Lance Armstrong and porn star Mia Khalifa on regret
WHEN Lance Armstrong was lifting his seventh Tour de France we bet he didn't expect to find himself here.
Sitting in a small office in Austin, Texas, interviewing former porn star Mia Khalifa about the perils of shortsighted decisions.
But this is 2018, not 2005, and 46-year-old Armstrong is no longer the world's greatest cyclist but one of many former athletes who have turned their hand to podcasting.
Armstrong says the theme of his podcast, which he calls The Forward, is "how we f*** up in life - either we f*** up ourselves or life f***s us up - and then we figure out a way to establish a base and move forward".
So who better to have on as a guest than fellow Austin resident Khalifa, who has moved back to Texas after quitting her role as co-host of sports talk show Out Of Bounds after just two months.
Armstrong reveals during the hour-long discussion about Khalifa's decision to enter the porn industry and her experiences the pair have actually been friends for several years and that he'd even had her over for dinner with his son and his schoolmates the weekend before.
There's a kindred spirit between the two Armstrong says stems from carrying the burden of past mistakes.
"This is why I have a ton of empathy and respect for you," Armstrong says, as he looks at a laptop screen filled with articles about Khalifa. "When I open up all these articles about you, every one of them starts 'porn star'.
"For three months you did something, which you just admitted was a huge mistake, every one of these articles the lead two words are porn star.
"If you put my name in here and google it and open up 10 articles - obviously I did things for longer than three months - every one of those articles starts 'disgraced ...'
"I've watched how you've tried hard to reinvent yourself ... three months is just, no time, it's crazy."
"I have even more empathy with your situation," Armstrong adds. "Because ... there are plenty of kids that have taken pictures with me and their parents have posted it, then other parents have said 'I can't believe you let your kid take a picture with Lance Armstrong'. So I get it."
As Armstrong notes, Khalifa became one of the most famous porn stars in the world despite only working in the industry for three months as a 21-year-old.
She revealed she was approached outside of a Fuddruckers hamburger restaurant in a strip mall in Miami by a man who stopped his car while she crossed the street before getting out of and handing her his card.
It came just a few months after Khalifa, who was born in Lebanon but moved to the US with her parents as a child, had surgery to enhance her breasts which had become "deformed" after she lost 20kgs in college.
"I thought about it for two weeks and made the mistake of saying yes and going in ..." Khalifa explained.
Khalifa, now 25, said she had low self esteem and was looking for validation. She also wanted to let loose after being extremely studious during high school and college. "I wasn't doing it for money," she said.
"I never put myself out there like that in college. I never had those crazy party nights. I was very studious. I was trying to graduate early because I graduated high school early and I just wanted to get out of school and start my life."
She said she initially worried about her family finding out but gambled on her scenes remaining out of the public eye.
"That crossed my mind a lot. If anyone finds out, if my parents find out, this would ruin my life," Khalifa said. "The way I rationalised it was, there is so much porn out there, there is no way anyone is going to see me. How am I going to cross their paths? They'd have to be searching for something ... also they don't know my name, this isn't going to be something I'm going to advertise ... I'm not going to put it out there at all.
"Looking back on it I don't know what I was thinking ... I was 21 and dumb."
Khalifa, who wore a traditional head covering known as a hijab worn by some Muslim women in some of her scenes, said the experience quickly spiralled out of her control and even resulted in death threats from ISIS.
"As soon as I started to gain popularity that's when I was like 'get the f*** out of this' ... this was not what I was trying to do whatsoever," she said. "I just wanted to let loose and rebel a little bit. It didn't validate me. Nothing like that ever does. That's not what you should be doing to try and build your self esteem."
Now, like Armstrong, she's beginning to rebuild.