20 Pieces of Etiquette Every Royal Wedding Guest Needs to Follow

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images

If you were lucky enough to score an invite to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, you'd better know what to do once you get there. And no, we’re not talking about just knowing which fork is the salad fork (though that’s important, too). Royal events come with their own set of rules—some of them obvious, others anything but. So that you don’t embarrass yourself on Harry and Meghan’s big day, here are 20 etiquette rules you’ll definitely want to follow.

1. IF YOU FORGOT TO RSVP, DON’T BOTHER SHOWING UP.

Invitations for the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle are pictured, after they have been printed at the workshop of Barnard and Westwood in London on March 22, 2018
VICTORIA JONES, AFP/Getty Images

While it stands to reason that you should never show up to any wedding—royal or otherwise—if you did not RSVP to let the couple know you'd be coming, don’t expect to show up at Windsor Castle and watch the royal family scramble to make room for you. In 2011, the King of Cambodia forgot to respond to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding invitation, and was left to watch the ceremony on television like the rest of us (not sitting alongside his fellow global royals).

2. RESIST THE URGE TO WEAR WHITE OR CREAM. OR BLACK.

Young woman in a white dress
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This rule, too, is pretty standard and universal. But the Queen herself made a point of reminding guests to William and Kate’s 2011 wedding—via a 22-page Etiquette Book issued by Buckingham Palace—that “Wearing cream or white is not appropriate. That must be left to the bride.”

“We steer clear of white because that's considered to be stealing the bride's thunder,” CNN royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told Us Weekly, though she clarified that since the wedding is a daytime affair taking place in the springtime, wearing a floral or other printed dress with a white or cream base is fine, just as long as the pattern overwhelms the base.

On the opposite side of the color spectrum, you shouldn't wear black either (unless it’s a jacket or accessory worn over a brighter color). “Black is considered a funeral color, so you wouldn't wear all black,” Arbiter added. “Victoria Beckham wore navy to Prince William and Kate's wedding and it looked very elegant and sophisticated, that was fine since she wasn't in black.”

For the men in attendance, “Navy or grey suits are customary at weddings, and garish waistcoats or ties should be avoided,” Lucy Hume, an etiquette expert and publisher of Debrett's Peerage, told Town & Country Magazine.

3. WATCH THE HEIGHT OF YOUR HEELS.

 David Beckham and Victoria Beckham arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

Speaking of Victoria Beckham: Don’t make the same mistake that she did at William and Kate’s wedding and go too high with your heel height. “Don’t wear huge heels,” etiquette tutor William Hanson told Town & Country. “It’s not practical as well as not being etiquette. Victoria Beckham wore huge stilettos [to William and Catherine’s wedding]. Now, they were going into Westminster Abbey—a church floor is not a smooth floor.”

4. BARE LEGS WON'T IMPRESS THE QUEEN.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha outside Westminster Abbey after attending the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

Bare legs have never flown in the royal family, a fact that came to very public light when Kate Middleton brought pantyhose back in a big way. So if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a royal affair, you’d best follow the rules—lest you become an object of hosiery-shaming. “Wear tights,” Hanson told Town & Country. “[Former British Prime Minister] David Cameron's wife didn't wear tights [to the Royal Wedding in 2011], which was a bit of a shame.”

5. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HAT, BUT NOT TOO MUCH HAT.

 Princess Beatrice of York (L) with her sister Princess Eugenie of York arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Nothing screams “royal event” like loads of fancy headgear, and that’s because it’s a required part of the day’s uniform. According to the Evening Standard, wearing a full hat—not a fascinator—is standard for all female attendees. (The guess is that the tradition has biblical origins.) And while fashion fans like to have fun with their millinery, there are rules of etiquette that apply here, too.

“Wearing the right hat and not overdoing it is important,” was the simple advice written in Buckingham Palace’s Etiquette Book. (We’re guessing Princess Beatrice of York, seen above, didn't get the memo.) “Resist novelty elements or anything that will draw too much attention away from the bride,” Hume said. Equally important is making sure that the hat isn't so large or distracting that it blocks the view of those sitting behind you. Which is why Buckingham Palace instructed male guests that, “A top hat should be carried, not worn, inside the church.”

