12 Things You Didn't Know About New York Fashion Week

Brian Ach, Getty Images
Brian Ach, Getty Images

The holiday season is still about three months away, but for fashionistas everywhere, right now is the most wonderful time of the year: New York Fashion Week has begun. The city's biannual celebration of all things sartorial will see top fashion designers from Tory Burch to Marc Jacobs unveil their Spring 2019 collections to the public. (Not to mention Rihanna is set to present the latest from her lingerie line.)

Since its inception, Fashion Week has become synonymous with such iconic New York happenings as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New York City Marathon. It has endured a multitude of venue and name changes over the years, which makes its historical timeline a little murky. But, there is no doubt that 2018 marks an auspicious year for the fashion industry, because it is the 75th anniversary of the event that would eventually morph into NYFW.

Whether you're a casual fan of couture or follow Anna Wintour's schedule to the minute, the best way to appreciate fashion's future is to tip a hat to its past. Before viewing the latest collections, read on for our roundup of 12 things you might not have known about New York Fashion Week.

1. WORLD WAR II WAS THE IMPETUS FOR THE FIRST STATESIDE PRESS WEEK.

A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A. Hudson, Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In 1943, overseas travel to Paris, home to most fashion shows and the crown jewel of the industry, was nearly impossible for American journalists due to Germany's occupation of France. But, in a stroke of patriotic genius, an enterprising fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert decided to create a series of fashion shows in New York featuring American designers instead.

In July of that year, Lambert—who also later founded the International Best-Dressed List—staged something called "Press Week" in New York City. Journalists were invited to view the latest fashions from—gasp!—American designers, rather than from those based in Paris (up until then, Parisian designers held the monopoly on what was considered couture). This groundbreaking move resulted in American designers getting plenty of ink in the pages of reputable fashion magazines, and it helped turn New York into a fashion hub.

2. FOR THE FIRST TIME, AMERICAN DESIGNERS HAD THEIR TIME IN THE SARTORIAL SPOTLIGHT.

A woman models a swimsuit in a 1956 issue of Vogue.
A fashion shoot in Vogue, May 1956.
Kristine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

No longer beholden to Parisian influences, American designers could present home-grown American fashion to the public. Not only were the looks created by Americans, but the clothes were made in the U.S.A. as well. Most importantly, Lambert's Press Week resulted in magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar highlighting American designers by name, finally giving them a platform that had until that time mostly eluded them.

3. THE FIRST PRESS WEEK WAS HELD AT A SINGLE LOCATION: THE PLAZA HOTEL.

New York's Plaza Hotel.
New York City's Plaza Hotel.
Christian, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Norman Norell, Claire McCardell, and Valentina were among the 53 designers who showcased their fashions at New York's famed Plaza Hotel. It was a far more relaxed experience for the journalists in attendance, because all of the fashion shows were held in the same location. Over the next several decades, Fashion Week would evolve into a logistical nightmare; with no home base, it became not uncommon for reporters to run around the city from show to show.

4. UNLIKE TODAY, WHERE NYFW ATTRACTS EVERYONE FROM JOURNALISTS TO BUYERS TO CELEBRITIES, LAMBERT'S PRESS WEEK WAS JUST THAT—FOR THE PRESS ONLY.

Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

In the beginning, Press Week was closed to buyers, who were forced to view upcoming lines via scheduled showroom visits instead. Lambert was also integral in opening up the fashion world to non-New York City America: She offered to pay the expenses of any out-of-town reporters who wanted to cover the event. It was a serious win for budding fashion journalists, because prior to Press Week, the only way regional reporters could view New York collections was if they tagged along with local store buyers on their showroom visits.

5. RALPH LAUREN'S FIRST FASHION WEEK SHOW WASN'T MUCH TO SNIFF AT, BUT HE LIKED IT THAT WAY.

Designer Ralph Lauren
Designer Ralph Lauren at his Fall 1997 show.
JON LEVY, AFP/Getty Images

It wouldn't be NYFW without mainstay Ralph Lauren, but as he recounts in the 2018 book American Runway: 75 Years of Fashion and the Front Row, by Booth Moore, the now-icon wasn't exactly a draw in his early years. "We set up chairs in my office at 40 West 55th Street," Lauren said of his first women’s collection for the Fall 1972 season. "There were only 10 or 15 editors and about 10 models. They strolled in one at a time, and I talked about the clothes. Looking back, I loved that intimacy."

