Though many fixate on her brief career in adult film, Mia Khalifa has spent the better part of her adult life working as a social media personality. Since retiring from pornography in early 2015, she's built a following of several million across Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. Now, she's decided to take her talents to Twitch.
Khalifa has appeared as a guest on several other Twitch channels in the past, but last Thursday's foray into streaming was her first time doing her own broadcast. As far as content goes, it's pretty standard Twitch fare – NBA2K, NHL, with some cooking and conversation sprinkled in. So far, the results have (unsurprisingly) been good, with well over a half a million unique viewers tuning in to her stream over the last week. Khalifa, for her part, has embraced the platform and its culture, even hosting channels of small streamers when she's not live.
Glixel spoke to Khalifa from her apartment in Texas, where she was preparing for the night's stream, a combination of cooking (breakfast for dinner) and videogames (NBA2k).
What made you want to start streaming on Twitch?
Seeing my friend Jeff do his streams. He does theCHIVE's gaming stream, and he started his own Twitch channel called Loud Hugs, which I was a guest star on one day. I had such a good time doing it. He's actually been trying to convince me to stream for a little over a year, but now I felt like I was finally in a place where I could take on that responsibility.
I'm guessing there's probably a lot of synergy between the audience you already have and the general Twitch audience?
There definitely is. I really didn't expect it to be this successful so soon, and I'm really hoping we're not peaking too early. Hopefully, we will just keep on crescendoing. But there are a lot of people on Twitch who are a fan of mine, so this is a really untapped market for me. And it's a lot nice to interact with people on Twitch than it is people on Instagram or Twitter. It feels a little more personable, and, for the most part, the mods do a great job, so shoutout to all the mods out there doing the Lord's work. They keep it peachy and on topic.
How did you get hooked up your crew of mods?
Most are contacts that Jeff made throughout his time streaming, and a few of them are friends of mine who already twitched. Twitched?
It works! And what do you see Twitch providing as a platform you that platforms don't?
I wasn't really coming at it as a platform standpoint. I came at it more as, like, "I want to learn." Show me what you guys have to offer; I want to play games; I want to stream. I want to learn about this whole industry that I'm really quite ignorant of. Well, not ignorant, but new.
When it was time to start your own channel and do your broadcast, how much of it was conscious planning and how much was just winging it?
A lot of doing what felt right in the moment. We reached out to Twitch for the purpose of getting my name – there were a lot of fake accounts and I really wanted to not be, like, MiaKhalifa1 – and honestly they were more excited than I was at that point. They wanted to work with me and thought it would be a great idea. I was a little skeptical because I didn't want to get my hopes up about it and half three and a half people watching the entire night.
What did viewership end up at?
Half a million on the first night, and the six hour stream that I did yesterday peaked at a little over 600,000 total views. For concurrents, we had a little over 25,000 on day one and it was 15,000 for the second stream.
And how long was the planning period for this, like in terms of going from "I want to do this" to "We're doing this now."
"I want to do this" lasted for about a month, and "OK, we're doing this, what do you want to eat for dinner?" happened in about five minutes. I was like "Oh, it's tonight? OK, all right. I just want to eat chicken." It happened very fast. I knew I was going to stream that night so I moved things around in my apartment to accommodate the equipment. I didn't really know how a stream should go, so I went in thinking "I'll just go with the flow! I don't need an exact schedule! I'll do what I feel like." Now I'm learning that I should probably have a schedule.
What were some of the main takeaways from your first day? Or how did you approach day two differently?
I would actually lump day one and day two together, because day two I was officially on my own. Jeff wasn't here and I thought, "I'll just let people watch me play 2K from like the start screen, the load screen, the enter your name screen." That didn't work out so well. People got frustrated at me not knowing how to work the settings, so I think from now on I'm going to sign on and start playing a game right away. I'm not going to fidget with settings on camera.
OK, and so, kind of building on that then what do you have planned for the next stream?
Tonight we're making breakfast for dinner on IRL. And after the stream, I usually do a sub only chat or hangout.
How do you feel about streaming so far? Is this something you see yourself exploring further?
I was up until about five in the morning last night. I was exhausted from streaming all day, but my mind was racing. I had so many ideas. I started doing all of the emotes that I want my channel. I want to have an actual schedule. Like, this day is tabletop games. This is NHL. This is mystery games. I want to figure out what to try and do it at the same time every week and really dedicate myself to this. The community is what I like about it. Twitter isn't a community; it's a picket fence riot. It's terrifying. But Twitch... well, I call my chat a cesspool of degenerates in the nicest way, because I'm a degenerate myself. You have to weed through that, but it's a community in the end. People will support you; people were tipping and subscribing and following, and they get excited when you're doing well.
So far, you've played a lot of NBA2K and NHL. As far as games go, is that going to be the focus of your stream?
No. I wanted to play 2k because I had never played 2K and this was an excuse for me to spend $60 on a video game that I had never played. I decided to stream that, but I want to play some Overwatch, too. I'm also playing Call of Duty: Black Ops III with this one streamer, and I played World of Warcraft in college and high school, so I'm going to stream that. And we're going to do Dungeons & Dragons on Thursdays.
You've also done some cooking on stream.
Cooking is definitely one of my biggest passions. I've always been in the kitchen since I was little. My mom cooked liked three meals a day, so she taught me everything I know about cooking. I've done it a lot on my Instagram story, like recipe tutorials, and my Snapchat. Jeff was actually the one who suggested, "Why don't you do it on Twitch? It won't disappear after 24 hours!"
I noticed that you're filed under IRL streaming; so you have any plans to do Ice Poseidon's style of IRL where he's broadcasting from a mobile rig?
Honestly, I'd be too scared of publicizing where I am.
"I really want people to know that I wasn't expecting any of this, and I want to work to prove myself. The point of this is to teach myself, and have others teach me things that I don't know."
Yeah, that creates some problems for him. His fans sometimes bomb wherever he is with calls –
Oh, don't say bomb, I'm brown! The NSA is always listening! I actually wanted to do my D&D stream from a comic book shop and Jeff said, "Listen, I know you want to help them out and like get them exposure, but people will swat you." And I'm like, "Like a fly? What are you talking about?" And he was like, "No. They will send a SWAT team and say that there's a bomb wherever you are."
How do you see Twitch fitting in with the rest of the work you do? My understanding is that it's mostly promotional work via social media.
I didn't really go into it thinking that it should fit in with anything else, but people from Twitch seem to like my T-shirts and my store. I'm going to be coming out with like a few Twitch-style T-shirts, so I don't really need to make it "fit in" with anything. I can just say that I'm streaming on Twitter and people are like "Holy Shit. You're on Twitch!"
I definitely want to get more organized with this and stick to it and basically make it my job. I want to get to the point where I plan the rest of my life around streaming for four hours a day, playing a certain game or making a stew for four hours.
Has chat or harassment been an issue at all with Twitch so far, or are you totally inoculated to that kind of stuff?
I'm very desensitized to any of that. I've had ISIS threaten to behead me, so a 14-year-old on Twitch isn't going to bother me.
On that note, that wraps up my questions – is there anything else you want to say before we end?
Yeah, I do actually. I know that it probably comes off as conceited, me just joining Twitch and thinking that I can succeed. But I really want people to know that I wasn't expecting any of this, and I want to work to prove myself. I'm not just on here to get followers and pretend to play video games half-naked. The point of this is to teach myself, and have others teach me things that I don't know.
This interview has been edited and condensed.