When I announced the name change for my blog, I explained that I wanted to take readers beyond the headlines of a news story involving their favorite celebrities. I wanted to add more context to provide an overall, well-rounded perspective that was more than mere gossip or surmising. We kicked off that new objective with my story on Chris Rock finally speaking out on his assault at the Oscars last year in his new comedy special, Selective Outrage. Now, as we continue to move in this new direction, I can’t help but think of a better person whose life in the public eye was certainly devoid of context. That person is hotel heiress, DJ, socialite, actress, singer, and business mogul, Paris Hilton.
Born on February 17, 1981, to Richard and Kathy Hilton, Paris is the eldest of the Hilton children, with younger siblings, sister Nicky Hilton (b. 1983), and brothers Barron (b. 1989) and Conrad (b. 1994). She first gained notoriety as a socialite in 1996 – between 15-16 years old – with her many appearances around the NYC club scene. Hilton used a fake ID to gain access to many of the clubs and parties she was too young to attend. Viewed by her parents as a rebellious child due to her newfound club and party lifestyle, Paris was shipped off to boarding school. After graduating high school at 18, Paris resumed her lifestyle making public appearances and enjoying a brief stint as a fashion model, walking the catwalks during New York Fashion Week, and being featured in top fashion magazines such as Vogue and FHM.
Her big break, however, didn’t arrive until 2003 when she – alongside her childhood friend and fellow socialite, Nicole Richie – starred in the reality television show, The Simple Life. The premise of the show involved both Paris and Nicole - two very privileged and wealthy young girls who have essentially had everything given to them in life - living with families in mostly rural communities, while doing manual labor jobs such as working on farms and in fast food restaurants, etc. It became a massive success and launched the two ladies into international fame. The success was a much-needed pivot for Paris as prior to its introduction into the world, she gained a different level of fame when the now infamous sex tape she filmed with then-boyfriend, Rick Salomon leaked to the press in 2001.
A then 20-year-old Paris was devastated by the ordeal and it led to the public’s perception of her as the rich, "dumb blonde," that's only useful for a good time. Throughout her time in the spotlight as the "it girl," of her generation, Paris, although rarely ever taken seriously managed to carve out a successful career for herself and has maintained longevity. Even with the constant digs thrown her way, she rose above the fray to share her new and deeply personal memoir, Paris.
And that's what brings me to the point of this blog. In her book, Paris details some very disturbing experiences she faced in her younger years, some that even her parents, let alone the public were unaware of. In one instance, she shares that when she was in eighth grade, she had an inappropriate relationship with her teacher. She recounts said teacher confessing he had a crush on her and after exchanging numbers, he would often call her at night and they would talk for hours. The teacher, known as “Mr. Abercrombie,” visited Paris one night when her parents were out. After climbing into the passenger seat of his SUV, she shares that he kissed her "for what seemed like a long time and seemed to be evolving into something more." Her parents came home to find her in the driveway with the teacher. Naturally, he blamed Paris for his own actions, saying “My life is over. What am I doing? Why did you make me do this? And Paris was sent to live with her grandmother at the end of the school year while Mr. Abercrombie’s reputation didn’t really suffer as he remained a teacher at the school. With a deeper perspective in understanding that she was preyed upon, Paris writes, “even now, knowing in my grown-up mind that no child is ever to blame for inappropriate adult behavior, my face is literally burning as I sit here telling you this terrible secret," she continues. "I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully shake it off. But it's a key part of my story.”
She also shares that due to her uncontrollable behavior which is not uncommon for a lot of teenagers (skipping school, sneaking out at night, etc.) she was sent away to a boarding school in the middle of the night by her parents (mentioned above). The school, specifically, Provo Canyon School in Utah is where she suffered a great deal of trauma and torture which included, verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. She recalls being starved, slapped, choked, screamed at, and being placed in solitary confinement. When asked by Joy Behar during an appearance on ABC’s The View, why she never told her parents what was happening to her, Paris says that her calls were monitored and if she attempted to tell them what was happening, the calls would be disconnected and she would lose her phone privileges. She went on to say that although she’ll never understand her parent’s decision to send her away, she forgives them because she understands they had the best intentions and believed they were doing what was best for her at the time.
Other revelations in the book include her being diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), in her early 20s which was misdiagnosed when she was a child, “No one ever said, ‘Relax, little girl. There are many different kinds of intelligence. Instead, people told me I was dumb, bratty, careless, ungrateful, or not applying myself.” Having found her purpose now, she views her ADHD differently than when it was originally diagnosed, “Advocacy work blessed me with the silver bullet that transforms my ADHD from disability to superpower: purpose. For years I told myself I was incapable of focusing on anything. Now I know that I can be a laser beam when I focus on something that truly matters.” In addition to that, she lets readers into her experience of having an abortion. Speaking on the matter, she says, “Trying to continue that pregnancy with the physical and emotional issues I was dealing with at the time would have been a train wreck for everyone involved. At that moment in my life, I was in no way capable of being a mother. Denying that would have jeopardized the family I hoped to have in the future, at a time when I was healthy and healed.”
It's easier to understand now, why Paris presented herself the way she did as the wild, party girl when she started her career. She, like many people who have experienced trauma, found a way to distract herself from said trauma and therefore created a “character,” as a coping mechanism to hide her pain. Even deciding to speak in a higher pitched, baby voice as opposed to her naturally deeper voice tone was most likely a conscious decision. The evolution of Paris Hilton from Hollywood it girl to successful business mogul, wife, and now mother is to be commended. Regardless of her privileged upbringing, it takes courage to survive the difficult challenges life throws at you because it's much easier to give up. Having found her voice, the Paris we see now is the confident woman I suppose she's always wanted to be. Letting go of the character she created she's finally embracing her true self. She may have named her son Phoenix after the mythical bird of resurrection, but I would argue that it is Paris, who has been resurrected from the aches, reborn and taking control of her life and changing the narrative.
Owning your story, flaws and all... now that's hot!
Paris’ new memoir is available now.
Welcome to my Blog! Here, we'll discuss some of the biggest hot topics in Hollywood involving some of your favorite celebrities. I'll be sharing my honest thoughts and opinions and giving you and in-depth perspective with full context. This space is designed to not only share news permeating the pop-culture space, but to also inspire deep thought and conversation that is as insightful as it is entertaining. Feel free to leave your comments and let's discuss!