CLEVELAND — 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.”
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.