explainer

Mia Khalifa is the world's most searched porn star. Her 11 videos will 'haunt her forever.’

In 2014, Mia Khalifa made a decision that would follow her for the rest of her life. Being a 21-year-old living in Miami, she was approached by a man who asked if she’d ever considered filming some porn scenes. 

Having moved to the United States with her family from Lebanon at the age of seven, Mia knew her parents would disapprove. But given the amount of porn on the internet, she thought the chance of her family coming across her adult work would be highly unlikely. 

Mia’s time in the porn industry was short, having made 11 videos in the span of three months. But these videos, the most popular of which featured her wearing a hijab during a threesome, would lead her to become the most searched-for porn star on the internet.

 Watch: Porn; who's watching what when? Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

This is still the case today, six years after Mia’s videos first appeared. Her unexpected fame as a result of these videos is something the now 27-year-old said will ‘haunt me until I die.’ She says her decision to enter the industry was one that stemmed from low self-esteem, explaining that the way we feel about ourselves doesn’t discriminate.  

“It doesn't matter if you come from a great family or if you come from a not-so-great background,” Mia told BBC’s HARDtalk last year. 

"I struggled my entire childhood with weight and I never felt attractive or worthy of male attention and suddenly my first year of college I start losing all this weight from making small changes and by the time I graduated I was ready to make a bigger difference."

Her time in the industry saw Mia receive validation and compliments for the first time, attention that she ‘did not want to go away.’ Yet Mia ended up leaving the industry just as quickly as she entered it when she received a slew of death threats from religious extremists after her infamous hijab porn video. 

Despite being a non-practicing Catholic, the suggestion to wear a hijab came to her from producers. Being so young at the time, she didn’t think she could say no.  

“[The producers] gave me this script and told me what I would be wearing and I said ‘you are going to get me f***ing killed’,” Mia told a radio station in 2018. 

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“Not even a week later the death threats were racking up. The entire Middle East was after me.”

After the video began to trend globally, ISIS hacked her Instagram account, shared jihadi propaganda, posted a photo of her apartment on Twitter and sent her a manipulated image that showed Mia about to be beheaded by an executioner with a message suggesting she would go to hell.

Following this, Mia’s parents disowned her and she said she felt completely alienated not just by the world, but by her family and the people around her. Even when she left the industry, Mia said she realised some mistakes just aren’t forgivable. 

But ever since, Mia has been fighting to have the videos removed with no success. Having signed a contract in 2015 with WGCZ Holding, the parent company of BangBros, it gave the business control of her website and domain name and they continue to use her stage name and even post in the first person. 

“I just want BangBros to stop actively putting me in harm’s way by promoting my six-year-old videos like they’re new, making millions of people think I’m still active,” Mia previously wrote on Twitter.

“The death threats are emotionally crippling; I haven’t felt safe even going to the grocery store alone in years.”

While the exact amount of money websites like BangBros and PornHub have made out of Mia’s videos is unknown, it is expected to be in the millions. Although Mia said she was only paid $17,000 for her videos and hasn’t received any money from BangBros since. 

Mia is still attacked and threatened online. So much so that on Instagram she only followed her friends and what she was interested in, muting everything else and up until recently, had her comments turned off. 

The negative attention doesn’t only affect Mia. She said her fiancé Robert Sandberg, a Swedish chef who she became engaged to in March last year, also read the slew of nasty comments she received. 

"It was awful," she said of the Instagram criticism. "It really affected me, even if I put a brave face forward to the public."

However now working as both a sports commentator and influencer, Mia has harnessed her large social media following, particularly on TikTok where she feels her audience is different to all of the others. 

"As soon as I joined TikTok I found this whole new world where I can actually read the comments and not feel like I should have them turned off and actually want to engage with the people commenting. They feel like my friends,” she told Mashable. 

Mia has now used this platform to label the porn industry as ‘toxic’ and warn other women not to be taken advantage of by following the same early path as her. Mia doesn’t want another girl to go through what she has ‘because no one should.’ 

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“That hourly dissociative attack from remembering hundreds of millions of people’s only impression of you is solely based on the lowest, most toxic, most uncharacteristic three months of your life when you were 21,” Mia recently said on TikTok. 

As a result, Mia’s fans have created a Change.org petition in an attempt to have her videos removed from the internet which has gained almost two million signatures. 

“Mia and her team have provided countless financial offers to the current owners of her domain name and pornographic videos to no avail. Big corporations are not giving Mia Khalifa a fair chance to demand her content in court due to financial advantage,” a section of the petition read. 

"We are demanding her domain names be returned, her videos removed and fairly discussed in court without putting Mia Khalifa into deep financial ruin. Mia has stated her regret for her decisions in the porn industry multiple times.” 

While Mia now seems to a world away from where she was six years ago, she still to this day receives therapy for trauma, emotional distress and the consequences of bullying according to the petition organisers. 

Valentina Todoroska is a freelance writer, editor and former primary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram. 

Feature Image: Instagram / @miakhalifa

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