The Real Story Behind Charli XCX's Stage Name

It's Charli, baby. While the British singer and songwriter is best known to normies for hopping on the chorus of Iggy Azalea's 2014 hit "Fancy," Charli XCX has morphed into one of pop's most forward-thinking secret weapons. In addition to writing hits for Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello, her own career delved into a more experimental direction beginning with the 2016 EP "Vroom Vroom." With her later work, Charli has explored a futuristic hyperpop sound that continues to keep her fanbase on the edge of their seats.

Charli's most recent album "Crash" was a return to her pre-"Vroom Vroom" accessibility, offering radio-friendly dance-pop like lead single "Good Ones." The album concluded her contract with Atlantic Records, her label she's clashed with over the years, and dealt with themes of selling out in an ironic, self-referential way. With newfound freedom on upcoming releases if she chooses not to renew her contract, it's likely Charli will resume her more experimental style after getting "Crash" out of her system. Her stage name is much better suited for that, after all, as it's historically caused confusion in the mainstream. When she was set to play "Saturday Night Live" as the musical guest last season, a promo spot with guest host Paul Rudd played it for laughs.

Although Charli cleared up the pronunciation in the clip, many people still might not know the true origins of her unconventional stage name.

Charli XCX is a 2000s callback

In a 2015 interview for "On Air with Ryan Seacrest," Charli XCX revealed the true meaning behind her stage name — and no, it's not Roman numerals. "'XCX' was my MSN screen name when I was younger, which is really nerdy of me. It stood for 'kiss Charli kiss,'" said the "Boom Clap" singer. "When I first started playing my first shows, the promoters were like 'What should I put on the flier?,' and I was like 14 or 15, and I was like 'Uh, just put Charli XCX,' and it just kind of stuck from there."

All these years later, Charli has never thought to change it. Despite creating confusion with some people, her fans have embraced it as part of her quirky image. Not only does it align with her internet popularity, but it also adds to the Y2K aesthetic of her fashion and music. Charli has cited Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the Spice Girls as some of her influences (per NPR), all of whom were at their cultural peak roughly around the same time as MSN Messenger. In fact, the music video for her Spears-referencing song "1999" features a blink-and-you'll-miss-it IM conversation with the screen name "CharliXCX92."

While it's easy to imagine Charli's "XCX" as some sort of alien surname from another planet, she once went by something rather ordinary. Let's get into the hyperpop star's real name.

Charli XCX's real name only tells half the story

Years before flying in the fast lane from LA to Tokyo, Charli XCX was born Charlotte Emma Aitchison. While her real name has a surprisingly posh ring to it, it barely foreshadows the hip, left-of-center music she would go on to make. It wouldn't be too long, as she was first discovered by a promoter on MySpace at the age of 14, per Complex. Performing at East London raves for much older crowds, Charli had the full support of her parents, who drove her to gigs. After all, they met at a nightclub themselves, where Charli's father Jon was a promoter. In 2020, she told The Guardian, "They started from nothing and worked so hard to be able to give themselves a life they loved. Growing up around that has an effect on you."

Given her very English name, some might not know that Charli is mixed race. Her mother Shameera is Indian, and came to the U.K. as a refugee from Uganda. In 2019, Charli told The Feed, "You're not that interested in your parents when you're younger, and now I realize she's a really powerful person ... Her story is a really inspiring one and it makes me realize how lucky I am." Despite many still hearing about it for the first time, Charli's ethnicity has never been a secret. In 2016, she tweeted, "i am extremely proud of my indian heritage. i love my roots & my family."