The model’s time in adult films wasn’t a ‘death sentence’ [Video]

It shows is Yahoo Life’s body image series, exploring the journeys of influential and inspiring personalities as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love means to them.

Mia Khalifa’s public identity has long been associated with her body after she appeared in a Pornhub video in 2014 and became the most viewed actress on the site. After speaking out about the trauma it caused her and how she’s working to move forward in her life, the 29-year-old is reclaiming her body and her relationship with it through her latest work with Playboy Centerfold.

Sharing her complicated story with Yahoo Life, Khalifa explains how her body affected her self-esteem throughout her upbringing. Immigrating from Lebanon as a child, she distanced herself even from her American classmates and allowed her to gain attention in other ways.

“I grew up very overweight and didn’t start losing weight until I was 18, 19, 20,” she says. “It made me insecure, it made me act hypersexual when the opportunity arose. [I was] constantly craving validation.”

She recalls seeking men’s attention to make her feel good in her deepest moments. “I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, so I just let everyone have access to it,” she recalls. “I just thought I was worth just existing if someone else wanted me or seemed to want me.”

Still, she wouldn’t understand these things until she had a life-changing encounter with a man who brought her into the realm of sex work. In her experience, she felt completely out of control, not only of her body, but of the perception people around the world had of her.

“It just sent me into depression and a spiral of shame,” she says, reflecting on the vitriol she faced online and in real life after appearing in a PornHub video, while wearing a hijab. “I still didn’t have the confidence to really claim my body.”

However, in the years since, she has struggled to do just that.

Khalifa explains that her relationship with her body has improved over time and notes that age has made a huge difference in her experience. “Just getting older and realizing what’s important and what’s not,” she says. “I love my imperfections. I feel like I’ve made the body modifications I’ve wanted for a long time and thought hard about. I’m happy. I like the way I’m aging, I like the way and Way I’m growing, I like the way I’m swaying.”

She even realized that she could still share pictures of her body on social media and other platforms to celebrate rather than be ashamed of her figure and the new approach she’s taking to body image.

“To sidestep the contradiction of feeling powerless at this time in my life and do it in a very different way now really depends on my confidence,” she explains. “The difference is that everything is for me now. The only thing that is shown to the public or gets into the public eye is something that makes me feel empowered or sexy or confident or comfortable.”

Now, her work with Playboy Centerfold, a creator-led digital platform dedicated to creative freedom, artistic expression, and sex positivity, is something she sees as beautiful and empowering rather than shameful.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily overcome my fear of showing my body out there. What I would say is that the circumstances behind what happened became more under my control,” explains Khalifa. “My favorite part about what I do with centerfold now is that I plan everything, I decide what to wear, I decide what photos to take, I decide everything, down to the last detail. And that’s what makes it fun and that’s what makes it empowering.”

Most importantly, she uses caution when it comes to the message young women are confronted with on social media, as Khalifa uses her voice and her imperfections to spark an important conversation about body image alongside her relatively newfound body acceptance to start.

“Part of me worries about today’s generation with the whole FaceTune era, all the plastic surgery being pushed on them. But another part of me is also just on the positive side of it, which is more talk about body positivity and acceptance. and [a] better relationship with food and with yourself,” she says.

Ultimately, she wants people to learn from their past mistakes by accepting them as part of their journey.

“I hope the only thing others will learn from me is that it’s not a death sentence. You can do whatever you want, whatever you want,” she says. “As long as you ignore all the voices telling you you can’t, there’s literally nothing stopping you.”

-Video produced by Olivia Schneider

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