6. FASHION WEEK'S BREAKING POINT CAN BE PEGGED TO A NOTORIOUS MICHAEL KORS SHOW IN THE EARLY 1990S.

Designer Michael Kors.
Designer Michael Kors at his Spring 2005 show.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

The decades following the first Press Week saw fashion shows moving from the stodgy Plaza and Pierre Hotels to lofts, galleries, nightclubs and restaurants. (These incredible Betsey Johnson shows from the 1980s are a great example of Fashion Week's "anything goes" attitude at this point.) But it was an accident at a Michael Kors show that necessitated a revamp of the entire Fashion Week experience. When the bass kicked in during the song "Use It Up and Wear It Out" by Odyssey, plaster from the ceiling came loose and started falling on both editors in the audience and models as they walked the runway. "I vividly remember the dust clearing and seeing Anna Wintour picking lumps of plaster out of Suzy Menkes's hair," recalled Barney's Simon Doonan in his 2013 book, The Asylum.

7. EVEN BEYOND THE MICHAEL KORS SHOW INCIDENT, FASHION WEEK'S FLIMSY PRODUCTION STANDARDS HAD BEEN AN ISSUE FOR A WHILE.

Anna Wintour at fashion week.
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at a 2004 New York Fashion Week show.
Peter Kramer, Getty Images for Olympus Fashion Week

Fern Mallis, then the executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, decided something needed to be done after that Kors show. "There were seasons where editors were getting pulled out of freight elevators or had to wait for hours for power to go back on in Soho lofts," Mallis told Racked. "People were putting their lives on the line to see fashion shows—it was frightening." Plus it was a fatiguing ordeal just to see the shows, with no main hub for any of them: "If there were 50 designers showing during a season, there were 50 venues," Moore wrote in American Runway.

8. IN 1994, NEW YORK'S PREVIOUSLY HAPHAZARD FASHION WEEK SHOWS MOVED TO A NEW VENUE: BRYANT PARK.

Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Ben Gabbe, Getty Images

Mallis is credited with reorganizing New York Fashion Week into the twice-yearly event it's known as today. Between 1994 and 2010, Bryant Park's signature white tents were the home of NYFW's runway shows, providing a safe, creative space for models, journalists, and scenesters alike. And from a utilitarian perspective, the Bryant Park years proved cost-effective for designers. Previously, the location, lighting, sound and security for a Fashion Week show was the responsibility of the designer. With the advent of the Bryant Park tents, NYFW became one-stop shopping.

9. RONALD MCDONALD ONCE SHOWED UP AT AN ANNA SUI SHOW IN 1996.

Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Angela Weiss, Getty Images

As she recounted for Vogue, designer Anna Sui had an unconventional guest at her Fall 1996 show—fast-food celebrity Ronald McDonald, outfitted in a snappy dark suit. But that wasn't the most surprising part of the story: The McDonald's spokesperson had some serious competition in the bright orange wig category—Sui's friend Linda Ramone, then-wife of punk-rocker Johnny Ramone, was also in the audience, similarly bewigged.

10. THE ONLY TIME FASHION WEEK HAS BEEN CANCELED WAS IN SEPTEMBER 2001.

Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred on what should have been the fourth day of NYFW. Following maternity designer Liz Lange's 9 a.m. runway show—which marked the first time a maternity line had been featured at Fashion Week—all remaining events were canceled.

11. THE FIRST SEX AND THE CITY FILM DID NOT ACTUALLY SHOOT THAT FASHION WEEK SCENE AT NYFW.

Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the
Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the "Sex and the City" movie in May 2008.
SHAUN CURRY, AFP/Getty Images

What do you get when you combine corporate sponsorship with movie magic? A very realistic-looking New York Fashion Week show prominently featured in 2008's Sex and the City film. That's right—the scene where Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha meet up to debate the merits of front-row seats at NYFW versus front-row seats at the Brooklyn aquarium, with some side-marveling at the latest collections, was all fake. Kind of. Since Fashion Week didn't coincide with the movie's shooting schedule, Mercedes-Benz, then the sponsor of NYFW, agreed to assemble its immediately recognizable white tents for the scene—in exchange for promotional placement. Not that Samantha wouldn't have chosen a Benz for her new Hollywood lifestyle, but this arrangement sure made the choice easier.

12. NYFW WAS FORCED TO RELOCATE FROM LINCOLN CENTER AFTER PARK ADVOCATES SUED THE CITY'S PARKS DEPARTMENT.

Models walk in New York Fashion Week.
Models walk during New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in February 2015.
Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

The downside to New York Fashion Week's ever-growing success was that by 2010, the Bryant Park location could no longer fit the expanding throngs of attendees and presenting designers. The proceedings moved to Lincoln Center, the city's famed multi-venue arts complex, for the next four years, but in 2013 a group called the New York City Park Advocates sued the city's Parks Department over NYFW's purported encroachment on the Lincoln Center-adjacent Damrosch Park. The following year, the state's Supreme Court determined Lincoln Center couldn't renew its contract with IMG (the company that owns and operates NYFW). In the settlement, it was decided that the biannual event must take its tents and catwalks elsewhere. Currently, NYFW's shows are staged in Tribeca, but a new development along the Hudson River called The Shed could become the event's new home as early as next year. As they say in the industry: One day you're in, and the next day you're out.

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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