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Why Winona Ryder Changed Her Last Name

Of the numerous celebrities working in the entertainment industry, you may be surprised to discover just how many don't go by their birth names. Indeed, some of the most iconic performers in Hollywood use stage names, which are chosen either to differentiate themselves from stars with similar names or to give them more pleasant-sounding monikers. For example, Kit Harington's birth name is Christopher Catesby Harington (via Glamour), Lady Gaga's real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, and David Bowie was born David Robert Jones.

Another Hollywood star who doesn't use their real name is Wynona Ryder, though, her name change perhaps isn't as widely known as some of her fellow artists' are. After gaining recognition for one of her first roles in Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice," Ryder went on to star in iconic films like "Heathers," "Edward Scissorhands," "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and "Reality Bites," among others. Meanwhile, in 2016, a new generation was introduced to Ryder's electrifying on-screen presence when she appeared in the role of Joyce Byers on Netflix's "Stranger Things."

But if you're wondering why Ryder opted to use a stage name in place of her birth name for her acting career, the answer is actually pretty simple.

Winona Ryder changed her name on a whim

Over the years, Winona Ryder has occasionally delved into her family history and provided some insight into the evolution of her name. For instance, back in 1997, Ryder spoke with Simon Worrall for Harper's & Queen, where she discussed her upbringing and family life. According to the article, Winona is her real first name, and her parents apparently named her after her birth town of Winona, Minnesota. However, Ryder's real last name is actually Horowitz, which forces us to ask: Why did she change her last name?

As reported by Harper's & Queen, when Ryder's agent called to ask how she wanted to be credited in her first film, she happened to be listening to one of her dad's favorite musicians, Mitch Ryder, and thus, Winona Ryder was born. Interestingly, her birth name of Horowitz isn't her family's original last name either. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ryder revealed, "My original last name is Tomchin. Horowitz was something my dad's family picked up when they immigrated to Ellis Island because they were traveling with this other family."

But whether she goes by Winona Tomchin, Horowitz, or Ryder, there's no doubt that she's one of the most iconic stars of the 1990s — and a national treasure if we've ever seen one.