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Michelle Knight says fame comes with complications, plans to change name

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Michelle Knight has discovered that the fame that followed her escape from Ariel Castro's house of horrors cuts both ways.

There has been some obvious good. The girl who grew up without a toothbrush and spent nearly 11 years in captivity can provide for herself. She has her own apartment. Her book, "Finding Me," spent five weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers List. She and the other two women kidnapped by Castro split $1.4 million in donations collected after their escape. Phil McGraw of "Dr. Phil" television fame presented Knight with an oversized check for more than $400,000 from his foundation.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Knight said she is ready to assume a normal life and, with it, a new name and identity - Lily Rose Lee.

"I'm not a celebrity," said Knight, 33. "I don't want to be. I want to be me."

Michelle Knight Says She Is Not A Celebrity

Fame has brought some frustrations. Knight becomes frightened when crowds sometimes gather around her as she walks alone. She finds it annoying when people snap cellphone photos without asking.

And people from her distant past have reappeared, feigning friendship but ultimately seeking money, she said.

"You have to be careful every day because of the book and the money and the `it' factor of who you are," she said. "They're not coming at me to be my friend. They want what I have."

Knight writes in her book that she grew up under less than ideal circumstances. Food and clothing were hard to come by. Strangers drifted in and out of the house at all hours. She said her mother kept her home from school for days at a time to care for her twin brothers and assorted cousins who lived there.

She ran away from home at 15 and lived beneath a highway underpass and then with a drug dealer for a few months. She said in the interview that it was the most nurturing period of her early life.

Knight was 21 when Castro lured her to his home in August 2002. Amanda Berry was abducted in April 2003 just a day shy of her 17th birthday, and Gina DeJesus was 14 when he kidnapped her a year later.

The women escaped from Castro's home on May 6, 2013. Castro took a plea deal to avoid a potential death sentence and received life in prison plus 1,000 years. Knight said he violently aborted five of her pregnancies by kicking, punching and stomping on her abdomen after impregnating her. He ended up hanging himself in his prison cell a month after sentencing.

While Berry and DeJesus were reunited with loving families who had prayed that they would someday return, Knight refused to meet her mother who had flown to Cleveland from Florida. Knight spent the first four months of her freedom in an assisted living facility because she had nowhere else to go.

Knight said her 3,911 days in captivity have helped instill in her a deep appreciation for what's good in the world.

"It's just the little stupid things, like picking up a phone or writing in a book or looking out a window or just seeing a bird fly by," she said.

These days, she waits her turn at a local bar for karaoke night. She's trying to write and record songs. While she has been befuddled by some of the new technology that didn't exist in 2002 - like flat-screen televisions - she has no problems pecking away at her oversized smartphone.

She also has a growing collection of tattoos, including an image of a pretty young girl on her left bicep. She said the tattoo represents the babies Castro killed.

"They are my little angels," she said.

Knight has an infectious giggle and is quick to smile. She has a few phobias, like always keeping her apartment drapes open after living in boarded-up rooms inside the Castro house. Having lived in filth for so long, she said she's become a compulsive cleaner.

The course Knight is setting means leaving her family behind. She said she forgives them but doesn't want anything to do with them.

She also has decided to not pursue visitation rights with her son, Joey, who is now 14 and lives with adoptive parents. Knight said he doesn't know she's his birthmother and she doesn't want to disrupt his life. She knows he's happy, and that's good enough for her.

As for the future, she has a number of aspirations such as becoming a chef and owning a restaurant and recording music. What seems to excite her most, at the moment, is the prospect of soon visiting Disney World.

Knight said she believes God has a plan for her life.

Her Facebook page, which has nearly 24,000 likes, has become a support group for trauma victims. Discussing what she and others have endured has been therapeutic for her, she said. What pleases her most is having a positive effect on the lives of others.

"If I can help more than a million people or just one," she said, "I did my job."

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c1g2w3 July 14 2014 at 8:06 AM

She is really just a child with no unconditional guidance. People are so mean and I hope she can find someone to guide her. As you read below on the comments you can see why. She really needs someone to prepare her for the evil of social media.She has escaped one scumbag and just walked into the hands of a million scumbags.

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5 replies
Rmc2916 July 14 2014 at 7:03 AM

For someone that doesn't want attention she sure draws a lot without any help from anyone else. She seems to make sure she gets more and more attention. Now with the name change. So you don't want anyone to know who you are. But you tell the whole world your new name.

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11 replies
Carol July 14 2014 at 9:09 AM

This young woman has endured 10 YEARS of unimaginable torture, humiliation, sexual abuse, and had EVERY aspect of her life controlled by a filthy psychopath. The fact that she can function at all, is a miracle. It seems to me, that the one thing she wants, AND deserves, is to finally have complete control of her life. Making nasty comments and jokes about anything she does, is despicable. She will never truly have her life back because a monster who changed who she is, forever.

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3 replies
TripleXKimberly July 14 2014 at 7:52 AM

Even though she is changing her name, she will always be recognized because of the Media Attention this story has gotten. She is moving forward to try and be happy and move on with her life and I hope she can accomplish that and so much more! She deserves it! Good for her!

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1 reply
NoShark TripleXKimberly July 14 2014 at 12:49 PM

Always is a long time, and her 15 minutes is up. She is a blip in yesterday's news.

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2 replies
anwrose NoShark July 14 2014 at 4:22 PM

You would know wouldn't you. Being a blip that is.

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crujr2 NoShark July 14 2014 at 5:04 PM


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Carol July 14 2014 at 7:31 AM

Tattoos. Are they really necessary?
No. Unless you want the attention they
bring. And you don't want anyone to know who you are so you change your
name and let everyone know what it is.
She needs help and should see a counselor. If she has been seeing someone she should continue.

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15 replies
Lisa Gonsalves Costa July 14 2014 at 6:58 AM

Wonderful to see her smile! May Michelle find true happiness, all of them deserve that for the hell that monster put them through. I just hope someone is guiding her to make the right decisions.

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alspoolhall July 14 2014 at 7:51 AM

Whatever Michelle decides to call herself ... Lily Rose ... is ok with me. Here's a gal who grew up WITHOUT a toothbrush and had no self worth. It seems she is getting "there" and I wish her the best of everything for the rest of her life ... she and the other two young ladies who endured the impossible. And all you church-goers, could you please see that all the little kids in your area have tooth brushes and toothpaste instead of sitting in church pews listening to a concert? Thanks.

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3 replies
rjen164497 July 14 2014 at 7:21 AM

This poor young lady has obvious mental issues. The Media continues to exploit her limited capacity. Why is she news at this point? The Media is just bullying her. Why doesn't the Media help her get more mental help, instead of using her?

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4 replies
Anne Boleyns Crown July 14 2014 at 7:03 AM

Going to school and getting an education is exactly what this young woman needs to do. She will not always have donations to survive on but the good thing is, she survived! Hope she knows she can survive many things now. May she continue to get lots of therapy. Howver, I would have receommened she keep her new name change to herself, especially if she would like a tiny bit of privacy.

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1 reply
Kate Anne Boleyns Crown July 14 2014 at 1:18 PM

She can't. Keep her name change a secret, that is: it's illegal. She knows that, and if she didn't initially she certainly found out. She's never going to be able to hide anyway, and has not said she is trying to, so she may as well be her new self as publicly as she has been her old.

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sgregg38 July 14 2014 at 7:07 AM

God bless this girl and the other two. they had to endure the most horrible things that we could only imagine! she deserves to have everything good in life, and i hope she does as well as the others. but this girl had a hard life even before this happened..i feel for her. she seems like a very smart and wise woman. i wish all the best to her!

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