Celebrities Who Regret Their Stage Names

Okay, so imagine this: One day, you're plotting your moves to take over a certain part of the entertainment industry, while also choosing a stage name for yourself. Luckily, everything works out as planned years later because you've scored a lucrative gig, people recognize you in the streets, and your name appears in lights. But the problem is, whenever you see your name illuminated on a marquee, it makes you cringe because you regret the name you've chosen for yourself.

It happens to celebrities more than one may think, as many of them wish they had gone with another name entirely. Some of the regret has to do with choosing a name for themselves in a matter of minutes. Others, meanwhile, gave their name some real thought but still regretted it years later. And it doesn't just happen to individual celebrities; it's a problem that bands run into as well, despite their name being associated with big-time success. Of course, a person or band can simply change their name, but they may associate that with starting all over again, and who wants to do that after working so hard? So for this one, we chose some of the famous people who've talked about regretting their name and why they chose that name in the first place.

Thandiwe Newton had to deal with a different spelling

There are many in Hollywood who've anglicized their name in order to get work, like actor Sir Ben Kinglsey, who was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji. "As soon as I changed my name, I got the jobs," he told Radio Times in 2016. "I had one audition as Krishna Bhanji and they said, 'Beautiful audition but we don't quite know how to place you in our forthcoming season.' I changed my name, crossed the road, and they said when can you start?" Another person whose name was changed is Thandiwe Newton, but unlike Kingsley, she didn't consent to it. In fact, it wasn't even her idea.

The actor spoke about it in May 2021 during an interview with Vogue and said when she made her film debut in 1991's "Flirting," the spelling of her first name was changed from "Thandiwe," the actual spelling, to "Thandie." She then decided to keep it, which she regretted. But as of the Vogue interview, Newton said that all of her films going forward will be credited under the real spelling of her name and that her name shouldn't have been altered in the first place. "That's my name. It's always been my name. I'm taking back what's mine," Newton said. And rightfully so.

Nicki Minaj didn't want to change her name

When all is said and done, Nicki Minaj's name will probably go down in history. Mainly, because she was one of the first female rappers to be successful after a long drought of women not being in the hip hop spotlight. But if Minaj had it her way, it would be her real name, Onika Tanya Maraj, that would be remembered. During a 2010 interview with Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, the rapper said she didn't care for the name "Minaj" and explained its origin. "I was always called Nicki at home so I was known as Nicki Maraj but my first producer did not like Maraj and thought Minaj sounded better," she stated. "I still hate the name and I was going to go back to Maraj on the album but people told me no because my fans like it."

Minaj also spoke to The Guardian in 2017 about her stage name and gave a bit more detail about the disagreement that she had with her producer. During that interview, she said they argued at the same time she was about to sign a production deal and fought "tooth and nail" to keep her real name, but gave in. However, the New York-raised artist also said that Nicki Minaj is far different from who she really is and she uses that reasoning to justify the name switch. "I feel it's like one big theatre piece," she noted.

Lady A took a stand

It seems that a bigger and far deeper conversation about race started to take place on March 26, 2020, a result of the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer. Since that tragic incident, many in the United States began re-examining their position on race, including a look at the systemic racism that has pervaded many aspects of American society. One such group that stated the national conversation on race impacted them was the country group Lady A, which used to go by a name that was rooted in the American Civil War.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "antebellum" — which used to be in Lady A's band name — means "existing before a war," and many associate the term with the United States' pre-Civil War days, when slavery was still legal. Band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood said in a statement that they didn't approve of that connotation. "We are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before The Civil War, which includes slavery," the band wrote on Instagram. In that same statement, the group said they got their name from the "southern antebellum" style home where they took their first photos. Since their name change, many have praised Lady A for taking a stand.

Dave Grohl just wanted people to hear his music

When Nirvana's Kurt Cobain died by suicide in April 1994, the band's drummer, Dave Grohl, said it took him several months to start playing music again. It's something that he told "60 Minutes" in 2015, while explaining how he came up with his band name, Foo Fighters. As Grohl explained, he began recording his own songs after returning to music and was a one-man band at that time. And because Nirvana was such a huge act in the '90s, Grohl said that he didn't want people saying things like, "Oh, that's the guy from Nirvana."

