Ye you can! How anyone can change their name like Kanye West

·5-min read

Watch: Kanye West legally changes name to Ye

It's a fair bet that far more celebrities have changed their names than stuck with their boring birth names.

Famous name-changers include Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman, David Bowie, (David Jones), Elton John (Reg Dwight), Cliff Richard, (Harry Webb), Reese Witherspoon (Laura Witherspoon), Charlie Sheen (Carlos Estevez), Jude Law (David Law) Helen Mirren (Ilyena Mirenov) and Whoopi Goldberg (Caryn Elaine Johnson). There are many, many more.

This week, rap superstar and producer Kanye Omari West has officially changed his name to 'Ye'.

An LA judge oversaw the name change request, which was filed in August this year 'for personal reasons', and from now on, Kanye will be know by his new, two-letter name.

In brevity, he joins the late star Prince, who became known widely as 'Squiggle' after breaking acrimoniously from his record company and insisting on being referred to only by a symbol. Ye also, perhaps deliberately, ascends to the ranks of one-name stars including Madonna, Elvis and Aretha.

U.S. pop star Madonna performs at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in London, July 2, 2005. A galaxy of rock and roll stars will grace stages across the globe on Saturday for what is being billed as the greatest music show ever, in a bid to put pressure on leaders of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations meeting in Scotland next week to do more to alleviate poverty, particularly in Africa. Live 8, an expanded version of the Live Aid sensation 20 years ago, will take in 10 cities and four continents, kicking off in Tokyo in the east and ending in North America in the west. REUTERS/Stephen Hird FR05080003 Pictures of the year 2005  MFK/ASA     Also see image: GF1DUYOLIWAA
Madonna: One of the few one-name stars. (Getty Images)

His 2018 album was also named Ye, his long-preferred nickname, and the rapper then explained (or tried to), "I believe 'ye' is the most commonly used word in the Bible, and in the Bible it means you. So it's I'm you, I'm us, it's us.

"It went from being Kanye, which means the only one, to just Ye being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, our everything."

The musician has long courted publicity with a failed presidential bid last year, and a hugely public marriage to - and divorce from - Kim Kardashian. 

Read more: Kanye West officially changes his name to ‘Ye’

His name change may herald a dramatic change of musical direction, or it may simply be another notable moment in a very public life. 

For many though, a name change is the result of years of misery or embarrassment. Some with unusual names find themselves picked on at school, or standing out in a way they didn't choose, while others simply feel their name doesn't represent who they are.

Some - like actors- may feel that a professional change is necessary, either because another actor with the same name is registered with actors' union Equity, or because their stage name is more memorable.

CANNES - JULY 06: Helen Mirren arrives to the premiere of
Helen Mirren, born Ilyena Mirenov. (Photo by Lyvans Boolaky/Ptertainment/Sipa USA)

Others simply want a new start in life and a name they chose themselves to match. 

Some are put off the idea, imagining it's a costly and complex legal process, littered with obstacles. Surprisingly, however, in the UK there is no legal process necessary to change a person's name.

The law allows citizens to change their names "at any time and without any special permission or process," including transgender individuals.

However legalnature.co.uk qualifies, "a person is free to change their first name, middle name(s) and/or surname at any point, although evidence of the change in name will usually be required by official agencies and offices, such as banks and government offices, before records and documents can be updated."

So while you can simply change your name purely by telling everyone you know to call you by the new moniker, if it's a surname change outside of marriage, (which can be arranged simply be sending the marriage certificate to official organisations such as the passport office and the DVLA) you may want to change it by deed poll. 

Elton John poses with the Oscar for Best Original Song for
Reg Dwight with his Oscar. Nope, doesn't work. (Reuters)

"A deed poll is a legal document that proves the change of name," explains the government's website, "and it can be used as evidence of your new title for the purposes of amending your passport, driving licence and other official documents.

"The deed poll should confirm that you have given up your old name and will instead use the new name for all purposes, and it must be signed and witnessed. 

"The deed poll may then be used to change your name on a passport or driving licence. To use this process, you must be aged 16 or over." Deed poll costs just £18.50 to arrange.

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You don't need to provide a court record - but if you wish to, over 18s can send evidence of British citizenship such as a passport, to the Royal Courts of Justice and place an official notice in The London Gazette.

There is no government organisation, however, that's responsible for name changing. If you wish to be known as Arthur Pendragon from now on, it's perfectly legal simply to tell your friends and colleagues that's your new name and hope they remember. 

Changing a name on your passport or other official records, however, will require proof. You can also use a 'statutory declaration' to change your name in the UK, which is a statement witnessed by a ‘qualified person’, such as solicitors, notaries, commissioners of oaths and (only in Scotland) councillors. 

Actress Whoopi Goldberg walking on the red carpet at the 2021 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala celebrating the opening of the exhibition titled In America: A Lexicon of Fashion held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY on September 13, 2021. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
Whoopi Goldberg, formerly known as Elaine. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)

It can then be used to change a passport but it's not permissable to use as a marriage or civil partnership certificate. 

It's remarkably easy to change your name and adopt a whole new persona. Bear in mind, however, that though you can call yourself whatever you like, the law stipulates that you can't choose an official name "considered to be offensive, vulgar or blasphemous and you cannot use your new name to imply an inherited, religious or academic title or other honour."

No "Reverend Ye, Ph.D" for Kanye, then - but perhaps he's happy enough with the short version.

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