Olivia Wilde’s star has risen steadily and surely. It seems like only yesterday when the actor was starting as Remy Hadley in “House” and Alex Kelly in “The O.C.” Wilde today is one of the most recognizable faces in television. Like most stars, she had to find a stage name for herself but the story behind it is unique. She was born Olivia Jane Cockburn to a family of writers and journalists.
When she began acting, her mother thought it a good idea for her daughter to have her own identity. A stage name would not only give her that but also distinguish her from their family of writers. Around this time, Olivia was playing Gwendolyn in “The Importance of Being Earnest.” So, she decided to adopt the last name Wilde after Oscar Wilde.
Elizabeth Banks / Elizabeth Mitchell
Elizabeth Banks's career began with small roles in shows before she graduated to more prominent parts in series like "Scrubs" and "Modern Family." She's also been a part of some beloved big-budget movies, including the "Hunger Games" and "Pitch Perfect" franchises. What you may not know is that the actor owes her career to someone named Elizabeth Irene Mitchell.
That's her real name too incidentally, but she couldn't use it professionally. An established actress with the same name existed already. Fans of “Lost," feel free to jump in and explain. Meanwhile, this Elizabeth chose "Banks" because she wanted something shorter to contrast with her longer first name.
Michael Ian Black / Michael Ian Schwartz
Michael Ian Black has a dizzyingly extensive resume. The man has appeared in over 50 film and television projects, most of them as "himself." The versatile actor has also taken on caricatured versions of himself in some instances, such as “Michael & Michael Have Issues” on Comedy Central.
It's worth noting an added layer of complexity to these credits if one knows the origin story behind how he got his stage name. He was originally born Michael Schwartz but adopted the last name Black to prevent possible confusion with anyone else in Hollywood who might share the same last name.
Zayn / Zain Javadd Malik
Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson first came together as One Direction on "The X Factor" in 2010. The world hasn’t been the same since, and that’s not even an overstatement. 1D saw enormous success. Zayn Malik was a founding member but left the group after five years.
His name is actually spelt “Zain” which is Arabic for “beautiful.” The singer changed the spelling to Zayn before auditioning for "The X Factor" since he thought it sounded more appealing. His full name is Zain Javadd Malik. After leaving 1D, he decided to drop his last name since it sounded too formal. Today he’s just Zayn and prefers it that way since it sounds more “personal.”
Nicki Minaj / Onika Tanya Maraj
Nicki Minaj has always hated her stage name. The rapper says it wasn't her first or last choice by a long shot. So how did she get the iconic moniker? She was somewhat strong-armed into it. In a 2012 interview, the rapper explained that her real name is Onika Tanya Maraj.
When she was first signed to a label, a music record executive changed her last name Maraj to “Minaj” because he insisted it sounded better. She fought him on it but eventually gave in. Gradually, her first name Onika gave way to Nicki. She didn’t mind that bit. She had never liked her first name either.