women and power

Stormy Daniels Didn’t Want to Be Anybody’s Hero

“It was funnier when he wasn’t the president.”

Photo: Amanda Demme
Photo: Amanda Demme

Olivia Nuzzi: You’re one of a very small number of women who, at least publicly, have been identified as having slept with the current president.
Stormy Daniels: Mm-hmm.

Is there any sense of power that comes with knowing that the most powerful man in the world has been humbled before you in a sexual context?
Not now. Now it’s just kind of a big mess. But that day, yes, because I checked him hard.

What does that mean?
I was a fucking bitch to him.

You spanked him, right?

Do you think you are the only woman who’s ever spanked him?
I think so, just because he was so incredulous about it. I said it as a joke, and he didn’t think I’d actually do it. So then I had to do it.

And how did it make you feel when the world found out?
I was just minding my own business, at work in New Jersey, when my phone started exploding. At first the feeling was panic. Like, “Oh my God, what’s going to happen? They’re going to murder me.” I had signed an NDA.

Did you have any heads-up that it was going to break?
No. I mean, a couple days before that, I got a call from my attorney, and he said the other attorney had called him and someone tipped him off, but he told me not to say anything, that they were going to handle it. So it left my mind. And then it hit hard.

Everyone thought that I was doing it for attention, or I was lying. I didn’t care if they knew I slept with somebody, but I don’t want to be considered a liar or a kiss-and-tell. And that’s exactly what did happen. I got blamed for it. The people who believed it thought I leaked the story to extort the president. The other people thought I was just a flat-out liar and gold digger. “Oh, your porn career’s in the toilet.” Which, actually, it wasn’t. It was going great. I was the second-highest-paid director in the business, and the highest-paid, most-award-winning female director ever in the adult business. I was directing big-budget movies once a month.

It was all really negative press and just a bunch of shit. People were too afraid to come out and support me. Every club I went to, they were like, “Oh, she has to go out and dance.” I’ve been dancing for 20 years. I just kept doing the same job that I’ve always done.

The Power of Audacity with Stormy Daniels.

I imagine you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t enjoy it at this point.
I love dance. But then the Rolling Stone article came out, and it suddenly started to switch. 60 Minutes made a big difference, too, because people saw that I wasn’t an idiot.

It’s hard to say what you mean on television in any context on any day, but when the stakes are that high, I can’t even imagine what it’s like.
At that point, I was just like, Fuck it. I’ll just tell the truth. I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m not embarrassed.

When you were watching people talk about you on TV, before you said anything yourself, did you feel powerless?
Yeah. Also, before the story broke, I could still pack a club. I mean, I’m Stormy Daniels. Then, for a while, the clubs were dead. They’d book me, and there was nobody there. With so much press out front, nobody wanted to be filmed walking in. And people didn’t know what was going to happen. Maybe they were scared that somebody was going to come in and shoot up the place? I don’t know. But the press would be like, “Nobody gives a fuck about her.” Then, overnight, the clubs got packed. My old fans were gone, because middle-aged white guys are usually Trump fans.

And now if you go to one of my shows, it’s large groups of women, oftentimes in homemade matching Stormy shirts. They are loud, and they’re angry. They’re like, “Fuck Trump.” Or they’re crying. I’m like, “Jesus Christ.
There’s no crying in tittie bars. What’s happening?” People are grabbing me and giving me money, and then later they’re sharing their personal stories — women are saying, “I was molested or I was raped, and you’ve given me the inspiration to file charges against my boss.” Just heavy, heavy shit every night.

Photo: Amanda Demme

What do you think they want from you?
That was the crazy part, because I started this just because I wanted to set the record straight and not be bullied. I really just wanted to save my own ass. Now I’m in charge of saving the world. What the fuck? No pressure, Stormy. It was very hard for me. I would have these days where I would come offstage and just want to cry. One of my bodyguards, Travis, put it best for me. He said, “Say you have two puddles of water — this is bad stuff, this is good stuff. If you’re a sponge, you drop in either puddle, it fills up.” He helped me realize that even if people are being really, really nice to you, it’s still emotionally overwhelming.

You absorb it all.
And about every two or three weeks, I would have a breakdown. I’d be like, What if I let everybody down? They really think that I’m going to take the president down. That is fucking insane to me. I was like, I don’t want this, I don’t want this.