According to Air & Space, the word was made popular in World War II when a pilot used it to describe "eight to 10 bright orange lights" that he saw "flying through the air at high speed." Grohl told Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes" that he regretted using that name for the music he was making after Cobain died, especially because he didn't think the Foo Fighters would turn into much. "Had I imagined that it would last more than a month-and-a-half, I might've named it something else," he admitted. "It's the dumbest band name ever." He also told Clash magazine in 2010 that he wanted people to think his songs were made by a group, not just him. "I figured that Foo Fighters might lead people to believe that it was more than just one guy. Silly, huh?" Grohl asked. It makes sense to us.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Anne Hathaway can't stand her real name

Anne Hathaway may have a name that's associated with successful films like "The Princess Diaries," "The Devil Wears Prada," and "Les Miserables," which got her an Oscar award for best supporting actress. But Hathaway would rather have those movies associated with another name, because she doesn't like her own, which she admitted in January 2021 on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." According to Hathaway, when she was a teenage actor, she gave someone her birth name, not believing it would be the official stage name she'd be using for the rest of her career.

"When I was 14 years old, I did a commercial, and I had to get my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card, and they asked me, 'What do you want your name to be?'" she explained. "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." Hathaway then said that her mother is the only person who calls her Anne, but only when she's mad at her. So that makes the actor feel like she's in big trouble whenever someone uses that name in public. The actor explained that those in her personal life call her "Annie" and she wished others would either call her that or something else. Just not Anne.

Bow Wow took it back to his birth certificate

Here's the thing about being a child entertainer: Oftentimes, that person doesn't want to do it anymore after outgrowing their cute image. But in Bow Wow's case, he outgrew his name, which he addressed on Instagram in 2014. "ANNOUNCEMENT: After BET awards I will no longer go by Bow Wow! I'm going by my real name Shad Moss," he wrote in the caption. "We made a lot of history as Bow Wow. Now it's time for the next chapter and challenge. Bow Wow does not fit who I am today. Ima father, businessman, TV host, actor, and rapper! Time for Mr. Moss to take over."

But despite the rapper wanting to use his real name in entertainment, it doesn't seem that people ever stopped using Bow Wow, whether they're journalists, radio DJs, or show promoters. Proof of the latter came in 2018, when Bow toured with his former So So Def labelmates. And 2014 wasn't the only time the rapper changed his name, he also made the switch from Lil Bow Wow to Bow Wow in 2002 at 15 years old. "I changed my name because I'm getting older now and it's too many Lil's," he said at that time, according to MTV. "All these Lil' rappers. I'm just kind of getting real irritated by it. ... I'm Bow Wow. Besides, I'm growing up, I'm not little anymore."

Hoobastank felt regretful 20 years later

Twenty years is a long time in a person's life and often they become almost a completely different person through that time. Take the ages between 20 to 40, for example. At 20 years old, many are eager to party it up with the best of them, maybe leaving their house at 10:00 p.m. and returning at sunup. But by the time 40 hits, a wild night may consist of going for that second glass of wine in front of the television. It also appears that 20 years was just the right amount of time for Hoobastank's Doug Robb to realize that he regrets the band name he chose. In January 2021, he posted a video of himself mouthing the words to Hoobastank's 2004 hit single "The Reason" to explain why he went with the strange name. "I'm not a perfect person," he lip-synched. And along with the video, Robb wrote, "Realizing 20 years later that you named your band Hoobastank."

So, where did the name come from? Germany, to be specific, and it all had to do with a mispronunciation. "Doug's brother happens to be the vice president of BMW Motorcycles in Germany," Hoobastank drummer Chris Hesse explained during a 2003 interview with The Post-Star. "Outside of where he lives is this street, Hooba Street. Before Doug could pronounce the name, he called it Hoobastank, and his brother still teases him about it."

Martin Sheen didn't want his son to have the same regret

There have been some folks in entertainment who've chosen a snazzier, Latin-sounding name for themselves to help them make it, like Lana Del Rey, whose real name is Elizabeth Grant. But there are more people in the industry who've changed their real name of Hispanic origin to something more American-sounding to appease casting agents. For example, actor Rita Hayworth was born Margarita Carmen Cansino, Raquel Welch's real name is Jo-Raquel Tejada, and Anthony Quinn's birth name is Antonio Rodolfo Quinn-Oaxaca.

Martin Sheen, who was born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, is another person who changed his name to secure roles. It's something he talked about with James Lipton on "Inside the Actors Studio" in 2003. "It's still Estévez, officially. I never changed it. I never will. It's on my driver's license and passport and everything," Sheen said, (via CNN). "In fact, one of my great regrets is that I didn't keep my name as it was given to me." In 2019, Sheen's son, Emilio Estévez, who chose to keep his birth name as an actor, said he did so on the advice of his father. "He said, 'Don't make the same mistake I made,'" Emilio explained on "Talk Stoop."

