How Porn Stars Really Pick Their Stage Names

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Adult film actress Tanya Tate arrives at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Most of us have determined our porn names at some point. In fact, we’ve all probably determined them the same way – by taking our middle (or first pet’s) name, and following that up with the name of our street. While no one is exactly sure how this method became the acceptable standard, choosing a porn name was a fun thing to do and that was all that mattered. 

When you’re actually an actor in the adult film industry, however, determining a stage name isn’t so easy, nor should it be approached so lackadaisically. A porn name must be commercially appealing, first and foremost, but it must also be easy to spell and should effectively represent the actor since, depending on potential popularity, this could be how they’ll be recognized by the masses after retirement and beyond.

 So how do porn stars actually determine their porn names? As I would discover, the answer varies by actor. I spoke with 10 of the industry’s hottest porn stars to determine how it is these ladies and gentlemen manufactured their porn names and was disappointed to discover that nobody's included their pets’ names or street addresses. For shame!

1. Tanya Tate

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It's a Marvel thing. You know, like how Stan Lee used to remember his character's names? They all had the same first and last name initials: Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Susan Storm, Reed Richards, and Matt Murdock. At one point when I was living in the UK I was given the nickname of "Top Totty" at the gym I attended. I liked the initials TT, and so Tanya Tate was made.

2. Sadie Santana

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My stage name came about because I'm a huge Carlos Santana fan! I knew what I wanted my last name to be, and when I spoke with my agent at the time they said there hadn't been a Santana in a while so it was perfect! Now as for my first name, I had no clue. I actually really suck at coming up with names. Even when I was a stripper, the bouncers came up with my name. So I let my agents at the time come up with it. We voted, and "Sadie Santana" was born.

3. Lexington Steele

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In 1997, I had shot a few magazines and softcore shoots in Manhattan without having determined my name yet. I always felt "Steele" was an appropriate name for a male performer. One afternoon while exiting the subway in Midtown NYC on my way to see a client, the street sign read "Lexington Ave." The collaboration of the two names – "Lexington" as a first name, "Steele" as a last name – made perfect sense and sounded great to me. Whether using "Lex" or "Lexington," it fit so well and was relatively unique.

4. Nina Hartley

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Long story short, I picked "Nina" mainly because it's a name that Japanese tourists could pronounce (I took Japanese as my second language in high school). Also, I have ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine, and "Nina" is a name from that region. As for "Hartley", I chose that because it's close to my real last name, and I was a fan of Mariette Hartley on the Polaroid commercials she did with James Garner back in the '80s.

PS: if I had done the "porno name game" where you're supposed to use the name of your family pet and the street you grew up on, I'd either be "Bingo Stuart" or "Kibben Stuart," both of which are pretty s*itty porn names. I knew I was going to be speaking to the public and press about porn and wanted a name that sounded like a real name, not a joke, such as "Honey Moons."

5. Missy Martinez

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I wanted to choose something catchy. "Missy" was a nickname I'd had growing up and I wanted to embrace my heritage, so "Martinez" paired well with the first name and it all made sense. 

6. jessica drake

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I chose "Jessica" because I wanted an actual girl's name opposed to naming myself after a car or a fruit. "Drake" came from riding in the back of a pickup truck in Texas with my fingertip on a map – it landed on Drake, Arizona. "Jessica Drake" became all lowercase when I couldn't decide how to sign it on posters at my first convention when people wanted my autograph - I hated my capital "J". I went home and practiced signing it, and loved the name all in lower case: "jessica drake." Now I realize the submissive implications, but that works for me, too. 

7. Casey Calvert

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"Casey" comes from the initials of my celebrity crush’s children ("K" and "C"). "Calvert" comes from the surname of a professor I had in college. His class taught me a lot about porn and inspired me to get into the business.

8. Chanel Preston

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I used the name "Chanel" when I started stripping. I wanted a real name that wasn’t too common, so Chanel it was. Once I got into porn, the person who helped me break into the industry thought of the last name "Preston". We thought it sounded classy and had a nice ring to it, so I went with it.

9. Mindi Mink

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Before even getting into adult work, my partner asked me to grow out my pubic hair since he was a fan of it (I had a short-trimmed landing strip at the time). Once I did, it was long, straight, and very soft. I was told it was as soft as a cute little animal, like a mink! "Mindi", on the other hand, just seemed like a good fit with the surname. 

10. Kelly Madison 

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Having a a cool porn name wasn’t what was important to me when choosing the name "Kelly Madison", rather it was choosing a name that I could relate to but most importantly that I could purchase the .com for. I also wanted something similar to my real name so that I didn’t end up with an identity crisis. My husband and I purchased a baby name book to research popular names and back in 1999 the most popular was Madison. I thought that would be a nice last name – it seemed smart, trendy, and I just liked how it read. My real name is Ellie, but unfortunately elliemadison.com was already gone. So I put a K in front of my name, and KellyMadison.com was born. 

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