By Emily Feimster
What's in a name? The folks in Tinseltown seem to think a lot. A name is very important to a career in entertainment since it's a part of the image being created. A number of little known actors thought long and hard to find a star-licious name and have since become big celebrities.In the early days of Hollywood, it was common among actors and singers to change their name for the sake of image, to avoid ethnicity issues, or just because the name was too darn hard to pronounce. Just think of Goldie Hawn
who used to be Goldie Jean Studlendegehawn. Now there's a mouth full!
Many actors with names clearly not of an Anglo-Saxon origin were advised to trade them in. Martin Sheen who was born Ramon Estevez reportedly changed his name so that he would not be typecast by his ethnicity. Others include Bernard Schwartz who became Tony Curtis and Doris Von Kappellof, a.k.a. Doris Day.
Some of today's biggest stars have caught on. Tom Cruise was born with the not so suave name Thomas Mapother IV, which might have created a mission impossible for the sexy, action star. Meg Ryan is much easier to remember than Margaret Mary Emily Ann Hyra. Bad boy Vin Diesel was born Mark Vincent but started calling himself Vin at 17, so he could, presumably, scare off more riffraff while working as a New York bouncer. Carmen Electra is a sexy name but no mother put that on a birth certificate. The former Tara Patrick has said that Prince reportedly told her, "You look like a Carmen." He made up the part Electra. "I think it means the goddess of sex," she once guessed in an interview.
America's sweetheart Julia Roberts
was actually born a Julie. She changed her name when she applied for a SAG card and another actress was named Julie Roberts. "Punk'd" star Ashton Kutcher
is known to his family as Chris. He was born Christopher Ashton Kutcher but when starting his career as a model, his agency removed "Christopher" from his name, as there was already a famous model named Chris at the time. Chris who? Exactly. Guess Ashton got the better deal.
"Arrested Development" star Portia de Rossi used to be the plain ol' Amanda Lee Rogers, before naming herself after a Shakespearean character at age 15. Ever wondered where the name Whoopi came from? The comedian was born Caryn Elaine Johnson. She was reportedly nicknamed Whoopi (as in "whoopi-cushion") because of being overly flatulent. She added the name Goldberg, taken from the Jewish side of her family. Spike Lee who has sued people over his name was actually born Shelton Lee but his mother nicknamed him Spike due to his tough nature.
It's rare to find a hip-hop artist who uses their original name. Let's face it, Earl Simmons (DMX) may go well with an accountant, but it certainly does not fit a hard core rapper. Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dogg) and Andre Young (Dr. Dre) are also names which conflict with the gangster rap style. It's hard to believe, I know, but 50 Cent is not the hot new rapper's original name. He was born Curtis Jackson.
Hard rockers also have a habit of changing their names to fit the image. "Guns n' Roses" lead singer Axl Rose shed his small town image along with the name William Bailey. His bandmate Slash (Saul Hudson) traded in his name too. Pink is better known as Alicia Moore and the ultra controversial Marilyn Manson was born Brian Hugh Warner but combined a new name from Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.
Country singer Tim McGraw was named Samuel Timothy Smith but didn't know who his father was until finding his birth certificate which listed professional baseball player Tug McGraw. Tim subsequently took the surname when he began pursuing his music career.
Ok, so these name changers have had amazing success. If you are one of those people pursuing a big dream and are thinking of changing your name, make sure you have the talent to back it up. A name like Carmen Electra won't do you any good working at the supermarket.