Taylor Swift is the world’s biggest pop star, but Taylor Swift is also a photographer from Seattle. Donald Trump is a real estate mogul and a Republican presidential candidate, but Donald Trump is also the CEO of a cancer institute in Virginia. Matthew Broderick is a famous actor, but Matthew Broderick is also a hospital administrator and part-time artist.
For every famous person you can think of, there’s likely a regular person out there with the same name — and that shared moniker presents a whole set of issues most of us never think about.
We decided to track down a few people in this situation and find out what it’s really like to share your name with a celebrity.
When Donald Trump introduces himself or hands over his ID at the airport, most people don’t believe his name — especially right now, as the other Donald Trump happens to be running for president. But this Trump is an oncologist, currently running a cancer institute in northern Virginia. At 70, he’s just a few months older than his famous counterpart.
Dr. Trump says he gets some kind of comment about his name about 80% of the time — and the most irritating is when people simply laugh in disbelief and say, “Come on, tell me what your name really is.” Other times, he’ll notice someone look down at his credit card or ID with a smile and refrain from commenting, which he greatly appreciates.
The two Donalds are not related in any way, but they do have a bit of history. Dr. Trump wrote the other Trump a letter in the ’80s and his uncle responded to confirm there was no overlapping genealogy. Years later, when running the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, Dr. Trump asked the real estate mogul to participate in a fundraiser that involved people shaving their heads. Unsurprisingly, Trump did not shave his head, but did donate money to the cause. He also recorded a video for the event where he told Dr. Trump, “What you do in life is more important than what I do in life.” Shortly after that, the two Trumps met in New York City for a face-to-face chat.
“In my encounters with him, he has displayed humanity,” Dr. Trump says. “Folks who haven’t had interactions with him might find that hard to believe. But that has absolutely been my experience.”
But Dr. Trump is also well aware that if the other Trump continues to advance in the current presidential election, he’ll hear more and more comments about his name. He also knows none of them will be clever.
“Everybody thinks their comment is original,” Dr. Trump says. “But the fact is that coming up with original comments is a skill writers get paid to do and struggle hard to do, and most of us don’t do it very well.”
A 29-year-old hospital administrator from Boston, Matthew (also known as Matt) Broderick was born in September 1986 — just three months after the release of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a film that launched the career of another guy you may have heard of. And yes, Broderick has bugged his parents about this. Hadn’t they seen the movie, or at least heard of this burgeoning star?
“They claim they had no idea,” he says. “I do believe them at this point, because I’ve asked enough times and pressured them under different levels of inebriation.”
But things ultimately worked out okay for the not-famous Broderick. To this day, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of his favorite films, and he has come to fully embrace the association. His nickname throughout college was Ferris, and he uses the phrase ‘not my day off’ for his Twitter, Instagram and email handles. And once in a while, his name will score him special treatment — even if it comes with subsequent disappointment.
“I made reservations at a restaurant in Boston once, and I put my full name, party of two,” he says. “When we showed up, it was unmistakable that the hostess was totally disappointed to see me. We had a separate section, with a separate table, totally off from everybody else, right in front of the windows. I was like, I bet you any amount of money they thought they were gonna get the actual Matthew Broderick here.”
The only real drawback is that it’s tough for people to find his online portfolio, which features his writing, painting and photography. If he met somebody on the street and he told them to look him up, they’d struggle to find his work.
Oh, and then there was the time his name stood in the way of partying, which is something Ferris Bueller would certainly disapprove of.
“I went to Florida on spring break once and they carded me and they didn’t believe my name was actually Matthew Broderick, and I didn’t have any backup ID on me so I couldn’t get booze,” he says. “I was like, this is ridiculous. I think I asked why I would have used this name for a fake ID, and they brought up McLovin from Superbad.”
Ultimately, though, his name has been a source of entertainment and humor.
“If I’m gonna live with this,” Broderick says, “I’m gonna roll with it and make some fun out of it.”
One Taylor Swift is arguably the most famous person on the planet.
The other is just a regular dude.
Yes, there’s a guy out there named Taylor Swift. At 30, he’s five years older than the pop singer — so there was a time, before she rose to international fame, when his life was normal. But even now, as the singer closes out the biggest year of her career so far, Swift manages to keep a good attitude about the coincidence.
“It’s hilarious, to start with,” says Swift, a Seattle-based photographer who also works in the commercial fishing industry. “And any time I’m talking to someone and it comes up, it’s an instant ice breaker.”