6. LEAVE YOUR TIARA AT HOME.

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, wave as they travel in the 1902 State Landau carriage along the Processional Route to Buckingham Palace, in London, on April 29, 2011
ODD ANDERSEN, AFP/Getty Images

Speaking of headgear: Wearing a tiara if you’re anyone but Meghan Markle is a very bad idea, even if you’ve earned the right to wear one (or just feel like royalty). “You wouldn't wear a tiara to a daytime British wedding unless you were the bride," Arbiter explained, adding that, “Meghan may choose to forgo that tradition since it's not a hard and fast rule, but chances are the Queen will offer to loan her a tiara and if the Queen is offering to loan you something, it's rare that somebody would say no.” (Which takes care of the “something borrowed” part of the bride’s outfit.)

7. SHOWING SHOULDER IS A NO-NO. SAME GOES FOR TOES.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C), Carole Middleton (L) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talk as they come out of Westminster Abbey in London, following the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

When choosing a wedding outfit, it’s always best to err on the side of a more conservative style. “Ladies must dress appropriately for church,” notes the Palace’s Etiquette Guide. “This rule includes covering one's shoulders, wearing a hat to cover one's head, and not wearing anything garish or to garner attention. It is the bride's day.” If you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll wear my favorite pant suit,” think again! “Pants suits are frowned upon,” according to the official guide.

Bare toes can also be considered a bit too revealing. “Shoulders should be covered, hemlines should be on the conservative side, and closed-toe shoes,” Myka Meier, the Plaza Hotel's etiquette expert, told Town & Country.

8. KEEP YOUR HANDS AT YOUR SIDES (AND DEFINITELY OUT OF YOUR POCKETS).

Britain's Prince Harry (R) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge walk to the church for the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews at St Mark's Church in Englefield, west of London, on May 20, 2017
JUSTIN TALLIS, AFP/Getty Images

The Palace's Etiquette Book is nothing if not thorough, even going so far as to tell guests what to do with their limbs: “Keep your hands at your sides when standing,” it advises. “Gentleman, keep your hands out of your pockets. Europeans consider this act rude.”

9. ARRIVE AN HOUR EARLY.

Man in suit looking at watch
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What could be worse than arriving to the church after the bride has already started her procession down the aisle? In the case of a royal wedding: getting there after the Queen has made her entrance. According to Cosmopolitan UK, guests should arrive an hour before the wedding’s official start time to ensure that they’re not tripping over Queen Elizabeth II as they make their way in. “You don’t want to turn up after her,” Duncan Larcombe, the former Royal Editor for The Sun, said. “She will get there five minutes before Meghan will arrive.”

10. BRING YOUR CELLPHONE IF YOU MUST, BUT DON'T PLAN ON USING IT.

 Patricia Ford from Tamworth talks on the phone in the Village of Bucklebury on April 29, 2011 in Bucklebury, United Kingdom
Jamie McDonald, Getty Images

The official Etiquette Book was pretty straightforward when it came to mobile phones: “Needless to say, turn OFF your cell phone.” Larcombe underscored this point to Cosmopolitan UK, saying that while guests will likely be allowed to have their phones on their person, “Under no circumstances are they allowed to use them.”

11. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SNAPPING A PHOTO.

Wedding guest snaps photo of wine glasses during the reception
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What happens at Windsor Castle stays at Windsor Castle—unless the royal family is the one releasing the information or images. “There will be no photography in Windsor Castle if they follow the precedent of the 2011 wedding,” Hume told Town & Country. “And with any wedding,” added Hume, “you shouldn't take photographs and release them before the official photographs are released.”

“Guests will be told not to take pictures at any [time during] the day, particularly during the evening reception at Frogmore House," Larcombe said. "No pictures ever emerged from William and Kate’s party—anyone who broke this rule would certainly end up in hot water with the happy couple.” (Not to mention being on the wrong side of the Queen.)

12. PLAN TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA VACATION.

 Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the 'Information Age' Exhibition at the Science Museum on October 24, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

If the same rules apply to Harry and Meghan’s wedding as did William and Kate’s, the official stance of Buckingham Palace is: “Do not take photos of the Queen as she passes by with your cell phone … Enjoy the moment instead of holding the camera in the Queen's face as she walks in front of you and trying to capture the moment with a photograph. Do not update your Facebook status. Do not tweet.” Got it?

