Why Jamie Foxx changed his name

Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx

As the two "x" letters in his last name seem to confess, "Jamie Foxx" is in fact a stage name.

The Oscar winner, and star of Quentin Tarantino's latest violence-filled confection "Django Unchained" -- about a southern slave in 1800s America who transforms into an assassin -- was born Eric Marlon Bishop.

Raised in Terrell, Texas, by his mother's adopted parents, Foxx was not close with his birth parents. And the Texas town was racially segregated. Foxx was raised a Baptist and was a choir leader at his local church as a teen. At that time, Foxx was also playing gigs as a pianist.

While the performance bug bit him in his teen years, he was then still going by "Eric." In high school he was a top student as well as an avid football player with dreams of playing for the Dallas Cowboys. In college, he studied classical music and composition.

It wasn't until he started doing comedy -- at the prompting of a former girlfriend -- that he considered changing his name. And the reason he did it is sort of hilarious: He wanted to be mistaken for a woman.

[Related: 'Django Unchained' star Jamie Foxx relayed his encounters with racism to Quentin Tarantino]

When Foxx started performing at open mic nights in 1989, female comedians were routinely called to the stage ahead of the male comics -- and Foxx didn't want to wait that long. He chose "Jamie" because of its gender ambiguity. "Foxx" was his way of paying tribute to one of his favorite performers, Redd Foxx -- whose moniker was also a stage name. (Redd Foxx, best known for his role in '70s sitcom "Sanford and Son," was born John Elroy Sanford.)

Apparently that was the right call because just two years later, Foxx was cast on popular skit comedy show "In Living Color," which eventually led to his own sitcom on the WB Network and all of the other opportunities that ultimately got him an Oscar as well as a starring role in a Tarantino film.

"Django Unchained" opens wide on Christmas Day.

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