Tragic Details About Mia Khalifa

Mia Khalifa is one of the biggest names in the adult film industry, and odds are, if you've heard the name, you are at least aware of her. She quickly made a name for herself by performing in scenes that got a lot of attention. Still, porn isn't something Khalifa did for very long, and it's also not something she wants to be associated with or remembered for. These days, she's working to change her image, and it hasn't been easy.

Once you step into the world of adult film entertainment, it's not easy to get out. Your scenes and pictures are out there, and once that happens, it's all but impossible to rein them in. As a result, Khalifa remains notorious for some of the work she did in front of the camera. Despite attempts to remove her content from the Internet, it's become an indelible stain on the zeitgeist she's unable to remove.

Khalifa continues to work against her image with ventures that embrace what she loves. Unfortunately, this hasn't always worked, and on more than one occasion, her past has come back to mess things up. Her demeanor doesn't always help, as she's proven that she's blunt and relentless on multiple occasions. Any man who's tried to "slide into her DMs" knows this all too well because she's called folks out more than once. Still, despite numerous tragic moments in her life, Khalifa is working hard to establish herself outside the industry that made her a household name. 

Her move to the U.S. from Lebanon immersed her in racism

Mia Khalifa, whose real name is Sarah Joe Chamoun, was born in Lebanon to a Catholic family. Her parents were "very conservative" and raised her in a strict environment. She attended a French-language private school, where she learned to speak other languages, including English. There wasn't much about her upbringing that suggested she might one day become the no. 1 porn star in the world.

There are plenty of reasons people turn to the adult entertainment industry, but Khalifa's early upbringing wasn't much of a factor. That's not to say it wasn't chaotic because she and her family left their native Lebanon in 2001 when she was 8 or 9 years old. This was at the tail end of the South Lebanon conflict, but just before the September 11 attacks. The family relocated to Montgomery County, Maryland, where Khalifa revealed in an interview with Playboy she was bullied for being "the darkest and weirdest girl there."

High school was difficult for Khalifa, who was teased for being overweight, contributing to her low self-esteem. She experienced a lot of racism in school due to her skin color, which many people associated with the 9/11 terrorists. On top of that, she didn't have many friends, which made her feel isolated, but she made her way through and eventually finished high school and college. Then, in 2013, she was approached about doing some nude modeling, and her life was never the same.

Mia Khalifa entered the adult film industry to boost her self-esteem

According to Mia Khalifa, her road to the adult film industry was paved with low self-esteem. "I was overweight, and I didn't really have very many friends. I didn't look like everyone else who was around me, and that led me into a relationship that I should not have entered. And those were the steps that led me to the adult industry." In an interview with The Daily Beast, she revealed that kids called her "the terrorist."

Khalifa explained how she started working in the industry, saying, "I was approached at a very vulnerable point in my life. I was handed a business card, thought about it for a few weeks, went in and was showered with compliments — felt validated for a whole twenty minutes — and I went back and shot a scene, and it was terrifying and temporarily validating, but afterward, I felt a little empty. Though I still had that pit in my stomach where I wanted to chase that validation again."

She described how she never had "male attention" when she was younger. She attributed this to her being overweight, but after losing 50 lbs. in college and after she got breast augmentation surgery, she still "didn't know or value [her] self-worth." She left it up men to provide the validation she sought, and filming scenes helped her in that way. Still, she described experiencing "blackouts" after finishing a scene, where her memory is just a blur of what happened.

She thought nobody would see her videos

If there's one thing the adult film industry isn't lacking, it's content. There are so many videos shot, edited, and uploaded every day from across the world that it's impossible to count them, so it makes sense that Mia Khalifa thought her videos wouldn't be noticed. While appearing on "The Forward with Lance Armstrong," she explained that "The way I rationalized it was, there is so much porn out there that there is no way anyone would see me."

To ensure nobody saw her videos, she didn't promote them in any way. Typically, this is not how people working in the adult entertainment industry handle their online persona. It's normal to post videos and pictures all over social media to drum up publicity. Khalifa was adamantly opposed to doing this and truly wanted to ensure nobody connected her to the videos she was shooting. To accomplish this, she didn't have a single social media account associated with her porn persona (Mia Khalifa).