13. DON'T JUST GRAB ANY SEAT YOU CAN FIND AT THE CHURCH.

A general view shows the choir in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
DOMINIC LIPINSKI, AFP/Getty Images

If you think that arriving to St. George’s Chapel a couple of hours early will nab you a front-row seat to the nuptials, we’ve got bad news: “The seats are all allocated,” Larcombe explained to Cosmopolitan UK. “They are numbered to match the number given on the invitation.” And being that this is a royal wedding, tradition dictates that the royal family calls dibs on the right side of the church (whether or not it’s the bride or groom who is the official royal).

“The entire royal family will be seated to the right-hand side of Harry and Meghan,” Larcombe continued. “Meghan's parents, co-stars, and friends will be given priority seating on the left. In a way, they will be trying to make it as normal a wedding as possible. So, when they look around they will both see their families.”

14. IF YOU WERE THINKING OF BUYING A BLENDER AS A GIFT, THINK AGAIN.

A wrapped gift
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Royal wedding gifts are a tricky topic: Buying a toaster for a couple who occupies a royal residence seems strange, and probably unnecessary. But showing up empty-handed feels rude. (This conundrum might explain the long list of strange gifts that other royals have received over the years, like the tandem bike Boris Johnson gave to William and Kate.)

“For this kind of a wedding—for any kind of a royal wedding—it is considered a great honor,” Lisa Gaché, a manners expert at Beverly Hills Manners, told the Los Angeles Times. “In order to show or convey respect and that gracious feeling for being invited, the ante is a bit more.” She suggests that making a charitable donation of $500 to an organization close to the couple’s heart is appropriate.

Even if you do decide to bring something tangible, “Don’t bring [the gift] to the wedding itself,” Hanson said, though he added that Markle’s status as a divorcée adds one more layer of complication to proper etiquette: “This is a second wedding for Meghan Markle. The etiquette in both America and Britain, especially Britain, is that you don’t normally ask for gifts, because it’s your second wedding. They’ve already got toasters and French presses, etc. It would not surprise me if they choose donations for charities instead.” Indeed, in early April, Kensington Palace announced via Twitter that:

“Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill they have received since their engagement, & have asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift. The couple have personally chosen 7 charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women's empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”

15. PREPARE TO BOW AND CURTSY.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry bow as they see off Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaving after the Royal Family's traditional Christmas Day church service
ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images

When you're in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, it’s appropriate to curtsy and bow. “Americans are not required to bow or curtsy as the Queen walks by, but may do so out of respect,” according to the Etiquette Book, which included tips on how to do it correctly. “Ladies, place your right ankle behind your left ankle and dip at the knee, arms at your sides, and bow your head slightly. Gentleman, bend your elbow and place your hand, palm in, at your waist. Bend slightly at the waist and bow your head slightly.”

16. DON'T ATTEMPT TO WIN THE QUEEN'S AFFECTION.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she shakes hands with Dean of Windsor, David Conner (R) after attending the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 1, 2018
TOLGA AKMEN, AFP/Getty Images

Just because you’ve been invited to sit in a room with the Queen doesn't mean that you’ll get a chance to meet her—and if you do, it should only be at her bidding. “Normal protocol suggests you shouldn't approach the Queen or ask her any questions,” Larcombe said. Myka Meier echoed this sentiment when she advised, “Enthusiastic fans beware: Never approach the Queen unless she approaches you. One should never touch the Queen unless she extends her hand to you.” And definitely don’t ask if you can take a selfie with her, no matter how much you’ve had to drink. Speaking of which …

17. DON'T GET DRUNK. BUT DO KNOW THE CORRECT WAY TO HOLD YOUR CHAMPAGNE GLASS.

Glasses full of champagne
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As lavish as a royal wedding may be, overindulgence is never appropriate. “Do not gobble up food and gulp up drink at the reception,” noted the Etiquette Book, “and for goodness sakes, do not get drunk.”

Of course, a wedding just wouldn't be a wedding without a bit of bubbly, but don’t embarrass yourself by clasping your glass incorrectly. “There will be champagne flowing and you’ve got to hold the glass properly, by the stem,” royal etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith said. “During the formal dinner a lot of people won’t know how to use a knife and fork properly, let alone which cutlery to choose from. You must eat from the outside in and if you have a mass of glasses in front of you, it helps to know which to use. With tea cups, lift the cup not the saucer and hold it very gently with your index finger and thumb, returning the cup to the saucer after every sip.”

