It's no secret that having a famous last name can get you pretty far in the entertainment industry. Having successful family members generally means that you have both the connections to help you find opportunities and the safety net to support you while you pursue your dreams.
However, some up-and-coming performers decide to ditch their famous last names. Sometimes they use a stage name to prove they can "make it" on their own, and other times, it's simply because actors' union rules prevent two performers from registering with the same name. Occasionally, they end up dropping their stage name and going back to their real name.
Here are 17 celebs who used stage names that separated them from their famous families:
1.Nicolas Cage, who was born Nicolas Coppola, is the nephew of iconic film director Francis Ford Coppola. He started his career under his real name, but he decided to change it because, while he was filming Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "people would not stop saying things like, 'I love the smell of Nicolas in the morning,' because of Apocalypse Now, and Robert Duvall saying, 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning,' and it made it hard to work and [he] said, 'I don't need this,' and changed it to Cage."
He told Wired, "It's a combination of Luke Cage from Marvel comics, who was a character I liked, also named Power Man, and John Cage, the avant-garde composer. Speaks volumes about everything I’ve been up to ever since."
2.Angelina Jolie, the daughter of Jon Voight, was born Angelina Voight. When she was seven, she appeared in Lookin' to Get Out alongside her dad using her birth name, but when she pursued acting full-time as an adult, she switched to using her middle name.
3.Elle King, the daughter of comedian and former SNL cast member Rob Schneider, was born Tanner Schneider. She decided to use her middle name and the last name belonging to her mom, former model London King, because she "wanted to be [her]self."
She told ABC News, "It's not that I wanted to be a famous person. I wanted to be a performer. But I worked really hard, and I did everything myself...And, yeah, people know who my dad is. But I think that my voice and my music speaks for itself: that I am my own person."
4.Enrique Iglesias, the son of fellow singer Julio Iglesias and journalist Isabel Preysler, initially began writing songs under several different stage names — including Enrique Martinez — because, as a teenager, he wanted to keep his pursuits secret from his parents. However, after he signed with a record label, he released his debut album under his real name.
He told CBS News, "I think at times [using the Iglesias name] was positive, and at times it was negative. Does it gather the attention of the media? Yes, it does. But it could also at times discredit you...Either [people are waiting for you to] fall on your face, or there's, 'He's just doing it because his father's a musician, a singer.'"
5.Olivia Wilde, whose real name is Olivia Cockburn, is the daughter of journalist/Harper's Magazine editor Andrew Cockburn and journalist/producer/politician Leslie Cockburn. Her extended family is filled with accomplished journalists. When she began acting, she decided to use a stage name because her mother thought it would be smart for her to "have [her] own identity outside of [her] family."
She told the Observer, "[My mom] suggested I pick something Irish and something that I'd always be inspired by. At the time, I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest — I was playing Gwendolyn, and I was so in love with it. Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons — a revolutionary, a comedian and a profound thinker. I had all these reasons — but what I didn't foresee is that people would think of it as a sexy adjective."
6.Norah Jones, who was born Geethali Shankar, is the daughter of musician Ravi Shankar. At 16, she legally changed her name to Norah Jones, using her two middle names (Jones is also her mother's last name).
7.Scott Eastwood, the son of Clint Eastwood, was born Scott Reeves because his mother, Jacelyn, gave him her last name at birth. He actually started his acting career under this name too, because he "wanted to fly under the radar a little and see if [he] could do it and if [he] could get any roles." However, after only a handful of roles (some of which were in movies his father directed), he decided to use the Eastwood name professionally.
He told Route Magazine, "What I realized, and I think that's why I started to go by the other name, was that it didn't really matter. You still have to go in the audition room, you still have to win a role, you still have to be good enough to get it. No one's going to hand it to you. It doesn't matter what your name is. You have to go in and face the fire and do it, because no one’s going to hand it to you."