Swift still remembers the moment when everything changed: the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye West famously interrupted Taylor Swift on stage. That’s when he started getting fan mail sent to his house, which he still stores in a box and hopes to give to the famous Swift on Ellen someday. (“I feel like I’d get along with Ellen and T-Swift pretty good.”) He also receives around 10 emails a day — his email really is firstname.lastname@example.org — telling him how beautiful, talented and inspiring he is. (Or, other times, telling him, “You need to get a husband.”) Knowing those probably aren’t meant for him, he routes them to a special folder.
Early on, Swift grew averse to the singer’s music because he was “too associated already just because of the name thing.” But in the past year or so, he’s finally given in. (“1989 is just so catchy. Whenever a song from that album comes on the radio, I’m like, okay, I can get into this.”)
Of course, there are some major downsides to this bizarre coincidence. For starters, his professional photography site is near impossible to find on Google (he’s recently started incorporating his middle name, Adam, to differentiate himself.) Then, there are the everyday annoyances like wide-eyed stares at his ID or debit card and all the jokesters who think their comments are original. (“The bottom line is just: they aren’t.”) Oh, and those fan emails? They’re not always cute.
“There are times when it is very stalkerish,” Swift says. “There are people who email me over and over and over again and even send me nude photos. I don’t want this, and I’m sure she doesn’t want this.”
Ultimately, though, Swift almost seems honored to share a name with T-Swift, who he calls “a wonderful person” and “a really good role model.” He’s even been asked if he’d marry her — and he has given it quite a bit of thought.
“I don’t know how long it would last between us,” Swift says. “At least that could lead to another good song. That could be my 15 minutes of fame: Taylor Swift’s next breakup.”
Ashley Olsen, a 27-year-old physician assistant from Nashville, is well aware that when you hear her name, you instantly think of Mary-Kate. She says the association doesn’t bother her much anymore, but it hasn’t always been easy.
“Growing up it was really just something neat about me,” Olsen says. “I loved the Olsen twins growing up and it kind of felt like I grew up along with them because we were close in age.”
When she introduces herself, people usually ask, “Where’s Mary-Kate?” Mostly, she sees her name as a fun icebreaker, but sometimes the comments wear on her. Back in high school and college, in particular, she’d get annoyed by the commentary. She wanted to tell people, “No, I’m me, thank you. I’m not the twins. I’m not them at all. I’m not related to them. I’m just me.”
Sometimes, Olsen also feels like she has to work hard to distance herself from that initial association.
“When I was still training to become a physician assistant and would walk into a patient’s room, with some of the younger patients, there was an immediate chuckle,” she said. “I almost felt like I had to be extra on my A-game for them to take me seriously.”
Ultimately, Olsen’s name has been more of a fun quirk than a defining factor of her life. But she does have one plea.
“I feel like it’s my joke to tell,” Olsen says. “I have the name, I’m the one who has it hear it on a daily basis. Let me make the joke. Don’t do it for me.”
It may seem like a rather common name, but when most people hear “Chris Brown,” they inevitably think of the R&B singer. So this Chris Brown, a 35-year-old real estate agent from San Diego, is used to the comments. He’s gotten used to being called C-Breezy (one of the singer’s most popular nicknames). And he’s certainly grown accustomed to the comments about Rihanna — because to many people, Chris Brown is known, above all, as the man who assaulted the pop star.
For the most part, life is pretty normal for Brown, but he says the comments can get frustrating. Granted, he received much more attention several years ago — at the height of the singer’s fame — often in the form of misdirected phone calls.
“I haven’t had it as much, but I used to get phone calls from giggly teenage girls calling the house line,” Brown says. “I had one call at 3 in the morning, that my wife grabbed out of my hand and told the girls this line was being traced and they needed to hang up. The other phone call I got was somebody calling me to pitch their shoes —they wanted me to endorse their shoes.”
The name does come with its benefits. First, it’s tough for people to find him online — which he loves. He’s not on Facebook and doesn’t want a big social media presence.
“I joke that if you’re trying to find me on a Google search I’d probably be the L or the E or 20 clicks past that.”
But the biggest perk? The name simply makes him memorable.
“When you meet people, there’s an instant name recognition,” he says. “Especially in the real estate profession, everyone’s trying to be unique and make themselves different, so it’s, ‘Oh, that’s Chris Brown!’ It’s a perk for me; it’s beneficial.”
Once, Brown even met a fellow realtor in a similar situation.
“Another real estate agent down here is named James Brown. We were both working with a client — he was representing the buyer, and I was representing the seller. It was kind of funny that Chris Brown and James Brown were selling real estate together.”