18. IF YOU DO MEET THE QUEEN, KNOW HOW TO ADDRESS HER.

 Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the state banquet in her honour at Schloss Bellevue palace on the second of the royal couple's four-day visit to Germany on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

If you do get the chance to meet the Queen, don’t make an idiot of yourself. “When you meet the Queen, she puts her hand out first and you address her as Your Majesty,” Broke-Smith said. “In conversation you address her as Ma’am, to rhyme with jam or ham, not palm.”

The Etiquette Book is even more direct with its dos and don’ts:

“Do not touch the Queen.

Do not shake the Queen's hand unless she holds her hand out first to shake your hand.

Do not speak to the Queen unless she speaks to you first.

If the Queen addresses you first, answer her ending your first response with ‘Your Majesty.’ End your second response with ‘Ma'am’ to rhyme with ‘jam.’”

If you think you’ll have trouble controlling yourself from hugging Her Majesty, just remember how Australia's former prime minister Paul Keating was dubbed “The Lizard of Oz” by the press when he dared to place his arm on the Queen’s back.

19. KEEP YOUR HAND GESTURES TO YOURSELF.

Prince Harry gives the 'thumbs up' ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London
Phil Walter, Getty Images

You might be tempted to give Harry a thumbs up or flash Meghan the “OK” sign once they’ve said “I do,” but don’t do it. “Do not make any gestures with your hands,” the Etiquette Book warns. “In Europe, the ‘O.K.’ and ‘Thumbs Up’ hand gestures have very different meanings, and these hand gestures are extremely insulting and rude.”

20. DON'T CUT OUT EARLY.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leave a reception for young people in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, during their visit to Scotland on February 13, 2018
ANDREW MILLIGAN, AFP/Getty Images

Between the wedding itself and not one but two receptions—a post-ceremony luncheon at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Hall and then a more intimate evening event at The Frogmore House—it’s going to be a long day for the happy couple and their guests. And if the bride and groom decide to keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning, you’d better be prepared to celebrate right alongside of them. “You shouldn't leave before the newlyweds,” Hanson told Town & Country. “They will be the most senior members of the royal family in the room at that time.” Better get a good night’s sleep!

8 Surprising Facts About Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Joan Adlen, Getty Images

For fans of the late comedian Andy Kaufman (1949-1984), the debate over whether Kaufman was more interested in antagonizing audiences or making them laugh still rages. During a career that saw him appear on stage and on television (Taxi), the performer often blurred the lines between his real persona and the characters he inhabited.

For more on Kaufman, keep reading. Thank you very much.

1. Andy Kaufman got a letter from his doctor that kept him from being drafted.

Born in New York City on January 17, 1949, Kaufman was raised in Great Neck, Long Island and displayed an interest in performing from an early age, entertaining children at their birthday parties when Kaufman himself was only 8 years old. After graduating from high school in 1967, Kaufman though he might be drafted for military service but didn’t wind up serving. His doctor wrote a letter explaining that Kaufman seemed to have no basic grasp of reality, let alone the Vietnam conflict. Joining the Army, the doctor wrote, might cause Kaufman to completely lose his mind. The letter, which likely contained a good measure of hyperbole, earned him a permanent 4-F deferment from service. He went on to attend Grahm Junior College in Boston.

2. Andy Kaufman’s stand-up act was very, very bizarre.

Kaufman got his start in the early 1970s performing at comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles. Unlike most comics of the time, Kaufman didn’t write a conventionally-structured act. Instead, he would take on the role of performance artist, confusing audiences with stunts like reading from The Great Gatsby and threatening to start over if they complained. He would also drag a sleeping bag on stage and climb into it or do his laundry with a portable dryer. These appearances were sufficiently provocative that Kaufman sometimes hired off-duty police officers to break up fights in the crowd or intercept people trying to attack him.

3. Andy Kaufman once opened for Barry Manilow.

Before Kaufman got television exposure, it was easy for bookers to assume he was a polished and conventional performer. As a result, Kaufman got a number of gigs in the early 1970s opening for established musical acts like the Temptations and Barry Manilow. Appearing onstage in 1972 before the Temptations came out, Kaufman wept and then shot himself in the head with a cap gun. Similarly bizarre behavior was also displayed before a Manilow concert, with irate members of the audience having to be calmed down by Manilow himself.