8.Mabel McVey is the daughter of singer/songwriter/producer Cameron McVey and singer Neneh Cherry. However, she goes by the stage name Mabel. Her sister, Tyson, also sings under a mononym.
9.King Princess, whose real name is Mikaela Straus, spent plenty of time in recording studios as a kid because her dad, Oliver Straus, is a recording engineer. He's the owner of the studio Mission Sounds, where bands such as the Arctic Monkeys have worked. She began recording her debut album, Cheap Queens, there.
King Princess was only 11 the first time they were offered a recording contract, but their family opted against it.
They told Rolling Stone, "My dad was really a protector and mentor. People were fucking scared of him. I worked with people who were like, 'Oh man, I love your dad's drum sounds.' And I'm like, 'Oh yeah? Don’t fuck with me'...I try to suppress it and say I had a chill childhood, but really I was brainstorming this whole thing."
The Straus family's last name is well-known outside of the music industry as well. Isidor Straus, King Princess's great-great-grandfather, co-owned Macy's, and he and his wife, Ida, were the Titanic passengers who inspired the couple who refused to leave without each other and died together onboard the ship in James Cameron's Titanic.
10.Lourdes Leon, the daughter of Madonna and actor Carlos Leon, releases music under the stage name Lolahol. She chose that name because "there's something about the word hole that makes people uncomfortable."
She told The Cut, "I want to feel like I deserve things and not just like I've been given things. And, yes, there's undeniable privilege that I'd be stupid to not realize. Nepotism babies are pretty awful usually, and my mom and my father raised me to be so much smarter than that."
11.Louisa Jacobson, whose birth name is Louisa Gummer, is the daughter of Meryl Streep and Don Gummer. While her sisters, Mamie and Grace Gummer, act under their real names, she uses her middle name because there's already another actor working under the name Louisa Gummer.
12.Henry Wolfe, a musician whose real name is Henry Gummer, is the only son of Meryl Streep and Don Gummer. Like his sister Louisa, he uses his middle name professionally.
He told American Songwriter, "Wolfe is my middle name. It was given to me, so I thought I might as well use it."
13.Olivia Giannulli is the daughter of actor Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who both spent time in prison for bribing their two daughters' way into USC. In high school she started her YouTube channel using her middle name, becoming an influencer under the name Olivia Jade.
14.Joan Fontaine, who was born Joan de Havilland, was the younger sister of fellow Old Hollywood actor Olivia de Havilland. She was discovered in the Warner Bros. parking lot while working as her sister's chauffeur, but she had to choose both a different studio and a different name because Olivia felt that "two de Havillands on the marquee would be too many."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, she "had to leave Olivia's distinguished name for her and..took [their] stepfather's name."
15.Tori Spelling is the daughter of producer Aaron Spelling, She first heard about Beverly Hills, 90210 from her agent, but after the agent told her that her dad was executive producing it, she opted to audition under the stage name Tori Mitchell. The fake name was borrowed from a Heather Locklear character.
She told Entertainment Weekly, "I really wanted to play Andrea. I went in under a different name, then I got the part of Donna — which I'm sure had something to do with my dad."
16.Leila George, whose real name is Leila D'Onofrio, is the daughter of fellow actors Vincent D'Onofrio and Greta Scacchi. She uses her middle name as a stage name.
In 2019, she starred in The Kid, which her dad directed.
17.And finally, Emilio Estevez is the son of fellow actor Martin Sheen, whose real name is Ramón Estévez. He initially considered using his father's stage last name like his brother, Charlie (real name Carlos) did, but he ultimately decided not to because his dad told him, "Don't make the mistake that I did. Don't change your name."
He told Today, "In 1967, my grandfather Francisco, to whom I dedicate [the movie The Way] to, came to see [my dad] on Broadway when he was doing The Subject Was Roses. He stood outside of the theater and looked up at the marquee, and my dad saw him shake his head in disappointment, and so he never got over that."