The Full Names of 26 One-Name Celebrities
A rose by any other name probably wouldn't smell as sweet, at least not in the cases of some of these one-named celebrities. From A-Z, here are the full names of some of your favorite mononymous stars, and the reasons they dropped the rest of their names.
1. The Celeb: Adele
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The Real Name: Adele Laurie Blue Adkins
The Story: As far as I can tell, Adele’s first name is simply distinctive enough to stand on its own. Plus, “Adele Adkins” sounds a bit like she should be playing at the Grand Ole Opry (which would be lovely, but not quite the sound she’s going for).
2. The Celeb: Bono
The Real Name: Paul David Hewson
The Story: Without a doubt, Bono is the only rockstar in the world named after a hearing aid. His school friends in Dublin all gave each other nicknames, and his was "Bono Vox," Latin for "good voice," based on the Bonavox hearing aid store on O'Connell Street. Eventually he dropped the "Vox" and became the Bono we all know today.
3. The Celeb: Charo
The Real Name: Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza
The Story: I mean, “Charo” is 31 characters (not including spaces) shorter than her real name, so you can see why she decided to shorten things up. But why “Charo” instead of “Maria” or even something more distinctive like “Rosario”? As it turns out, “Charo” is actually not an uncommon nickname for “Rosario.” Here she is with Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn.
4. The Celeb: Drake
The Real Name: Aubrey Drake Graham
The Story: Drake is a better rapper name than Aubrey. Back when he was an actor on Degrassi, though, Aubrey served him well.
5. The Celeb: Enya
The Real Name: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin
The Story: Because she knew that most of the world would scratch their heads when presented with the Irish “Eithne,” Enya changed her name to the phonetic spelling of her real name. Yep, “Eithne” = “Enya.”
6. The Celeb: Flea
The Real Name: Michael Peter Balzary
The Story: The itchy moniker goes back to his high school days, when friends called him “Mike B the Flea.”
7. The Celeb: Gotye
The Real Name: Wouter “Wally” De Backer
The Story: It’s the French version of his real name, Wouter. In his words:
“I figured my own name was, a) not very showbiz, and b) just didn’t really feel very right. Wally is my nickname but you know, Wally doesn’t really feel right for a performing artist - maybe if I was writing kind of novelty music! I don’t know. Gotye is a name that my mum used to call me sometimes when I was little.”
8. The Celeb: Hammer
The Real Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell
The Story: Yeah, if you’re of a certain age, you probably know him as MC Hammer, but he dropped the Master of Ceremonies a few years back. The “U Can’t Touch This” rapper and former batboy for the Oakland A's received his nickname from an unlikely source: Pedro Garcia, then of the Milwaukee Brewers, who thought a young Burrell was a dead ringer for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. (Reggie Jackson has also taken credit for the nickname.)
9. The Celeb: Ice-T (yes, I’m totally counting it)
The Real Name: Tracy Marrow
The Story: The name is a tribute to Iceberg Slim, a reformed pimp who later wrote novels. “I’d taken my name as a tribute to Iceberg, and then it hit me one day - dude is a writer. I thought he was fly because he was a pimp, but I realized that I really admired him because he was a writer,” Ice-T said in his autobiography.
10. The Celeb: Jay-Z
The Real Name: Shawn Corey Carter
The Story: There are a few theories, including that he was paying homage to his mentor, Jaz-O, or that it was a nod to the spot in Brooklyn where the J and Z trains meet up. But Carter maintains that it’s just a variation on his childhood nickname, “Jazzy.”
11. The Celeb: Ke$ha
The Real Name: Kesha Rose Sebert
The Story: Kesha’s her own name, obviously (who saw that one coming?), but where did the dollar sign come from? "It’s actually just being ironic about the whole money thing, because I actually stand for the opposite of putting a lot of emphasis on money,” she said in 2009.
12. The Celeb: Ludacris
The Real Name: Christopher Brian Bridges
The Story: “I made my name up. My first name is Chris, and Ludacris means beyond crazy, ridiculous -- which describes my personality, where I'm comin' from with my music, everything.”
13. The Celeb: Moby
The Real Name: Richard Melville Hall
The Story: “The basis for Richard Melville Hall - and for Moby - is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great granduncle.” While we're in the M section, Madonna was born Madonna Louise Ciccone.