4. Andy Kaufman was once voted off of Saturday Night Live.

Kaufman succeeded in drawing attention to himself on stage, which led to being invited to perform on Saturday Night Live beginning in 1975. During these appearances, Kaufman would take material from his act, including his lip-syncing of the theme to the Mighty Mouse animated series. Such stunts drew a mixed reception from viewers. From 1975 to 1982, Kaufman made a total of 14 appearances on the show. Then, producers decided to offer viewers the chance to “vote” Kaufman off by calling in to cast their ballot. On the November 20, 1982 broadcast, 195,544 callers asked that the show not permit him to come back on. They outnumbered the 169,186 viewers who called in support of him. While the bit was intended to be humorous, Kaufman honored the results and never appeared on Saturday Night Live again.

5. Andy Kaufman once took his entire audience out for milk and cookies.

Kaufman eventually took his show to Carnegie Hall in 1979, where he was greeted by 2800 people who had come to appreciate his eccentric approach to performing. At the show's conclusion, he invited the entire audience to board buses waiting outside the building. Kaufman took them to the New York School of Printing in Manhattan, where he served the nearly 3000 attendees milk and cookies. He later gave them a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

6. Andy Kaufman thought about franchising Tony Clifton.

One of Kaufman’s great ruses on the public was dressing as the abrasive lounge singer Tony Clifton, complete with prosthetic chin and torso padding, all while insisting Clifton was an entirely different person. Kaufman sometimes enlisted associates, including his brother Michael and his writing partner Bob Zmuda, to put on the make-up. In 2013, Michael told Vice that Kaufman’s plan was to have Clifton become a roving character. “Andy had been talking about franchising Tony Clifton before he died,” Michael Kaufman said. “He was going to have one in every state.”

7. Andy Kaufman insisted on an Andy Kaufman stand-in for Taxi.

When Kaufman agreed to appear on Taxi (1978-1983) as Latka Gravas, a version of the “Foreign Man” character he had been performing on stage, he had a peculiar request: He wanted to be expected on set for only two of the five shooting days for each episode. While Kaufman didn’t seem to want to do it at all, the paycheck allowed him to pursue his more experimental brand of comedy. Producers agreed. In 2018, co-star Carol Kane, who played Kaufman's love interest, told The Hollywood Reporter that the cast “would work with a fake Andy who wore a sign around his neck that said ‘Latka.’”

Kaufman also showed up to shoot an episode as his alter ego Tony Clifton, insisting that he was not Kaufman. Star Judd Hirsch got so angry that he had Clifton thrown off the set.

8. Andy Kaufman broke character for Orson Welles.

While there were certainly times Kaufman spoke from the heart, it was rare to see him break any one of his myriad characters in front of an audience. That happened—fleetingly—when Kaufman appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in 1982 on a night it was being guest-hosted by legendary film director Orson Welles. Sporting a neck brace from his stint in professional wrestling, Kaufman didn’t keep up appearances for long. After Welles told him he was “fascinated” by his characters, talk turned to Kaufman’s “Foreign Man,” his Elvis Presley imitation, and his “third character,” Tony Clifton. “Well, he wasn’t a character,” Kaufman said, correcting himself. “There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s a character or a real guy, and that’s Tony Clifton, but that’s a whole other story.”

“That’s metaphysics,” Welles replied.

The Full Names of 37 One-Name Celebrities

Rihanna and Madonna attend the Tidal launch event in New York City.
Rihanna and Madonna attend the Tidal launch event in New York City.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Roc Nation

A rose by any other name probably wouldn't smell as sweet, at least not in the cases of some of these one-named celebrities. From A-Z, here are the full names of some of your favorite mononymous stars, and the reasons they dropped the rest of their names.

1. Adele

Singer Adele performs
Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

Real Name: Adele Laurie Blue Adkins

As far as we can tell, Adele’s first name is simply distinctive enough to stand on its own. Plus, “Adele Adkins” sounds a bit like she should be playing at the Grand Ole Opry (which would be lovely, but not quite the sound she’s going for).

2. Awkwafina

Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
Awkwafina attends the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR CRITICS CHOICE ASSOCIATION

Real Name: Nora Lum

“There’s really no great, symbolic story,” Awkwafina told Cosmopolitan of her chosen moniker. "I just really thought it was funny when people try to subtilize products like Neutrogena," she said. "Because I just imagine someone sitting there thinking about all these weird names, especially the water names. But anyway, I just came up with it when I was 16 and thought it was really funny. And then I eventually adopted it."

