In order to make it in Hollywood, stars like Elton John, Tom Cruise, and Jamie Foxx had to make a serious change in order to reach the spotlight. They and other celebrities like them legally changed their names, some to stand out from others with similar names, and others to fit in a little more. Sometimes changing a name can be as easy as changing a shirt.
Elton John once had a much longer name, Reginald Kenneth Dwight. That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, however. John created his new name from two famous blues players: a singer named “Long” John Baldry and saxophonist Elton Dean.
As the star of the Mission Impossible franchise, Tom Cruise is a household name around the world. It may surprise some superfans to know that Cruise’s birth name is actually Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. That name turned out to be a bit of a mouthful, so his agent asked him to change it. Cruise chose his middle name as a replacement for his last name and a legend was born.
Speaking of legends, John Legend, crooner extraordinaire, is actually just the singer’s nickname. His full legal name is John Roger Stephens. “John Legend is a nickname that some friends started calling me, and it kind of grew into my stage name,” Legend said in a 2008 MTV interview. “It grew to the point where more people in my circle would know me by that name than by my real name.” So the moniker stuck.
Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Jamie Foxx changed his first name to sound more gender-neutral. As a stand-up comedian, he noticed that female stand-ups were often called to the stage first. His last name was chosen in honor of the late great Redd Foxx.
Jennifer Aniston wasn’t technically the one who changed her family name. It was her father, Days Of Our Lives actor John Aniston who made the choice to switch things up. Born in Greece with the very Greek name of Anastassakis, John decided to simplify his last name by shortening it to Aniston.
Whoopi Goldberg is a name that stands out in a crowd. Goldberg’s birth name, however, was the much more common, nondescript Caryn Elaine Johnson. Goldberg revealed the origins of her stage name in an interview with the New York Times, “If you get a little gassy, you’ve got to let it go. So people used to say to me, ‘You’re like a whoopee cushion.’ And that’s where the name came from.” “Goldberg” is actually a family name, Goldberg’s mother’s maiden name to be specific.
Demi Moore found that less was actually more when she shortened her name. Originally born Demetria Gene Guynes, Moore dropped the last two syllables from her first name and went by “Demi” instead. Moore’s current last name comes from her first marriage to singer Freddy Moore.