Who Needs Last Names? Not These Stars
By Tricia Romano Posted Oct 26th 2009 12:45PM
It used to be that very few stars went by a single name. Madonna started her career as simply Madonna (and good thing too; having to say Madonna Louise Ciccone every time we talked about her would be a mouthful). But over time, and with the advent of more and more gossip magazines and blogs, features like, "Stars -- They're Just Like Us!" -- stars have increasingly become referred to on a first name basis. We've singled out the biggies, starting with ...
Cher had her last name officially dropped in 1979; in some ways, it was a mere formality: she had been known to most of the general public as Cher since the show 'Sonny and Cher'; and her two given last names, LaPierre and Sarkisan, weren't as simple as Bono. So when she divorced Sonny, it seemed easier to go with Cher.
Professionally and legally, Oprah is still Ms. Winfrey. But the media mogul, has been broadcasting into our living rooms since 1986, so we know her like our favorite auntie. Her expansion into magazines, with O, has simplified her name even further, to just one letter.
Angelina, Jen and Brad
There are millions of people with these names, yet we don't need to explain who we are referring to. These three names will be forever linked in infamy, since Brad Pitt left his wife Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie in 2005. Until then, they didn't dominate the tabloids: Jolie would occasionally appear for hijinks with her brother or her then-husband Billy Bob Thornton, but Aniston and Pitt seemed to have a picture-perfect marriage and rarely made the headlines. Now, we'll always refer to them by their first names.
If you Google "Britney," the Google news search turns up only one person: Britney Spears. Spears was a teen dream when she entered our lives in 1999 with Baby One More Time, but we weren't yet on a first-name basis with her. She was hugely popular, selling millions of records, and performing all over the world. In 2001, she edged toward a single-monikered future, with the release of her album, Britney. But she really became known to us on a first-name basis, when she had her very public meltdown in 2007, shaving her head, and banging Kevin Federline's car with an umbrella. She became Britney, in part, because we rooted for her to get better.
Remember when Janet Jackson insisted you call her by her full name? As she sang in "Nasty" in 1986, "You know, my first name ain't baby. It's Janet, Miss Jackson, if you're nasty." Those days are long gone, as the youngest Jackson put out a record called Janet, in 1993, and her mega-platinum recording artist status has catapulted her into a first-name basis for the last decade. She told USA Today, "[c]ertain people feel I'm just riding on my last name ... That's why I just put my first name on Janet. and why I never asked my brothers to write or produce music for me." Though she's legally "Janet Damita Jo Jackson," her website's entry page, announces her simply: "Janet."
Did you know that Beyonce's middle name is Giselle? Why would you? It seemed like almost a foregone conclusion that Beyonce Knowles would eventually simply be known as Beyonce. Ever since she appeared with Destiny's Child, it was clear that she was the star and the centerpiece of the trio and that she would be the one to go on with a solo career. Now that she's sang for the President and the First Lady, and has proven to be a showbiz triple threat (singing, dancing, and acting), she's earned her single-name status.
Sting and Bono
Both of these singers completely reinvented themselves. By giving themselves solo names that don't have a whit to do with their real name, they gave themselves a larger-than-live persona befitting of a rock star. Ironically, Gordon Sumner got his rather masculine nickname because he was wearing something so dorky-a striped black and yellow sweater-that his Police band mates made fun of him and compared him to a bee. Without Sting, the Police might have been three guys nearing middle-age, and might never have become sex symbols or reached superstardom. Having some dude named Sting in the band made them rock stars. And can you imagine a man named Paul David Hewson (Bono) parading around in sunglasses at night, spouting on behalf of various causes, and getting nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Didn't think so.
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