were up until ‘Betrayed.’ Now they can see where it started, what happened, and where I am now.”
Jude Law was born David Law, but when he enrolled in a London-based youth theater group as a teenager, he began using one of his two middle names as a stage name.
However, he regretted adopting the new name when it caused confusion over his gender.
Assuming that a student named Jude must be a girl, the National Youth Music Theater assigned him to the girls’ dormitories.
Dante Smith launched his music career under the moniker Mos Def, but, in 2012, he chose a new stage name — Yasiin Bey.
He told GQ, “I began to fear that Mos Def was being treated as a product, not a person, so I’ve been going by Yasiin since ’99. At first it was just for friends and family, but now I’m declaring it openly.”
He also told the Guardian, “[I don’t want] to deal [any more] with having any moniker or separation between the self that I see and know myself as.”
Joan Crawford was born Lucille LeSueur, but when she signed with MGM, the studio forced her to change her name.
The then-chief of MGM let the fans vote on what the actor’s new name should be.
She reportedly hated the name because she thought “Crawford” sounded too similar to “crawfish.”
When Alyssa Stephens initially launched her rap career, she used a racial slur for a stage name. However, following criticism, she changed it to Latto.
To her, “Latto” is short for “lottery,” and it represents a new chapter. Addressing the name change in her song “The Biggest,” she rapped, “It contradicted what I stand for/The backlash ain’t what I planned for…New crib/new whip/new name/I’m still that bitch .”
She told Hot Freestyle, “You know you might know your intentions, but these are strangers who don’t know you, never even met you in person…So you gotta hear each other out, and if you know those aren’t your intentions and that’s how it’s being perceived, it’s like why not make a change or alter it?”
She also addressed taking accountability for it on Twitter.
MASH actor Harry Morgan was born Harry Bratsberg. Though he was proud of the Norwegian heritage his last name represented, he succumbed to the pressure to change it for his career.
He told the Chicago Tribune, “I wish I hadn’t changed my name, to tell you the truth…I’m all in favor of remembering one’s roots.”
He also said that he wished he’d been able to stand up for himself the way John Hodiak refused to let MGM change his name. He said, “They wanted him to change his name, and he said, no, that’s my name. And he was proud of being Ukrainian.”
Kid Rock’s legal name is Robert Ritchie, and he thinks his stage name is “the worst name in the world.”
He told Esquire, “The only person that had a dumber name than me was the Fresh Prince.”
“It sounded like a cool rap name when I was sixteen. But it stuck, and now it’s me. I’ll be an 80-year-old man — ‘call me the Kid,'” he continued.
Before he went by J. Cole, Jermaine Cole rapped under the name Therapist.
When he was a teenager, the local rap group, Bomb Shelter, mentored him and the members’ creative names — including Nervous Reck and Filthy Ritch — inspired him to find one of his own. They helped him come up with “Therapist” while looking through a dictionary.
However, it didn’t last. He told MTV’s When I Was 17“A few years later, I realized Therapist sounded like a wrestler’s name. You know, like an alias. It didn’t feel real…J. Cole felt like my real name…It didn’t feel like I was trying to be anything.”
And finally, when 16-year-old Emily Stone’s name was already taken at SAG, she registered under the stage name Riley Stone. However, six months later, she went back and changed it to Emma Stone.
She told The Tonight Show“It wasn’t necessarily because of [Baby Spice], but yes, in second grade, did I go up to the teacher and ask her to call me Emma? Yes I did. And was it because of Emma Lee Bunton from the Spice Girls? Yes it was.”
However, she misses going by her legal name. She told W Magazine, “I miss Emily. I would love to get her back.”