Khalifa was born in Beirut, Lebanon and raised Catholic in what she describes as a "very conservative" home. She attended a French-language private school in Beirut, where she also learned to speak English. Khalifa's family left their home in the wake of the South Lebanon conflict, moving to the United States in 2001.
Mia Khalifa (/miːə kəˈliːfə/; Arabic: ميا خليفة Miyа̄ Ḵalīfah [mijaː χaliːfa(h)]; born 1993 ) is a Lebanese-American media personality and former pornographic film actress and webcam model. Born and raised in Lebanon, she and her family relocated to the United States in 2001. She entered the sex industry in October 2014, becoming the most viewed performer on Pornhub in two months. Her career choice was met with controversy after the release of a video in which she is engaged in a threesome while wearing a hijab; the scene brought Khalifa instant popularity as well as criticism from writers and religious figures. In 2015, Khalifa was voted the "Number 1 Porn Star" on Pornhub. In January 2017, xHamster reported that she was the most-searched-for adult actress of 2016. In 2018, she became the most-searched-for actress on Pornhub.
Khalifa married her high school boyfriend in February 2011. They separated in 2014 and divorced in 2016. In 2019, she married American professional chef Robert Sandberg; they separated in 2020. As of 2022 , she is in a relationship with Puerto Rican rapper and singer Jhayco.
She has a tattoo of the opening line of the National Anthem of Lebanon and another tattoo of the Christian cross of the Lebanese Forces. Her decision to get the latter came about in the aftermath of the October 2012 Beirut bombing, stating it was to "show solidarity with [her] father's political views." Both tattoos have come under scrutiny by her detractors. She has revealed that her parents stopped speaking to her because of her involvement in pornographic films; they have released a statement disassociating themselves from her actions and blaming her decision to enter the sex industry on her residence in a foreign country (the United States) that has a different culture than theirs (Lebanon), and that her actions did not reflect her upbringing. They also said that they hoped that she would leave pornography, believing that her image dishonored her family and home country.
Khalifa entered the pornographic film industry in October 2014, after being recruited by a man who asked her if she was interested in nude modeling. Her stage name was taken from the name of her dog, Mia, and American rapper Wiz Khalifa.
In 2015, Khalifa stated that she was no longer a practicing Catholic.
According to data from Pornhub, from January 3 to 6, 2015, searches for Khalifa increased five-fold. Around a quarter of those searches came from Lebanon, with substantial searches also from nearby countries Syria and Jordan. Almaza, a Lebanese brewery, ran an advertisement showing a bottle of their beer next to Khalifa's signature glasses, with the slogan: "We are both rated 18+." In January 2015, pop-rap duo Timeflies released a song titled "Mia Khalifa" in homage to her.
In January 2015, Khalifa signed a long-term contract with Bang Bros' parent company, WGCZ Holding, who also own the largest free porn site XVideos. The contract required her to perform in multiple films each month. However, two weeks later, Khalifa had a change of heart and resigned. The negative attention she received from her global attention prompted her to leave the industry: "It was an eye-opener for me. I don't want any of this, whether it's positive or negative—but all of it was negative. I didn't think too much into it about how my friends and family and relationships were suffering." WGCZ Holding own a web page with a domain name using her stage name. Khalifa said it does not pay her for rights, even though it is written in her first-person voice.
After three months working as an adult-film actor, Khalifa worked in Miami as a paralegal and bookkeeper. She transitioned into a career as a social media personality, webcam model, and sports commentator. She runs a YouTube channel; live streams on Twitch, including performing as a non-pornographic webcam model; sells photoshoots, merchandise, and access to exclusive content on membership website Patreon; and sold explicit photoshoots and videos on the social media website Findrow. Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post wrote in 2016 that, despite Khalifa's change of career, her social media feed was "still a bit more risqué than that of, say, Ben Bernanke."
In a July 2016 interview with The Washington Post, Khalifa stated that she had only performed in pornography for three months and had left the industry over a year before, changing to a "more normal job." She said, "I guess it was my rebellious phase. It wasn't really for me. I kind of smartened up and tried to distance myself from that." She said she continued to perform as a webcam model for Bang Bros for eleven months after she stopped shooting scenes before Complex Networks offered her to host a sports show. Carter Cruise, a former performer who became a disc jockey, criticized Khalifa for reinforcing the social stigma against sex work in distancing herself from her previous career.
In November 2016, an online petition called for Khalifa to be appointed by President-elect Donald Trump as the next United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
In January 2017, xHamster reported that Khalifa was the most-searched-for adult actress of 2016. In 2018, three years after leaving the industry, she was still the second-highest-ranked person on Pornhub. In August 2019, Khalifa stated that she made $12,000 working in porn by making an estimated $1,000 per scene – standard contractor compensation from production studios in the industry, according to Alec Helmy, president and publisher of adult entertainment industry news site XBIZ – and that she did not receive residuals from BangBros or from Pornhub and other free sites where BangBros uploaded the videos. While PornHub has not stated how much revenue Khalifa's videos had generated for the site, according to a 2019 estimate by Social Blade CEO Jason Urgo based on YouTube-like advertising revenue per view, she could have made over $500,000 had she been a PornHub partner.
She has used her social media presence to support professional sports teams from the Washington, D.C., area. She and Gilbert Arenas hosted Out of Bounds, a daily sports show on Complex News's YouTube channel, from October 2017 to February 2018. Khalifa then co-hosted Sportsball with Tyler Coe on Rooster Teeth. Its final episode was released on October 30, 2018.
In 2018, the musical duo iLoveFriday released a diss track called "Mia Khalifa," in response to a fake tweet posted by a user impersonating Khalifa. The song became an internet meme after the "hit or miss" snippet gained popularity on the TikTok app. At the time, it was said to be one of the most well-known viral TikTok memes in the Western world, and had been used in over four million TikTok videos.
On December 28, 2018, Pornhub revealed that she was the No. 1 ranked performer on their website. After becoming the most searched-for actress on Pornhub, Khalifa received online death threats, including a manipulated image of Khalifa being held captive by an Islamic State executioner and a warning that she would be "the first person in Hellfire", to which she jokingly replied, "I've been meaning to get a little tan recently." Lebanese newspapers wrote articles critical of Khalifa, which she considered trivial due to other events in the region.
In May 2020, she had a guest appearance as herself in the Hulu show Ramy.
In July 2020, more than 1.5 million people signed a Change.org petition campaigning for her videos to be removed from sites like Pornhub and BangBros and her Internet domains returned to her. BangBros sent her a cease and desist letter and set up a website to dispute statements she made about the company. BangBros says that Khalifa earned over $178,000 from them and their affiliates and was in the adult industry for more than two years.
On multiple occasions, Khalifa's views on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have generated controversy. In August 2021, Khalifa auctioned her glasses she had worn in several adult films to raise £75,000 for victims of the Beirut explosion. During the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel, she received backlash for a post on Twitter in which she stated: "Can someone please tell the freedom fighters in Palestine to flip their phones and film horizontal". She later said that this comment was not an endorsement of violence, and that she intended to highlight the need for Palestinian freedom:
In May 2023, Khalifa has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union and was featured on the front cover of Huck magazine under the headline "We Are All Mia Khalifa".
In June 2023, Khalifa launched a jewelry line called "Sheytan" alongside Sara Burn, a former Virgil Abloh collaborator.
Khalifa later tweeted: "I’d say supporting Palestine has lost me business opportunities, but I’m more angry at myself for not checking whether or not I was entering into business with Zionists. My bad." In November 2023, Israeli music duo Ness & Stilla released the single "Harbu Darbu", which called for Khalifa's death alongside that of Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa.