Daniels said she "came from an average, lower-income household… there [were] days without electricity", and she has described herself as coming from a "really bad neighborhood." During high school, Daniels had a job answering phones at a riding stable.
Porn star Ron Jeremy and Daniels at Jeremy's birthday party, March 2007
Daniels's first experience as a stripper occurred when she was 17 and visiting a friend at a strip club; she was convinced to perform a "guest set". She began stripping for money at the Gold Club in Baton Rouge and became a featured entertainer with Continental Theatrical Agency in September 2000. She chose her stage name Stormy Daniels to reflect her love of American rock band Mötley Crüe, whose bassist, Nikki Sixx, named his daughter Storm. She chose the last name "Daniels" after seeing a Jack Daniel's advertisement that read "a Southern favorite".
While working as a featured entertainer, she met Devon Michaels, who was doing all-female sex scenes in a pair of upcoming films – one for Wicked Pictures and one for Sin City – and Michaels invited Daniels to accompany her. Daniels accompanied Michaels to her Wicked shoot, where she met Brad Armstrong and co-starred with Michaels in her Sin City scene, American Girls Part 2. Afterwards, Armstrong invited Daniels to stay with him.
In July 2002, Daniels was cast as the lead in a feature film for Wicked Pictures, Heat, where she did her first male-female sex scene. In September that year, she signed an exclusive contract with Wicked. In 2004, she won the Best New Starlet Award from Adult Video News, which was a surprise to Daniels, who had made a $500 bet with another actress that Jesse Jane would win. She has directed for Wicked since 2004.
Daniels has appeared with performers such as Randy Spears, Julian and Brendon Miller, to whom she was married and who edited about half of her movies. Daniels was inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame on January 18, 2014, and was inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame on April 16, 2014. Her directorial work that year earned fourteen AVN Award nominations including a nomination for Best Safe Sex Scene for her performance with Brendon Miller in François Clousot's First Crush.
In 2018, there was wide speculation that Daniels would be a housemate on Celebrity Big Brother 22 in the United Kingdom. Despite the reports, Daniels did not enter the house on launch night.
Speculation about her absence included demands for more money, a legal affair involving her husband, and a desire to spend time with her daughter. Her attorney Michael Avenatti told the Press Association that Daniels was in fact set to enter the house, but producers attempted to manipulate her into acting a certain way.
A Big Brother statement read: "Stormy Daniels was booked to appear on the show several months ago and hours before the show was due to go live, informed the production team that she no longer wished to enter the house as previously agreed. Producers discussed a variety of options with her but were unable to agree any acceptable conditions for her entering the house. Our focus is now on making a brilliant series with our fantastic celebrities."
Daniels said that she offered to appear on the show during the live launch to explain her absence, but was turned down by producers.
On the August 17 edition of spin-off show Big Brother's Bit on the Side, host Rylan Clark-Neal explained that just five hours before the first live show, Daniels said she only wanted to appear on launch night and then leave. Big Brother tried to negotiate a compromise, but nothing came of it. Clark-Neal also insisted that money was not a factor and there was no attempt from producers to try to manipulate her to achieve a specific outcome.
A group of fans attempted to recruit Daniels to run against RepublicanSenatorDavid Vitter in Louisiana in 2010. The recruitment process was centered around the website DraftStormy.com. On May 21, 2009, she formed an exploratory committee, initially inspired by revelations about "Vitter's connections to a prostitution ring". In August 2009, her campaign manager's car was blown up, although no one was in the car at that time.
In April 2010, Daniels finally declared herself a Republican candidate. Her decision was inspired by disclosures that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had paid expenses for fundraisers at a "lesbian bondage themed nightclub" in Los Angeles, stating that the revelations "finally tipped the scales". She explained that the RNC's use of party funds for sex convinced her that Republicans represented her libertarian values best: Daniels said she has been a registered Democrat throughout her life, "But now I cannot help but recognize that over time my libertarian values regarding both money and sex and the legal use of one for the other is now best espoused by the Republican Party."
She made several listening tours around Louisiana to focus on the economy, as well as women in business and child protection and stated that if elected, she would likely retire from the adult industry. However, she announced on April 15, 2010, that she would not be running for Senate, saying she could not afford a run for the Senate seat and stating that the media never took her candidacy seriously.
