There are celebrities—and then there’s Paris Hilton. She’s the 21st century entrepreneur, a billionaire heiress and socialite who never had to work, but did anyway and created a whole genre of celebrity in the process. She’s a socialite, a DJ, a model, a singer, a fashion designer, an author, the matriarch of a sprawling beauty empire, and the proud mom to a diverse menagerie of miniature dogs whose name range from Diamond Baby to Harajuku Bitch and Prince Baby Bear. She’s fabulously rich, even more famous—and undoubtedly cleverer than most would assume.
Longtime fans of Hilton will know that she’s funny, too. Back in the early 2000s she starred alongside fellow famous offspring, Nicole Richie in reality television show, The Simple Life—now widely considered to be a classic of the era. A staggering 13 million viewers tuned in for its premiere, and the show went on to run for four years. During that time Paris coined many a meme-worthy soundbite, most notably her catchphrase “That’s hot,” which is legally trademarked and has stuck with her ever since. She used the show to her advantage, playing dumb to make watching it compulsive. “I knew what the audience would want and I enjoyed playing into that character,” she says. It may be hard to believe, but she’s quieter than one might imagine off-screen: “It was easier to make a persona, but I love that people know that I was in on the joke the whole time now.”
She parlayed her success on the show into other things. This year marks the 15-year anniversary of her best-selling book, Confessions of an Heiress, and the launch of her 25th fragrance—two milestone events that she’s notably proud of. She says that she had “no idea” what she was getting herself into when she started out in television, but that she always had a plan “to make my own brand and carry my legacy to another level.” She adds that her family—who founded the Hilton Hotels in 1919—taught her to never talk about money, but Forbes rumors her personal net worth to be around $300 million, plus more if you include trust funds and what she’ll inherit eventually.
But Paris puts in the work. “I like to optimize my time,” she says. "I’m on a plane over 250 days a year.” The headquarters of Paris Hilton Entertainment Inc. are close to her home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, but she keeps an apartment in Manhattan too. Both address are empty a lot of the time. “I’m the CEO of my own brand, and it's a global business. If anyone thinks that everything is just handed to me they’re completely wrong. From early morning to night, my day is booked.” In the boardroom she calls herself “boss Paris” and wears a black Chanel suit. At night you’ll find her behind the decks “dressed like a raver Barbie” in the DJ booth. “I’m a chameleon, I love to dress up,” she adds, “Halloween is my favorite day of the year.”
Some of Hilton’s most famous 2000s outfits have recently experienced a resurgence. Both Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian were snapped in silver chainmail dresses nearly identical to the one that Paris wore to her 21st birthday. (On Instagram Jenner gave credit where it was due, captioning her outfit “Paris Hilton Vibes.”) Prior to that, high fashion brand Vetements revealed a revamped Juicy Couture sweatsuit similar to Hilton’s most beloved one during Spring 2017 Couture Week. “I feel like everyone’s big sister,” she says of her style icon status. “Back in the day, no one would think to wear the things I wore, but now everyone is obsessed with it. It’s amazing to see my looks recreated.” The most obvious change in her wardrobe from then to now is that there’s less pink: "I still love it, but I used to be obsessed with it.”
Déjà vu fashion aside, Hilton is eager to talk social media. She runs all of her own channels, including Instagram, and passes the majority of her time spent airborne direct messaging with fans from Dubai to Las Vegas. “Everywhere I go, I have my little Hiltons with me. It’s a fun way to share my life and an amazing way for them to stay in contact with me. Some of them I’ve known for years.” Currently, she has 17.1 million followers hanging on to her every word on Twitter, and 10.8 million on Instagram waiting for her next picture. Ask if she invented the selfie, and she'll respond with an affirmative. “I love being a trailblazer. It’s fun being a pioneer,” she says half tongue-in-cheek, half serious.
But in all actual seriousness, Hilton’s grasp of the how’s and why’s of modern celebrity culture are impressive. Last year she teamed up with director Bert Marcus on the voyeuristic documentary, American Meme, to give viewers a glimpse of life from her side of the screen. Critics praised her vulnerability. “I find social media such a fascinating subject. The dark side and the positives. I love that everyone loved the film and that it’s made such an impact.” From real to virtual, her next project will be “the next step in social media.” “I’ve been working on it for the past five years, and at some point this year I’ll finally be able to share it. I have a lot of exciting feels in the tech world."
Outside of the public eye Hilton’s social circle is close knit. She cites her family as an “incredible support system” and says that she’s known a lot of her friends since childhood. “It’s hard to trust people, especially in Hollywood, but I’m a detective. I used to be much more naive, but now it’s hard for anyone to trick me.” One long-standing friend the world is very familiar with is Kim K, who made a surprise cameo in Paris’s recent ‘Best Friend’s Ass’ music video. “We’ve known each other since we were two years old. Kim’s always been so beautiful and had that star quality—she’s a boss babe,” says Hilton.
She admits to wanting to start a family in the near future, but says that she’s not ready—not just yet anyway. “Right now I’m really content with my life. I’m just getting into real estate and I have a new skincare line, and the VR space is happening. Ten years from now, maybe I’ll have two or three kids, or by then, who knows, maybe I’ll have 10 and be about to launch my 50th fragrance.” Asked if she ever thinks of turning her back on the spotlight and she’s quick to respond. "I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, so no, why would I?”
In this week’s Semaine, find out what’s hot and what’s not in Paris’s world and watch as she reprises the role of weather girl—a gig she made famous on Season 3 of The Simple Life. Filmed on location in her Beverly Hills home, the short was directed by Gigi Ben Artzi and Roy Ben Artzi and is guaranteed to brighten up your day.
By Elsa de Berker for Semaine.