14. The Celeb: Nenê
The Real Name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário
The Story: Nenê is one of the few mononymous people in the U.S. to have legally switched to a single name. The Brazilian, who plays for the Washington Wizards, was called “Nenê” as a child because he’s the youngest kid in his family and “nenê” is Portuguese for “baby.”
15. The Celeb: Oprah
The Real Name: Oprah Gail Winfrey
The Story: Most people have heard the tale: Oprah’s name was intended to be “Orpah,” after a biblical name, but it was misspelled on her birth certificate. Sorry we couldn't come up with a more obscure "O" name.
16. The Celeb: Pink
The Real Name: Alecia Beth Moore
The Story: According to the magenta musician herself, it was a cruel childhood nickname: "It was a mean thing at first; some kids at camp pulled my pants down and I blushed so much, and they were like, 'Ha ha! Look at her! She's pink!' And then the movie Reservoir Dogs came out and Mr. Pink was the one with the smart mouth, so it just happened all over again." Also: The artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson.
17. The Celeb: ?uestlove
The Real Name: Ahmir Khalib Thompson
The Story: Before he was ?uestlove, the former Ahmir Khalib Thompson wanted to be plain old ?, which he meant to mean “anonymous.” When people started calling him “Question Mark,” he changed his name again to “B.R.O. the R. ?” That didn’t work either - fans thought his name was Brother Question Mark. He finally arrived at ?uestlove because “in the old days, your name ended in rock, ski or love. ?uestrock was not happening and neither was ?uestski. So ?uestlove became my new old school name, ’cause I’m so old school!”
18. The Celeb: Raffi
The Real Name: Raffi Cavoukian
The Story: Because when your name is actually Raffi, you don’t need a surname.
19. The Celeb: Skrillex
The Real Name: Sonny John Moore
The Story: Here’s another case of a high school nickname that got carried over into adulthood. According to Mr. Moore, “Throughout my teen years my friends would call me Skrillex or Skril or Skrilly. Just became a stupid nickname that came out of the social online networking handles. Really means nothing.”
20. The Celeb: Twiggy
The Real Name: Lesley Lawson (née Hornby)
The Story: When the fashion model was just a girl, kids at school referred to her as “Sticks” because she was so thin. Her boyfriend later gave her a slightly nicer (?) version of the nickname, which became her name when she hit it big. “Twiggy is a stupid name for a woman in her 40s,” she once remarked, “But it would be hard to drop.”
21. The Celeb: Usher
The Real Name: Usher Terry Raymond IV
The Story: Let’s just say it’s a good thing Usher didn’t go the route of Drake and other celebs who eschewed their first names for their “cooler” middle names.
22. The Celeb: Voltaire
The Real Name: François-Marie Arouet
The Story: Is it any surprise that Voltaire liked wordplay? The Latinized spelling of his surname is “AROVET LI,” and “Voltaire” is an anagram of that.
23. The Celeb: will.i.am
The Real Name: William James Adams, Jr.
The Story: “I liked playing with words. I noticed that my name was a sentence, meaning one with will, who is strong-willed. And so I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, Mom, do you mind if I call myself Will.i.am?’ She was like: ‘Whaaa? You’re crazy.’ She was cool with it.”
24. The Celeb: Xuxa
The Real Name: Maria da Graça Meneghel
The Story: A quick background, in case you’re unfamiliar with the Xuxa brand: The Brazilian businesswoman started as a model back in the ‘70s but eventually ended up in children’s entertainment, which is how she made her billion-dollar fortune. She picked up her one-word title the way a lot of kids get nicknames: from a sibling. When her parents brought her home from the hospital, her brother declared that she was “My xuxa.”
Random Xuxa note: She dated Pelé, another mononymous person, which makes you wonder what they would have named their kids.
25. The Celeb: Yanni
The Real Name: He was born Yiannis Chryssomallis, though that's sometimes Americanized to John Yanni Christopher.
The Story: See “Raffi,” above. Actually, Yiannis is a very common name in his native Greece. He was known as “John” to his classmates at the University of Minnesota. “Yanni” is a just a slight variation of his given name.
26. The Celeb: Zucchero
The Real Name: Adelmo Fornacirari
The Story: Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar, a name given to him by one of his elementary school teachers. It’s also an apt description for his sweet, sweet music - the Italian musician has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Pavarotti and has a couple of World Music Awards and a Grammy nom under his belt.
Even More: Björk is Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Cher is Cherilyn Sarkisian, and Seal is Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel. Keep the list going in the comments!