Daniels was married to Pat Myne from 2003 to 2005, and took his legal surname Clifford. She was married to Michael Mosny (screen name Mike Moz) from 2007 to 2009. She was arrested in July 2009 pertaining to a domestic violence charge by Mosny. She married Glendon Crain in 2010; they have a daughter. Crain filed for divorce in July 2018.
Daniels has been fond of horses her entire life; she owns several and has won multiple blue ribbons at equestrian events.
In October 2016, shortly before the presidential election, Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money to deny that she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier in 2006. Trump's spokespersons have denied the affair and accused Daniels of lying. On behalf of his client, Cohen denied the existence of an affair between Trump and Daniels, but he later stated: "In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford."
On March 6, 2018, Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump. She said that the non-disclosure agreement that she had signed in reference to the alleged affair was invalid because Trump had never personally signed it. The suit also alleges that Trump's attorney had been trying to intimidate Daniels and "scare her into not talking". A day later, Cohen initiated an ex parte arbitration process which resulted in an order that barred Daniels from disclosing "confidential information" related to the non-disclosure agreement. The order itself, which Daniels' lawyers called bogus, was supposed to remain confidential.
In a March 25, 2018, interview with 60 Minutes, Daniels said that she and Trump had sex once, and that later she had been threatened in front of her infant daughter and felt pressured to later sign a non-disclosure agreement.
On April 9, 2018, FBI agents raided Cohen's office and seized emails, tax documents and business records relating to several matters, including payments to Daniels.
On April 30, 2018, Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump on libel charges because he called her statements "fraud". It related to Trump's statements on Twitter saying that Daniels had invented the story of the man who threatened her after she decided to tell journalists about their affair. The suit was dismissed on First Amendment grounds.
In August 2018, Cohen reached a plea deal with prosecutors, saying he paid off Daniels "at the direction of the ... candidate" and "for the principal purpose of influencing the election". In September 2018, Cohen offered to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement with Daniels if she would refund the $130,000 Cohen's company paid to her. Lawyers for Trump have declared that Trump will neither enforce the non-disclosure agreement nor contest Daniels' claim that it is invalid.
Columbus, Ohio arrest
On July 12, 2018, Daniels was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, by undercover vice cops in a sting operation. Authorities accused her of "fondling" patrons and police officers in violation of Ohio strip club law. While Daniels was booked into the county jail, two other female adult entertainers who were arrested at the club for the same alleged violations were given summonses to appear in court and (unlike Daniels) did not have their mugshots taken. Daniels retained Columbus defense lawyer Chase Mallory, who worked with prosecutors to dismiss the charges less than 12 hours later, saying that the law did not apply to out-of-town performers.
Daniels' personal attorney, Michael Avenatti, vowed to sue the local police on the grounds that the arrest was politically motivated. It was later revealed that the lead detective on the vice squad in charge of the arrest was a supporter of Donald Trump. Emails belonging to another vice squad detective who made the arrest reportedly showed that days before Daniels arrived in Columbus, the detective had already obtained pictures/videos of Daniels and the location of her planned performance.
A day after the arrest, the Columbus police chief declared that "a mistake was made" during the arrest, as "one element of the law was missed in error." In January 2019, Daniels filed suit in federal court against the City of Columbus, alleging police were politically motivated when they arrested her and seeking $2 million in damages. In March 2019, an internal police investigation found that Daniels' arrest by the four undercover officers was improper, but not premeditated or political in nature. In August 2019, Columbus Division of Police Interim Chief Tom Quinlan announced that five Columbus police officers faced departmental punishment for their roles in the arrest for violating rules of conduct. In September 2019, the parties agreed to settle the federal lawsuit, with Daniels receiving $450,000 in compensation.
^Rothfeld, Michael; Palazzolo, Joe (January 12, 2018). "Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star's Silence". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018. A lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a former adult-film star a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
^Stern, Marlow; Snow, Aurora (January 12, 2018). "Porn Star: Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels Invited Me to Their Hotel Room". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on January 14, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018. Cohen on Friday did not address the alleged payout to Daniels but provided the following statement to The Daily Beast: "These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels." The attorney also provided a letter dated Jan. 10, 2018, allegedly signed by Daniels, that denied any "sexual and/or romantic affair" with Trump or the receipt of any "hush money" from Trump.