Ultimately, none of her efforts to remain anonymous worked, and before long, she shot to international superstardom/infamy. When that happened, she tried to embrace the identity she had created. Still, her actions suggested she wasn't okay with what was happening. For a brief moment, her Twitter bio stated she was a "bang bros contract girl," but it wasn't on there for long. In the end, her popularity pushed her to get out of the industry, as she found herself doing something she didn't want to do with her life.

The actor's family disowned her

While Mia Khalifa knew people would see the videos, she doubted (or hoped) nobody who knew her would connect "Mia Khalifa" to Sarah Joe Chamoun, a young immigrant woman fresh out of college. Unfortunately for Khalifa, the reality of the 21st century is that very little remains unsolved, and it didn't take long for the people in her life to learn about her new vocation.

She was terrified that her parents would find out, and they did. Almost immediately after her second video went live online, her parents learned what she was doing and publicly disowned her. They didn't do it in private — they literally issued a statement, which read, in part, that they were "paying the price for living away from our homeland" (via Ya Libnan). They felt that Khalifa's exposure to Western society influenced her into doing something shameful and that it wasn't their fault.

It didn't take long for Khalifa to become the center of attention, and with her parents disowning her (they had helped her financially up to that point), her life was turned upside-down. At first, she tried to embrace her newly chosen profession by opening up social media accounts and signing on for more work. Still, it wasn't long before Khalifa was looking for an exit from the adult film industry. Her popularity and all of the problems she experienced resulted from a single video she now regrets filming.

Her anonymity dissolved when she hit no. 1 on PornHub

Mia Khalifa's first pornographic video wasn't a standout in any noticeable way. She was paired with a gentleman named Carlos, and the two did ... what people do in those kinds of videos. It was uploaded to Scoreland on October 17, 2014 (per Complex), there for anyone to see, but it didn't draw any attention Khalifa's way. After all, there are thousands of videos just like it, and that's what Khalifa was counting on.

Her video for Bang Bros, on the other hand, was very different. She and another female actor, playing her stepmom, are shown wearing headscarves, fashioning them as hijabs. They perform with a Caucasian male actor (Sean Lawless), and the video almost immediately went viral. The fact that the two women were wearing headscarves, denoting them as Islamic or from an Islamic culture, made international news headlines. It didn't take long for people around the world to notice, and "Mia Khalifa" was suddenly a household name.

By December 28, 2014, her name was the no. 1 search term on PornHub. The website tweeted the news, which Khalifa responded to via her Twitter account. That account eventually went dark, but Khalifa embraced her sudden shot to superstardom for a little while. The positive attention was initially welcome, but it almost immediately became hostile, as outlets across the world, some of which were in Lebanon, picked up her story. An article in the Lebanese Examiner wrote that "Lebanese natives are upset and offended by her work," which was problematic.

Her immense popularity pushed her to leave the adult film industry

Mia Khalifa didn't remain in the adult entertainment industry for very long. In interviews, she's revealed that her "impulsive act of rebellion" only lasted three months. She shot a dozen scenes during that time, many of which were solo, while others were with male and female partners. There is some dispute over the total number of scenes she shot, as many were re-uploaded with different cuts. Still, Khalifa recalled shooting only 12 scenes in her discussion with Lance Armstrong.

While working in adult films somewhat helped her low self-esteem, it wasn't as validating as she initially hoped. Despite an initial embrace of her fame, it didn't take long for Khalifa to decide that pornography wasn't for her. She wasn't interested in pursuing a career in the business, so she decided to walk away from it all. Outside of her dislike for her popularity, Khalifa was receiving death threats for portraying "the pretty Persian girl gone bad."

In the end, the numerous death threats pushed her to walk away from a potentially lucrative career. This came two weeks after she signed with Bang Bros' parent company. The contract was for a long-term commitment, but she walked in and handed a letter of resignation to a man referred to only as "Steve" by Playboy. "I said, 'Why? You're the biggest star in the world.' She said, 'I don't want to be.' I can't say that I've ever had a porn star give me a letter of resignation."