Yasiin Bey was tired of feeling like a product

Yasiin Bey, the rapper known formerly as Mos Def, burst onto the rap scene in 1998 after he and rapper Talib Kweli released the album "Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star." The following year, Bey dropped his highly anticipated solo project "Black on Both Sides." From there, the talented lyricist shot to global fame — and not only from music, he also had a successful acting career. Along the way, however, Bey grew tired of the Mos Def name and what he felt it represented, so he changed it.

"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," he told GQ in 2012. "At first it was just for friends and family but now I'm declaring it openly." In 2021, Bey spoke with Kweli on his "People's Party Podcast" and talked about the specific moment he decided to change his name. "I was at the airport once and I was coming out of the terminal, coming out of the gate and somebody was like, 'Mos,'" Bey relayed, stretching out the "o" sound to show the fan's enthusiasm. "There was an energy that they said it with that made me feel like, 'Oh, I'm a thing to that person. They don't know me, they know Mos' ... I almost felt like they were shouting out a mascot or something. I was like, 'I don't like that.'"

Mumford & Sons want a do-over

There are some bands just starting out who seem to share the same level of irony when it comes to their future. Because on one hand, they're writing songs and rehearsing to hopefully make it big one day, but at the same time, they're not planning for a long career and are only making decisions for the moment. Take the Smashing Pumpkins, whose former bassist D'Arcy Wretzky told The Washington Post in 1993 that the band's name started as a "joke" and a "bad idea," and they didn't expect to get so big using that moniker.

It seems like Marcus Mumford, lead singer of the English rock band Mumford & Sons, also wasn't thinking about the distant future when choosing a band name, something he wishes wasn't the case. "I definitely regret the band name. If I'd known it was going to go this way I would have wanted to call it anything other than my last name," he told NME in 2015. "It's a ball-ache. We thought about changing it but it's a bit late now." Mumford also said something similar about a year later on RadioX, calling the band name "rubbish." "I regret our band name," he stated. "You never really think about it when you're in the pub. You've done your first rehearsal, you've written your first song and someone's like: 'You need a band name now.'"

Latto said she meant no offense

What do you do when you've been working hard to make a name for yourself as an entertainer, you've finally accomplished it, yet that name causes controversy once it became popular? That's exactly what happened to the Atlanta rapper formerly known as Mulatto, who found success after dropping a series of mixtapes and being on Lifetime's "The Rap Game," which she won. As her fame grew, so did the talk that her name was offensive. The word "mulatto," as Merriam-Webster defines, is "a person of mixed white and Black ancestry." The word is also listed as "usually offensive," and 11 Alive pointed out its derivation is from the Spanish word "mula" or "mule," meaning a mixed-breed.

It also appeared that some thought the rapper was using the moniker as some sort of social status symbol, something she didn't want, so she changed her rap name to Latto in March 2021. "You might know your intentions, but these are strangers who don't know you, never even met you in person," she said on Hot Freestyle. "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?" Latto celebrated the name change when she released her single "The Biggest" in May 2021 and doesn't seem to be worried about it slowing down her career. "New money, new crib, new whip, new name," she rapped.

Jimmy Eat World wishes they took more time

Whenever someone has to make a quick decision, some might be told to just go with whatever their heart says. But here's the thing: Hearts don't talk, regardless of what love songs tell you.

Back in 1994, the Arizona rock band Jimmy Eat World seemed to go with their heart when having to make a last-minute decision about a name for their band. But it's something the drummer, Zach Lind, seems to regret and advised others not to do. "A little history on how we came up with the band name," he tweeted in 2018. "We were rehearsing in my garage .... and Jim [Adkins] told us we got asked to play a party in the storage room of Name Brand Exchange in Mesa on Southern and Val Vista in Feb of 94. So we took a break from the garage and huddled around our kitchen island and decided to play the show but at that time, we hadn't yet sorted out a name." Lind revealed they decided on Jimmy Eat World, one of the names members Tom Linton and Rick Burch used for their old band. "We discussed it for less than 5 min," Lind wrote about the band name. "So moral of the story: Even seemingly small and insignificant decisions can be much bigger than you could imagine. Slow down sometimes and make sure it's right." Great advice, wouldn't you say?

