Did you know that the late artist Andy Warhol deleted an 'a' from his original name (Warhola) to make it sound better?
Or that Broadway star Nathan Lane was born Joseph Lane?
How about that actress Emma Stone was actually an Emily - until she found out the name was already in use when she applied for her SAG card?
The point is that as you begin your education in the arts - and your career - it is very important to make sure you have a unique professional name. Often referred to as a "stage name," this is your personal "brand name" and you never want it to be confused with other artists. Most artists keep their own name, but many choose or are required to change their name for professional purposes.
To find out if you are in need of a stage name, start by doing a simple Google search for your name. If there is someone of any kind of notoriety with the same name (i.e. porn stars, criminals, etc.), you might want to consider adding a middle initial or adopting an unusual spelling of your name.
Next, check with your potential guild or union. Note that every Equity or Screen Actors Guild member requires a unique name. Theatre students should start by typing your name into the search at spotlight.com or checking their name eligibility with SAG.
If you are going to use a stage name, be sure to check domain name availability on that name as well. The availability of a domain could be a tiebreaker between two names you're considering.
Want to learn more? Check out the links below for additional information on name eligibility, choosing a stage name and more.