Mia Khalifa received death threats from supporters of ISIS

It's one thing to receive random death threats from people halfway around the world; it's something else entirely when it involves an infamous paramilitary organization. Soon after she became the most-searched-for actor on PornHub, the death threats began rolling in, and many of them were from supporters of ISIS, the Islamic State. It wasn't just threatening words coming into Khalifa's inbox; many of the threats came with pictures.

One such image depicted Khalifa held by an ISIS executioner with text warning that she would be "the first person in Hellfire." Khalifa brushed this kind of thing off for a while and even replied, writing, "I've been meaning to get a little tan recently." Her lighthearted response to her threatened execution masked what was really going on inside — she was terrified. Her whole world had turned upside-down, as she had no intention of capitalizing on her sudden fame/infamy.

Most of the threats were made publicly on social media platforms. Many called for her beheading, with one Twitter user writing that her head "will be cut soon." At the same time, articles were being published about her in Lebanon, most of which criticized her for her tattoos referencing her native country. Still, the death threats did a number on Khalifa. In an interview with BBC Radio's 5 Live, she said that ISIS hacked her Instagram and "started pushing propaganda on it." On top of that, someone took a screenshot of her apartment and tweeted it with a threat, which she took seriously. 

The star lost control of her own image

One of the biggest issues Mia Khalifa has regarding her time in the adult film industry is that she's lost control over her own image. When she signed her first contract to film a scene, she was 21 years old. She had no understanding of the legal ramifications carried by her signature. Since leaving the industry, she's spoken out about the "predatory business practices" in the industry.

What she didn't understand at the time was that she was signing away her image. Anything shot that first day didn't belong to her, and she had no right to remove it later, which is what she tried to do. Metro revealed that she's fought to remove content depicting her. Still, as many people already know, it's next to impossible to "erase" anything from the Internet. Once it's out there, it's there for life, and this has become a significant problem for Khalifa.

The only success she's had in removing content using her image has been uploaded cuts or edited compilations. Those items are removable via "Internet Cleanup." Still, there are thousands of them online, and it's not financially feasible to target all of them. There is a petition online supporting her efforts with more than 1.8 million signatures, indicating her fans support her desire to remove her content from the Internet. Regardless, Khalifa was forced to accept that her work wasn't going anywhere. Despite this, she's worked hard to change her post-porn image but has found little success in doing so.

She's ashamed of her past

It's a tale as old as time for many performers who entered the adult film industry at a young age — Mia Khalifa is ashamed of her past. It took her a long time to open up publicly about her feelings concerning her short career in the business, and one word stuck out more than any other: shame. In multiple interviews, Khalifa has described how she felt taken advantage of and how she felt shame for the work she'd done.

When asked how she felt after filming her scenes, she described feeling like she was in a blackout. She told The Daily Beast that "it was more like, wow, this is so surreal that I can't even comprehend what was happening. And even now, when I look back on it, it's sort of just a blur in my memory." She only had a "gist" of what she'd done in her head, and the experiences left her feeling "a little bit of regret" and "a little bit of shame."

The shame didn't set in right away, though. Khalifa discussed how it didn't manifest until a couple months later. She continued working in the industry because she liked the attention — not the global firestorm of attention; rather, the individual attention she was getting on the set of her shoots. To this day, she's still ashamed of her work in pornography, and she blames her naiveté on her being only 21 when she got into the industry.

Mia Khalifa's many post-pornography controversies

Mia Khalifa became a household name due to a controversial video of her wearing a headscarf, similar to a hijab, while performing explicit sexual acts on camera. Still, that's not the only time she's been embroiled in controversy. Since leaving the industry, she'd managed to remain in the spotlight for a number of reasons, many of which were controversial and brought a lot of negative attention to Khalifa.

In October 2017, Khalifa sparked outrage for posting an image of the Virgin Mary on her Instagram. The photoshopped picture shows Khalifa's face on a painting of the Virgin Mary with the caption, "When a news outlet mistakes Malala for Mia Khalifa." The reaction was decidedly negative, and Khalifa took a lot of flack for her post. Still, she didn't take it down, which points to her unapologetic style of not backing down. That's a mentality that's remained consistent throughout her adult life.