Lil Xan wanted a clean start

There have been a considerable number of musicians who've battled substance abuse, and some have opened up about their struggles while others have kept them a secret. California rapper Lil Xan is among the former group, because he's often discussed abusing drugs like Xanax and hydrocodone. The thing is, it's probably harder for him to stay away from such drugs since his stage name is Xan, short for Xanax, which he talked about to TMZ. During that interview, Xan also said he was going to rehab and changing his name once he was out. The "Slingshot" performer explained he made the decision to get help after rapper Lil Peep died from drug use in 2017 and Mac Miller died of a similar cause nearly one year later. "I just feel like it's time to get better," Xan told TMZ in 2018. "I want to do rehab, so I can get over this last little hump. ... My goal is to come out of rehab with the name just Diego all caps. ... No more celebrating, talking good about drugs and all that."

Since that interview, it seems the rapper has gone by both Lil Xan and Diego, as both names appear on his social media accounts. As of September 2020, it appears the name change was helping him stay clean. "I'm so happy to be completely sober, and proud of it," he told TooFab that month.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Emma Stone was inspired by the Spice Girls

Emma Stone, born Emily Jean Stone, went through quite a few name changes before finally settling on her current moniker. During an interview on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," the "Cruella" star revealed that she opted for the name Emma as a child. She was motivated to adopt the nickname in part because of her love for the Spice Girls. "I was super blond, and my real name is Emily, but I wanted to be called Emma because of Baby Spice and guess what, now I am," Stone told Jimmy Fallon.

During an interview with W magazine, the actor revealed she also considered a different name. "I had the option of Emily J. Stone and it's kind of like Michael J. Fox, and I love Michael J. Fox, but I don't think I could pull off the J," she explained. "So then I changed it to Emma because ... it's closer to Emily, but most people call me Em that know me well." It seems Stone regrets abandoning her real first name, however, because she shared: "I would love to get her back." She also said she had to choose a stage name at 16 after discovering there was another Emily Stone in the Screen Actors Guild. At that time, she opted for the name Riley Stone, which seemingly has no connection to her real name, so we don't know the inspiration for that new moniker. Regardless, she soon decided that she didn't feel like a "Riley."

Harry Morgan wished he'd embraced his heritage

Like many celebrities, "M*A*S*H" star Harry Morgan felt he had to Americanize his name in order to succeed in Hollywood. In 1983, the late actor, whose real name was Harry Bratsburg, told the Chicago Tribune (via Me TV): "I wish I hadn't changed my name, to tell you the truth, I like my name. It sounds like I look." He went on to praise actor John Hodiak, who refused to change his name. "I always admired John Hodiak," Morgan said. "They wanted him to change his name, and he said, no, that's my name. And he was proud of being Ukrainian."

As for Harry Morgan's background, the star was born to parents who immigrated to the United States from Europe, per IMDb. His father, Henry Bratsberg, was originally from Norway. The actor's mother, Anna Olsen, was born in Sweden. Bratsberg worked as a mechanic while Olsen took care of the home. If given the opportunity, it seems that Morgan would have embraced his family's last name, because he told the Chicago Tribune: "I'm all in favor of remembering one's roots. Well, that's what this country was all about!"

Kid Rock outgrew his name

Kid Rock, born Robert James Ritchie, is having second thoughts about his youthful moniker, as he reportedly feels like the name didn't age well. When speaking to Esquire about his public name in 2011, the musician said: "It's the worst name in the world. The only person that had a dumber name than me was the Fresh Prince. Hey, it sounded like a cool rap name when I was sixteen. But it stuck, and now it's me. I'll be an eighty-year-old man — 'call me the Kid.'" The "All Summer Long" singer has understandably outgrown his name, but the moniker did help him establish an image that contributed to his success.

If you were curious about the origins of the stage name, it turns out that Kid Rock didn't come up with it himself. According to the Detroit Historical Society, the musician was given the name by Detroit clubgoers who said they enjoyed watching "that white kid rock" when the star would DJ and perform in local clubs. Kid Rock went on to release his debut album, "Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast," under the new name — and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Kirk Douglas feared discrimination

The late actor Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch) changed his name because he feared that he would face discrimination in Hollywood. According to People, the star's parents immigrated to the United States from Russia. Douglas grew up in a Jewish household, and he felt that the name change would help him land gigs that he might not have otherwise been considered for given his origins. However, he also explained to People that he regretted his decision. "I wish I had kept it," Douglas revealed. "It's more interesting to keep your original name. But can you imagine that name on a marquee?"

When Douglas took on his new name, he was following in the footsteps of his parents, who also changed their names upon moving to the U.S. His father, Herschel Danielovitch changed his name to Harry Demsky. The actor's mother, Bryna, took on the name Bertha Demsky, per People. Despite attempts to make their heritage and faith less obvious, the family was still discriminated against though. According to People, Herschel was not allowed to work factory jobs and instead had to take on low-paying gigs. The family lived in poverty as a result.