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No More Elgin Lumpkin Or Georgios Panayioutous: Celebrities Who Changed Their Names

Shannon Peace Shannon Peace
July 21st, 2008 10:43am EDT
CherMarilyn Monroe was originally christened Norma Jean. Archibald Leach opted for the more debonair nom de guerre Cary Grant. At the age of 10, musical prodigy Steveland Morris was dubbed (by Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.) "Little Stevie Wonder." These aren't the only celebrities who bid farewell to the names bestowed upon them in infancy; among those in the public eye, adopting a more star-worthy moniker seems to be the rule, not the exception.

Stage Names

Where stage names are concerned, some stars keep it succinct. Musicians Cher and Seal shortened their names from Cherilyn and Sealhenry, respectively. Prince and Madonna boast their own actual first names, simply dropping their surname. Gordon Sumner wore a yellow and black jersey so often when he played with his jazz band in England, the other blokes said he looked like a bumblebee and took to calling him "Sting."




More One-Named Wonders

DidoGrowing up, young Marvin Aday was called "Meat" by his father for his husky size; his classmates added the name "Loaf". Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong was reduced to the more manageable Dido. 60's model-du-jour Twiggy (aka Leslie Hornby) earned her famous tag for her svelte looks while rebellious singer Pink (Alicia Moore) took her cue from the Steve Buscemi character in the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. Other one-named wonders: U2 frontman/activist/philanthropist Bono (Paul Hewson), comedian Sinbad (David Adkins) and Richard Melville Hall (Moby) who famously feuded with another single-named star rapper: Eminem (Marshall Mathers).

Spiritual Influence

Sometimes revamping a name is a natural consequence of significant changes in the bearer's own life. Both Cassius Marcellus Clay (who became the world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali) and football star-turned-broadcaster Ahmad Rashad (who began life as Robert Moore) converted to Islam, and adopted names to reflect their new spiritual beliefs.




Spicing It Up

Erykah BaduWhen vocalist Erica Wright was told by her father (who was studying the Islamic faith) that her favorite scatt riff meant "to exist in light, to manifest, come with gifts" she was reborn Erykah Badu. Singer Me'Shell NdegeOcello was plain old Michelle Johnson once, while Grammy-winner Yvette Marie Stevens proceeded to set the music industry on "fire" (the meaning of the African name she adopted) as Chaka Khan. "Delicate" isn't the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Oscar-nominated actress, singer and rapper Queen Latifah (born Dana Owens), yet that's what her stage name means in Arabic.

Too Ethnic?

"I have never felt any ethnic connection between the Greeks and me other than how hairy I am," wryly commented the former Georgios Panayioutous. Perhaps that's why he took a leap of Faith and became singer George Michael, instead? Whether it was due to a disassociation to the ethnic tone of their names, or a desire to have stage names more accessible to the public, many other celebrities have followed suit: Krishna Banji became Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley; CNN talk show host Larry switched to King from Zeigler; Martin and Charlie Sheen mainstreamed their monikers from Ramon and Carlos Estevez and the tongue-tastic lead singer of KISS overhauled Chaim Witz into Gene Simmons.




Rocking' It Up

Guitar riffs and Gold fronts all around for these rockin' re-christens: William Broad ascended to 80's greatness when he emerged as Billy Idol; Curtis Jackson has raked in far more than his name - 50 Cent - would imply; Ohio-born Brian Warner transformed into controversial musician/artist Marilyn Manson; Another one bit the dust when Farrokh Bulsara rocked the stage as Freddie Mercury.




Vanilla IceThe Beatles might have been the fab four had a drummer named Richard Starkley (alias Ringo Starr) never walked across Abbey Road. Would Karma Chameleon Boy George have been barred entry into the US back when he was just androgynous George O'Dowd of Eltham, England? Would David Robert Jones been the father of glam rock had he not been enamored with the Bowie knife? Would Robert Van Winkle ever have had the one huge hit he managed had he never rapped as Vanilla Ice? Could a man named Calvin Broadus ever ask "What's my mother-f***ing name?" and get as big a response as he did as Snoop Dogg? Let's not forget U2's The Edge (David Evans), folk god Elvis Costello (Declan McManus) and Dante Terrell Smith, whose star continues to rise as rapper/actor Mos Def.




What do you think of stealing your new first name from the title of your first band, then taking the last name of the biological father you claim abused you? It didn't hurt William Bailey, who became Axl Rose and fronted Guns N' Roses, one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Theft and dysfunction? What's more rock n roll than that?




Random Renames

Jodie FosterThe top prizes for random renames go to Jodie Foster (what was wrong with the name Alicia?), Reginald Dwight who somehow felt Elton John was soooo much hipper, the actor/comedian/musician who traded in the designation Eric Bishop for Jamie Foxx and a young musical wunderkind by the name of Hendrix who selected the appellation Jimi over - drum roll please - Johnny. Huh?

It doesn't matter why these next few celebs discarded the names on the birth certificate - the new handles are definite upgrades! Cheers to Kirstie Alley, who wisely ditched the dud Gladys Leeman; Lovely ladies like supermodel Elle MacPherson and actress Jane Seymour shouldn't go through life burdened with names like Eleanor Gow and Joyce Frankenberg; A name like Ginuwine is silly for sure, but a definite upgrade from Elgin Lumpkin. Best known as Alfie, British thespian Michael Caine went by Maurice Micklewhite once upon a time.




Better Ring To It

Demi MooreIt would have been an Indecent Proposal to suggest Demi Moore remain Demetria Guynes and would anyone ever have taken the most famous celluloid cowboy John Wayne seriously with a first name like Marion? "Lady Fagan" just doesn't have the same ring as "Lady Day": Good thing Eleanora Fagan picked a name as sweet as her voice - Billie Holiday. The best thing Ike Turner ever gave Anna Mae Bullock was her name: Tina Turner. Golfer Eldrick Woods needed a nickname like Tiger for the history books; The name Columcille Gibson could have been a Lethal Weapon to any good career: No wonder he changed his name to Mel.

Unfortunately, the lauded praise ends here; not all celeb renames are successful. Lounge singer extraordinaire Engelbert Humperdinck should have stuck with Arnold Dorsey… Downgrade.

Have any names to add to our list? Tell us in comments!

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Story by Shannon Peace
Starpulse contributing writer