3. Beck

Musician Beck attends the KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas 2019 at Honda Center on December 07, 2019 in Anaheim, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Bek David Campbell

He added the “c” to his real name, hoping that it would prevent people from pronouncing his name as Brock, Breck, Beak, or Bic. Fun Fact: Beck's mother is Bibbe Hansen, an original Warhol superstar.

4. Bono

Bono of music group U2 performs onstage at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Real Name: Paul David Hewson

Without a doubt, Bono is the only rock star in the world named after a hearing aid. His school friends in Dublin all gave each other nicknames, and his was "Bono Vox," Latin for "good voice," based on the Bonavox hearing aid store. Eventually he dropped the "Vox" and became the Bono we all know today.

5. Charo

Pop music icon Charo attends "Dancing with the Stars" Season 24 at CBS Televison City on March 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
David Livingston/Getty Images

Real Name: Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza

I mean, Charo is 31 characters (not including spaces) shorter than her real name, so you can see why she decided to shorten things up. But why “Charo” instead of “Maria” or even something more distinctive like “Rosario”? As it turns out, “Charo” is actually not an uncommon nickname for “Rosario.”

6. Common

Rapper Common performs on stage at The Moore Theatre on July 14, 2019 in Seattle, Washington
Mat Hayward/Getty Images

Real Name: Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn

Lynn adopted the stage name "Common Sense" at a young age, then shortened it to Common after he was sued by a band using the name handle.

7. Drake

Drake accepts the Top Billboard 200 Album award for "Views" during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Real Name: Aubrey Drake Graham

Drake is a better rapper name than Aubrey. Back when he was an actor on Degrassi, though, Aubrey served him well.

8. Eminem

Eminem
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV

Real Name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III

The rapper’s stage name was originally M&M, a reference to his initials. He eventually began spelling it phonetically instead.

9. Enya

Singer Enya attends the Clive Davis annual Pre-Grammy Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Eithne Ní Bhraonáin

Because she knew that most of the world would scratch their heads when presented with the Irish “Eithne,” Enya changed her name to the phonetic spelling of her real name. Yep, “Eithne” = “Enya.”

10. Flea

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs in concert during The Getaway World Tour at the AT&T Center on January 5, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas
Rick Kern/Getty Images

Real Name: Michael Peter Balzary

The itchy moniker goes back to Balzary's high school days, when friends called him “Mike B the Flea.”

11. Gotye

Musician Gotye, winner Best Alternative Music Album for "Making Mirrors" and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Somebody That I Used To Know", poses in the press room at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles,
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Real Name: Wouter “Wally” De Backer

It’s the French version of his real name, Wouter. "Wouter translates into French as 'Gaultier,'" Gotye told Interview Magazine. "When I was in my early 20s, I wanted a name for my project that was kind of personal and similar to the way that I felt about my music: using the past to broaden into the present. I called her up, and she reminded me of that name. I decided how to spell it as a kind of jumbled surname, Gotye. I wanted a name that had passion. I came up with my own spelling for it, and that’s where it comes from."

12. Hammer

MC Hammer attends the premiere of Lionsgate's "All Eyez On Me" on June 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
David Livingston/Getty Images

Real Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell

Yeah, if you’re of a certain age, you probably know him as MC Hammer, but he dropped the Master of Ceremonies a while back. The “U Can’t Touch This” rapper and former batboy for the Oakland A's received his nickname from an unlikely source: Pedro Garcia, then of the Milwaukee Brewers, who thought a young Burrell was a dead ringer for Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. (Reggie Jackson has also taken credit for the nickname.)

13. Ice-T

Ice-T performs onstage at the Premiere Ceremony during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Real Name: Tracy Lauren Marrow

The name is a tribute to Iceberg Slim, a reformed pimp who later wrote novels. “I’d taken my name as a tribute to Iceberg, and then it hit me one day—dude is a writer. I thought he was fly because he was a pimp, but I realized that I really admired him because he was a writer,” Ice-T wrote in his autobiography.

14. Jay-Z

Shawn "Jay Z" Carter makes an announcement on the Steps of City Hall Downtown Los Angeles for a Labor Day Music Festival at Los Angeles City Hall on April 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Real Name: Shawn Corey Carter

There are a few theories as to where Jay-Z came from, including that he was paying homage to his mentor, Jaz-O, or that it was a nod to the spot in Brooklyn where the J and Z trains meet up. But Carter maintains that it’s just a variation on his childhood nickname, “Jazzy.”

