Ben Munn/Cal Sport Media/Sipa Press
Ben Munn/Cal Sport Media/Sipa Press
Since the dawn of time, Hollywood stars and professional athletes have been rocking names that they weren't born with. Jennifer Aniston has more of a ring to it than Anastassakis. And, to think, it could've been Natalie Hershlag picking up the Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan.
But, as L.A. Lakers star Ron Artest—wait, excuse us, Metta World Peace—has reminded us, there are also a number of famous types who have decided to switch things up mid-career, after having already made a...well, a name for themselves.
So, in honor of Metta, who bounce-passed away the name his parents picked out, here are five celebs who have changed (or tried to change) their names while the game was still on:
1. Prince: When you're born with the name Prince and end up being an iconic pop-R&B performer whom women want and men want to be...why mess with that? But the dapper artist from Minnesota got steamed enough at his record label back in the 1993 that he opted to abandon his royal moniker for a visual symbol—dubbed the "Love Symbol"—that left him known as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince." Let's just say, he was selling a lot of albums, but ended up the butt of a lot of jokes. Once his publishing contract with Warner Bros.' Warner/Chappell Music expired in 2000, he readopted the name Prince, saving the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a whole lot of grief when the artist was inducted in 2004.
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2. Mos Def: The rapper and estimable actor recently announced that he will start going by Yasiin, the English spelling of a verse in the Quran, starting next year. He certainly isn't the first star to change his name later in life as a nod to his Islamic faith (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali and Cat Stevens' switch to Yusuf Islam come immediately to mind) and surely he won't be the last. But as far as this year goes, it's still Mos Def who's joining Dexter's sixth season as a suspected serial killer.
3. Madonna: And to think that this never caught on! She's had so many nicknames over the years, it's easy to forget that the Material Girl adopted the Biblical, traditionally Jewish name Esther back in 2004 in honor of her Kabbalah practice. "I was named after my mother," she told ABC News at the time. "My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and I wanted to attach myself to another name. This is in no way a negation of who my mother is. I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name." Alas, album buyers continued to attach themselves to "Madonna."
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
4. Chad Ochocinco: He was already a four-time Pro Bowl selection and record-holding wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals when he decided to change his surname from Johnson to Ochocinco, or "eight-five" in Spanish, in October 2006—it was Hispanic Heritage Month, after all—to match his jersey number, 85. (Chad Ochenta y Cinco apparently didn't have the same ring to it.) He was fined $5,000 for trotting onto the field with "Ocho Cinco" on his back instead of "C. Johnson," but he wasn't deterred. The audacious NFL star and later Dancing With the Stars semifinalist made the switch legal in 2008.
Steve Granitz/Getty Images; Universal Pictures
5. Joaquin Phoenix: Remember Dianne Wiest's troubled son with the porn stash in Parenthood? That was Leaf Phoenix, a member of the Phoenix acting clan who resembled Joaquin because...it was Joaquin! So why did he change his name later on? Actually, he changed his name back! The eventual Oscar nominee, whose kookiness we soon learned knew no bounds, first changed his name to Leaf as a child actor so that he would be more in sync with siblings River, Rain and Summer. Maybe realizing it wasn't so bad to stand out from the pack, he started going by Joaquin again when he was 15.