In another foray into controversial waters, Khalifa came out swinging at the Lebanese president after the large explosion at the Beirut port in 2020. She used her Twitter and Instagram accounts to target the president and other politicians she blamed for the degrading situation in her home country. Putting herself into the story had two results: it brought attention to the crisis, which brought money through eBay sales Khalifa did, and it brought a lot of heat down on her. People called her out for making "it about herself" when she had nothing to do with the tragedy.

She made very little money from the adult film industry

Pornography is one of those jobs that doesn't attract a large portion of the population. The vast majority of people don't look at the adult film industry as a viable option for employment, so it's not uncommon to think that the pay is really high. After all, if someone is willing to perform in front of people on camera, they must be getting well-compensated, right? As it happens, that's not necessarily the case. 

According to CNBC, the average pay for a female performer is $1,000 per scene. Of course, the rates fluctuate and have been higher or lower over time. Still, a grand is a reasonable amount of money a female performer can expect to earn. Men make around $600 per scene, and that's the industry standard. Granted, this isn't necessarily common knowledge, so most people assume women like Mia Khalifa make a lot of money working in the industry.

Fans were shocked when Mia Khalifa revealed that she only earned about $12,000 from her career in the adult film industry. That amount tracks with the aforementioned rate, and she's mentioned this on several occasions. Khalifa could have made more money by working with sites to promote her content, but that was antithetical to her interests. Most performers earn royalties and diversify their portfolios to bring in money from various sources related to their work in the industry. Still, for anyone taking nothing but direct compensation (like Khalifa), the money isn't spectacular, which Khalifa learned the hard way.

The actor had a hard time making relationships work

When Mia Khalifa left the adult entertainment industry, she tried her hand at less fringe work. She got a job as a paralegal and bookkeeper in Miami but found that she wasn't exactly welcomed by other staff members. Numerous looks from people who knew of her past made her feel unwelcome, so she colored her hair blonde and tried her luck at anonymity, which didn't work.

She also found it difficult to date, which she explained to Playboy, saying, "I will never find a guy I deem to be perfect or normal since I'm not perfect — and am nowhere near normal. I could post a picture of my dogs, and people will comment, 'Pls show bob and vegine." Still, she has been married twice, but neither relationship worked out. She married her high school sweetheart in 2011, but they separated in 2014. Their divorce was finalized in 2016, and it's not something she's spoken about publicly.

She married Robert Sandberg at their home in 2020 and delayed their reception due to the COVID pandemic (via The Sun). Ultimately, she canceled the reception meant for family and friends and instead, they broke up. Khalifa wrote on her Instagram that the couple tried to make the marriage work, but they reached an amicable decision to call it quits. She said that neither of them had any regrets and that they would "walk away saying we tried our absolute hardest." In November 2021, Khalifa confirmed the rumors that she was dating Jhay Cortéz.

She hasn't settled on a career since leaving porn

Mia Khalifa didn't intend on becoming an international adult film star, but that's what happened during her three months in the industry. Since leaving the business, she's bounced around from job to job, trying to settle on a career. She has a degree in history but hasn't pursued the kinds of jobs open to someone with those credentials. Instead, she worked as a bookkeeper and paralegal, but after those jobs didn't pan out, she embraced her newfound fame to become a social media personality. She also did some work as a webcam model, selling photos and videos through FindRow and Patreon. Her popularity afforded her a lot of followers, and she parlayed her fame (or infamy, depending on how you look at it) to launch a career in sports commentary as a podcaster. She co-hosted "Out of Bounds" with Gilbert Arenas on Complex News' YouTube channel, but she left after only five months.

Khalifa then co-hosted "Sportsball" with Tyler Coe on, but that gig didn't last long either. Khalifa is a huge sports fan, so she's been making inroads into working in the industry, but none of her efforts have resulted in long-term employment. Khalifa jumped on the OnlyFans bandwagon in 2020, where she posts non-pornographic content. She wrote a thank you message on the site, explaining that "Even though I will not be creating nude content ... I want to take my power back and just post what I want and what makes me feel good" (via The Sun).