15. Ke$ha

Kesha attends the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
John Shearer/Getty Images

Real Name: Kesha Rose Sebert

Kesha is her real name, but the dollar sign was part of her party girl image. She’s actually just Kesha now; she dropped the symbol several years ago. In a discussion at SXSW, Kesha told Refinery 29, “I let go of my facade about being a girl who didn't care. My facade was to be strong, and I realized it was total bullshit. I took out the $ because I realized that was part of the facade.”

16. Liberace

Liberace in the back seat of a limo
Terry Disney/Getty Images

Real Name: Władziu Valentino Liberace

It's just his last name. After using the stage name “Walter Busterkeys” for a time, Liberace decided to go by his surname only as a nod to his idol, pianist Igancy Paderewski, who did the same.

17. Lizzo

Recording artist Lizzo performs at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on October 25, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
David Becker/Getty Images

Real Name: Melissa Jefferson

Contrary to popular belief, Jefferson swears that her moniker was not inspired by the Jay-Z song “Izzo.” It came about in middle school, when she and her friends created nicknames by adding “O” to the end of their names. “You would be Gayle-O,” she told Gayle King. Because the musician went by Lissa at the time, she became Lisso, which eventually evolved into Lizzo.

18. Ludacris

Rapper Ludacris performs in concert during So So Def 25th Cultural Curren$y Tour at State Farm Arena on October 21, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Real Name: Chris Bridges

"Ludacris' is something that I made up," Bridges told MTV News in 2000. "It just kind of describes me. Sometimes I have like a split personality. Sometimes I'm cool, calm, and collected, and other times I'm beyond crazy. I'm ridiculous, I'm ludicrous. Plus my birth name is Chris, so it kind of incorporates that.”

19. Madonna

Madonna performs a tribute to Prince onstage during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Real Name: Madonna Louise Ciccone

While we're in the M section: Madonna's given name is, in fact, Madonna.

20. Moby

Moby performs onstage during The Last Weekend Kickoff LA Presented by Swing Left at The Palace Theatre on November 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Real Name: Richard Melville Hall

“The basis for Richard Melville Hall—and for Moby—is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great granduncle,” Hall once explained.

21. Nenê

Nene Hilario #42 of the Houston Rockets reacts on the bench during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Toyota Center on April 3, 2018 in Houston, Texas
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Real Name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário

Nenê is one of the few mononymous people in the U.S. to have legally switched to a single name. The Brazilian basketball player, who most recently played for the Houston Rockets, was called “Nenê” as a child because he’s the youngest kid in his family and nenê is Portuguese for “baby.”

22. Pink

Recording artist Pink performs on stage during Pink at Nomadic Live! at The Armory on February 2, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Real Name: Alecia Beth Moore

According to the magenta musician herself, it was a cruel childhood nickname: "It was a mean thing at first; some kids at camp pulled my pants down and I blushed so much, and they were like, 'Ha ha! Look at her! She's pink!' And then the movie Reservoir Dogs came out and Mr. Pink was the one with the smart mouth, so it just happened all over again."

23. Prince


BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Real Name: Prince Rogers Nelson

The artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was, indeed, born Prince Rogers Nelson.

24. ?uestlove

Questlove of music group The Roots performs onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET

Real Name: Ahmir Khalib Thompson

Before he was ?uestlove, the former Ahmir Khalib Thompson wanted to be plain old ?, which he meant to mean “anonymous.” When people started calling him “Question Mark,” he changed his name again to “B.R.O. the R. ?” That didn’t work either: fans thought his name was Brother Question Mark. He finally arrived at ?uestlove because “in the old days, your name ended in rock, ski or love. ?uestrock was not happening and neither was ?uestski. So ?uestlove became my new old school name, ’cause I’m so old school!”

25. Raffi

Real Name: Raffi Cavoukian

Because when your name is actually Raffi, you don’t need a surname.

26. Rihanna

Rihanna attends the Queen & Slim at AFI FEST 2019.
Rihanna attends the Queen & Slim premiere at AFI FEST 2019.
FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES

Real Name: Robyn Rihanna Fenty

The singer/actor from Barbados goes by her middle name professionally. "I get kind of numb to Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna," she told Rolling Stone, noting that her close friends and family still call her by her first name. "When I hear Robyn, I pay attention."

