It's easy to think of the children of wealthy celebrities as being spoiled sheltered creatures who have never known pain.
Mikaela Spielberg is proof that those assumptions are often way off base. At 23 years old, the adopted daughter of actress Kate Capshaw and Jaws director Steven Spielberg, has experienced more trauma and adversity than many people face in entire lifetimes. She has struggled with borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, and alcoholism. In an interview with The Sun released Wednesday morning, she discussed both the challenges that have brought her to the brink of death and the new career that she is pursuing out of a desire to "not [just] survive, but thrive as well."
That career is in erotica and dancing in strip clubs. Spielberg, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, is currently seeking state-level licenses to do this work. She previously published five self-produced videos to her account on a popular video streaming site, but she has since deleted them pending legal licensure. She sees her new career as empowering. "I got really tired of not being able to capitalize on my body. Frankly, I got really tired of being told to hate my body."
At a young age, Spielberg says she was targeted by "scumbag monsters who were looking at my vulnerability, going, 'that's the one,'" though she stresses the fact that these predatory figures had no connection to her family. From her perspective, the abuse she suffered was not as severe as what many go through. Seeming to hold back tears as the interview progresses, she describes the experience as "grooming" and says it "wasn't super intense, but it still had long-lasting impact because it had me questioning, like, what is my body, what is it to have a body and exist in a body safely."
Many young people deal with this kind of trauma with acts of rebellion and misbehavior, and Spielberg describes herself between the ages of 11 and 21 as "out of control." Unfortunately, the impact of those early negative experiences was only heightened by a boarding school for troubled teens that her parents had hoped would help her. In the interview she describes violations of privacy that took place there, including inspections of the students' underwear and personal diaries, and she explains how students were encouraged to engage in emotional abuse of one another. "We would have these shame groups where we would attack each other… We were encouraged to beat each other down emotionally so we could like confess something."
There is a strong sense of hope in Spielberg's embrace of herself as "a sexual creature," considering the repressive and unhelpful approach to the topic that was inflicted on her at that time. She even recounts a therapist who told her that "masturbation makes you a selfish person, and that it makes you unable to love and care for other people, and if you do it too much you become a sociopath."
Spielberg doesn't blame her parents for her experience at the school, because, according to her, "they couldn't have known." Nonetheless, shadows of that damage remain, and she attributes her struggle with alcoholism—which nearly killed her on more than one occasion—in part to anxieties attached to her body since that time, "I actually developed an eating disorder while I was there, and an exercise addiction."
With the support of her fiancé, Chuck Pankow, 47, Spielberg is addressing these issues and her desire for financial independence by pursuing work that is "satisfying to [her] soul," saying that, once she gets her license to work as a dancer, she will "be able to do what I love most in my spare time, and also make money from it." As for the erotica, which she refers to as "pictures and videos for private customers or for the public," she seems to have found a way to take ownership of what used to be a source of so much pain: "I'm able to quote-unquote 'satisfy' other people, but that feels good, because it's in a way that's not violative."
She informed her parents of her plans over FaceTime and says that they were not upset, and she anticipates that, once they see the progress she is making in her life, they will say, "Wow, we actually raised a really self-assured young lady, and we raised someone who knows exactly what they want in life, and who basically doesn't let people push her around."
Spielberg, who is a talented visual artist, and regularly posts her illustrations to Instagram, has also posted some tamer images from her photo sessions, using the tag #swerfsnotwelcomehere—using the acronym "SWERF," which stands for Sex Worker-Excluding Radical Feminists. Among people who embrace a sex-positive approach to sex work, terms like SWERF are part of a vocabulary that rejects traditional judgments. Still, she is aware that there is likely to be substantial backlash against a woman with such a famous name pursuing a career in sex work, and she says she is prepared for it. "I can't hold it against people… I have no right to look at a person who's angry at this and say, 'that's an invalid emotion, that you are uncomfortable with this—because maybe you just haven't learned enough about it yet.' It's not about me, it's about them."
Spielberg has reportedly adopted the stage name Sugar Star for her new career, but she signed a recent note to her fans as "mika the chonky pixie."