Then, eventually, I became more aware of stuff that I didn’t know — that I was naïve or ignorant about. I found out about the immigration stuff — the images of the kids in camps — and that was the big moment when I was like, “Okay, fuck this motherfucker, let’s go, ladies.”

How do you look back on your experience with Trump now?
It was just so not a thing. People think that it defines my life, but in all honesty, it was 12 hours of it. It’s annoying, because I’m so much more than that, and that’s all I’ll be known as.

Do you think that’s true?
I think so. I wrote and directed all these great movies, I’ve directed music videos, but it’ll just overshadow all of that. Years ago, I was struggling to get funding for a mainstream horror movie that I wrote. I’d get meetings, like for instance from a professional athlete who was super excited about it, but two days later they’d call back and say their manager wouldn’t let them write a check to a porn star “because everyone will think you fucked her.” Now I wonder if somebody gives me money, it will be because of this. I don’t want the other parts of my life to be successful because of this.

Does it bother you, though, where they say “porn star Stormy Daniels”? They don’t say “Stormy Daniels, who’s an adult-film actress–slash–director–slash–writer.”
Yeah. And also, they insist upon printing my real name in every fucking story. They don’t do that to Bruno Mars or Lady Gaga or Charlie Sheen — but even the most feminist, evolved journalists, they still think subconsciously that I’m less human and I’m not worth the respect of printing my chosen name.

But do you think it’s funny that you slept with a president? Interesting? Do you think about it at all?
I mean, I went ten years without even thinking about it. It was funnier when he wasn’t the president. Now it comes with this undeserved prestige. I actually have Trump supporters come out and get pictures and autographs and just be like, “I just want to meet the lady that he picked to have sex with him.” I’m like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Photo: Amanda Demme

That’s so weird.
Yeah. And in the beginning, when people tried to attach the #MeToo movement to me, I was like, “Abso-fucking-lutely not.”

Why not?
Because I’m not #MeToo. No one forced me.

The way people talk about it, there is still this “Oh, but she’s still a victim.”
I’m not a victim. It’s really annoying. It takes power away from the people who’ve been assaulted or raped or sexual-harassed by their boss.

The argument I hear a lot is that there are different levels of harassment—
Well, of course.

And that your type of situation or Monica Lewinsky’s, even if it was consensual technically, it was still exploitation in some way.
Maybe in her case, because he was the president and she was an intern.
Trump was not the president, he was just an idiot at a golf tournament. I don’t like the idea of sex being used for power, unless you’re into some role-playing thing. A lot of women misuse sex as power.

What do you mean?
They’ll withhold sex from their partner to get what they want, or they’ll entice their partner. I think sex can be empowering speak up in bed, take control of your body, say what you like. Be willing to be very honest with the person you’re with and not be afraid to say no or yes, “More, please.” I think that’s sort of what people are getting from me: They might not enjoy the porn aspect, but I’m owning it.

Other people are just really mean, and I see how you handle them on Twitter.
So fun.

You think it’s fun?

Nobody else thinks that’s fun. It doesn’t stress you out?
No, it’s great sport for me. That’s how I entertain myself on flights now.
Who’s being mean to me today? It’s actually disappointing, because mostly they’re nice now.

Does it ever make you feel bad?
No. They’ll be like, “Whore.” And I’m like, “Yes?” I mean, I guess I feel the most powerful when someone tries to take my power or belittle me or insult me and it doesn’t work. I’ve sort of taken all their power away from them.

And when you have all this power, do you feel the obligation to use it in any particular way?
I don’t think I necessarily try to help women, I just try to help people.
I’m not a feminist.

You’re not?

Why do you say that?
Because I just don’t think that it should matter.

You don’t think what should matter?
What’s between somebody’s legs. I used to be really annoyed that people would be like, “Oh, Stormy Daniels is the best female director.” And I’d be like, “What does my vagina have to do with it? She hasn’t directed shit.”

That’s a feminist statement, isn’t it?
I feel sorry for men right now. It’s not a good climate to have a penis.
It’s actually sexist to accuse men as a whole of something, you know? It’s just — I don’t know. A guy can’t even open a door for a lady without being called a pig.

There will be women who read this and be very angry.
Oh, finally I’ll have good tweets.

*A version of this article appears in the October 15, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Stormy Daniels Didn’t Want to Be Anybody’s Hero