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Celebrities who changed their names

What’s in a name? For a celebrity, a lot. Name recognition is vital. And yet that hasn’t stopped some celebrities from changing their names. We aren’t talking about actors who changed their name when they got into the business, like Michael Keaton or Natalie Portman. These are people who were already famous and then made the change. Here are the names of those who made name changes. We’re counting athletes too!

 
1 of 20

Sean Combs

Sean Combs
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Call him Puff Daddy. Call him P. Diddy. The man born Sean Combs has had all sorts of different names. We first really heard of him when he was known as Puff Daddy, or Puffy. Then came the Diddy era. It was a complicated mess, and we aren’t even 100 percent sure what Combs is going by now.

 
2 of 20

Prince

Prince
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Prince is not a stage name. The iconic musician was born Prince Rogers Nelson. However, when he was at war with his record label, he took a bold stance and changed his name to a symbol. This was when he was known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. It was a bizarre choice that few people could get away with. Prince is one of them.

 
3 of 20

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg
Erik Voake/Getty Images for Salute the Troops

Remember that brief time when Snoop changed animal names? The rapper and actor was briefly known  as Snoop Lion when he made a reggae album with a religious element to it. This was supposed to be Snoop’s new name. Since then he’s gone back to Snoop Dogg. We guess the Lion sleeps for now.

 
4 of 20

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

When Ali became famous, he was known by his birth name, Cassius Clay. The boxer became an icon, though, after changing his name. The Muslim pugilist made the change for his religion, and these days we all know him as Muhammad Ali. He made a lot of change through his social activities in addition to being one of the best boxers of all time.

 
5 of 20

Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox
Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

When famous actors get married, they rarely change their names. It makes sense, given that they have famous names already. Cox didn’t do that. When she married David Arquette, she became known as Courteney Cox-Arquette. She even had her name changed in the credits of “Friends.” As a joke, “Arquette” was added to the last names of every cast member.

 
6 of 20

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Phoenix came from an interesting family. His brother was named River, and he was known as Leaf Phoenix when he began acting. Then he broke free from the hippy, cultish nature names of the Phoenix family. He became Joaquin Phoenix, a name he has been known as for multiple Oscar nominations.

 
7 of 20

Drake

Drake
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

These days, the rap star is known as Drake. You see him on the sideline of Raptors games as Drake, the rap star. Before that, though, he was a child actor. You may have seen him get shot in a special episode of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” While he was playing Jimmy Brooks on that show, he was known as Aubrey Graham.

 
8 of 20

Emma Stone

Emma Stone
Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Stone has an Oscar under her current name, but it isn’t her birth name. She was born as Emily Stone, but that name was taken in the Screen Actors Guild. As such, she decided, at first, to go by Riley Stone. Her first three credits are under that name. By the time she was truly famous, she was already Emma, but people who saw her early on may still remember her as Riley.

 
9 of 20

Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Lana Del Rey has a whole image and motif attached to her music. She has a carefully crafted persona, which some people are annoyed by. Frankly, we’re fine with that in music. Nobody complains about Alice Cooper. Before she came up with Lana Del Rey, though, she released some music under the name Lizzie Grant. Those albums didn’t click with people. Lana Del Rey certainly did.

 
10 of 20

Metta World Peace

Metta World Peace
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Ron Artest had a great NBA career. He was Defensive Player of the Year. He also went into the stands in Detroit to fight fans. Artest was a tempestuous person, but he was also a man in therapy and looking to change himself. This included a name change. After a lengthy NBA career, Artest announced he was changing his name to Metta World Peace. Under that name, he played a few more NBA seasons and continued to make an impact on the court.

 
Giancarlo Stanton
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Mike Stanton was one of the best prospects in baseball. He debuted as a 20-year-old and showed a ton of promise. He hit 56 home runs before turning 22. Then he changed his name to Giancarlo Stanton. That’s the name he was known as when he hit 59 homers and won an MVP with the Marlins.

 
12 of 20

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Lew Alcindor was a legend at UCLA. Then he debuted with the Milwaukee Bucks and led the Bucks to an NBA title in 1971 at the age of 24. After that he decided to change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Like Muhammad Ali, it was because of his conversion to Islam. Abdul-Jabbar joined the Lakers and eventually became the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Also he wrote a Sherlock Holmes novel and was in “Airplane!”

 
13 of 20

Chad Johnson

Chad Johnson
Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Johnson had a quirky personality. That’s how you become one of the most famous players in the NFL despite playing in Cincinnati. He was a great receiver, to be sure, and the guy who wore the number 85 decided to start calling himself “Ochocinco” as a joke. Well, it was a joke for a while. Then Johnson changed his name to Chad Ochocinco. Really. That was his name from 2008 through 2012. He eventually changed it back to Johnson.

 
14 of 20

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham
Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage

People never really knew Victoria Beckham as Victoria Adams. She was mostly known as Posh Spice when she became famous. On occasion, she would be known by her first name. Then Victoria married famed soccer player David Beckham. Since then she’s been known as Victoria Beckham, as opposed to Posh Spice.

 
15 of 20

World B. Free

World B. Free
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The man born Lloyd Free had some high-scoring seasons in the NBA. One year he averaged 30.2 points per game. People may remember Lloyd Free. He became one of the most famous names in basketball history, though, when he decided to change his name to World B. Free. World still racked up plenty of seasons where he averaged over 20 points per contest.

 
16 of 20

Yusuf Islam

Yusuf Islam
Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Cat Stevens was technically a stage name itself. The famed musician was born as Steven Demetre Georgiou. However, he didn’t become famous until he was known as Cat Stevens. The reason he’s on this list is because he then changed his name to Yusuf Islam. That’s not as catchy as Cat Stevens, but it was another name change for religious reasons.

 
17 of 20

Yasiin Bey

Yasiin Bey
Shareif Ziyadat/WireImage

Mos Def was a stage name to begin with as well, like Cat Stevens. Mos Def was a successful rapper and then started to dabble in acting. Then after years of being known as Mos Def, he asked to be referred to as Yasiin Bey. That’s still the name he’s trying to be known as, although he hasn’t done much since the name change.

 
18 of 20

John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame

He’s been Johnny Cougar. He’s been John Cougar. He’s been John Cougar Mellencamp. And sometimes he’s been plain old John Mellencamp. The musician has had a few different names. He’s also had hit songs under multiple names. These days, it’s simpler to just call him John Mellencamp. Although, John Cougar Mellencamp is a fun name to say.

 
19 of 20

David Bowie

David Bowie
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

You know Davy Jones from the Monkees, right? Well that made things tricky for a young musician named David Jones. He couldn’t help but be confused with the already-famous Jones from the Monkees. So instead he decided to change his name. Thus, David Bowie was born, and music history was made.

 
Christina Aguilera
Rich Fury/amfAR/Getty Images for amfAR

As a teenaged pop star, Aguilera had a “good girl” image. Then she decided to get a little raunchy to fight that image. During that time, she started calling herself “Xtina,” not unlike calling Christmas “Xmas.” Eventually, she’d go back to Christina. It’d be weird if somebody known as Xtina was a judge on “The Voice.”

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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