27. Sade

Singer/songwriter Sade performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena September 3, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Real Name: Helen Folasade Adu

Though her given name may be Helen, no one has ever referred to the velvet-voiced singer as such. Her parents called her Sade, a shortened version of her middle name, from a young age.

28. Sinbad

Sinbad attends Pilot Pen & GBK Celebration Lounge - Day 2 at LÕErmitage on September 15, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for GBK Productions

Real Name: David Adkins

Adkins thought using one distinctive name would help him stand out in the saturated world of stand-up comedy. He chose Sinbad after the mythological seafarer, telling Ebony magazine: “Sinbad was a leader. When monsters would show up, the men would scream out Sinbad’s name. He wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was clever and resourceful. He was a loner and lived life as a journey.”

29. Skrillex

Skrillex performs during the SnowGlobe Music Festival 2019 at Bijou Park on December 31, 2019 in South Lake Tahoe, California
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Real Name: Sonny John Moore

Here’s another case of a high school nickname that got carried over into adulthood. “Throughout my teen years my friends would call me Skrillex or Skril or Skrilly. Just became a stupid nickname that came out of the social online networking handles," Moore explained. "Really means nothing.”

30. Slash

Slash performs onstage at the GIBSON NAMM JAM Opening Party 2020 at City National Grove of Anaheim on January 16, 2020 in Anaheim, California
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Gibson

Real Name: Saul Hudson

The Guns N’ Roses guitarist credits a rather surprising source for his badass nickname: character actor Seymour Cassel. Slash was friends with Cassel’s son, and after observing him always running around “in a hurry, hustling whatever it is I was hustling at the time,” Cassel dubbed him Slash.

31. Twiggy

Twiggy Lawson attends a private screening of 'The Boy Friend' hosted by Twiggy at Kings Cross Everyman Cinema on October 23, 2019 in London, England
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Everyman

Real Name: Lesley Lawson (née Hornby)

When the fashion model was just a girl, kids at school referred to her as “Sticks” because she was so thin. Her boyfriend later gave her a slightly nicer (?) version of the nickname, which became her name when she hit it big. “Twiggy is a stupid name for a woman in her 40s,” she once remarked, “But it would be hard to drop.”

32. Usher

Usher performs at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Real Name: Usher Terry Raymond IV

Let’s just say it’s a good thing Usher didn’t go the route of Drake and other celebs who eschewed their first names for their “cooler” middle names.

33. Voltaire

Portrait of French writer, essayist and philosopher Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), author of "Candide
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Real Name: François-Marie Arouet

Is it any surprise that Voltaire liked wordplay? The Latinized spelling of his surname is “AROVET LI,” and “Voltaire” is an anagram of that.

34. will.i.am

Will.i.am attends The Voice UK 2019 photocall at The Soho Hotel on December 16, 2019 in London, England
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Real Name: William James Adams, Jr.

“I liked playing with words. I noticed that my name was a sentence, meaning one with will, who is strong-willed. And so I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, Mom, do you mind if I call myself Will.i.am?’ She was like: ‘Whaaa? You’re crazy.’ She was cool with it.”

35. Yanni

Yanni performs at The Greek Theatre on June 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California
Oliver Walker/Getty Images

Real Name: He was born Yiannis Chryssomallis, though that's sometimes Americanized to John Yanni Christopher.

See “Raffi,” above. Actually, Yiannis is a very common name in Chryssomallis's native Greece. He was known as “John” to his classmates at the University of Minnesota. Yanni is a just a slight variation of his given name.

36. Zendaya

Zendaya attends the Bvlgari B.zero1 Rock collection event at Duggal Greenhouse on February 06, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Real Name: Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman

Zendaya is her real name. She’s never used her last name professionally, though, because her first name is so distinctive. “I [dropped my last name because I] just thought it was cool, like Cher or Prince,” she told Allure.

37. Zucchero

Zucchero Sugar Fornaciari attends the 70° Festival di Sanremo (Sanremo Music Festival) at Teatro Ariston on February 05, 2020 in Sanremo, Italy
Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

Real Name: Adelmo Fornacirari

Zucchero is the Italian word for sugar, a name given to him by one of his elementary school teachers. It’s also an apt description for his sweet, sweet music: The Italian musician has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Pavarotti and has a couple of World Music Awards and a Grammy nom under his belt.

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