Heiress, businesswoman and all around icon Paris Hilton was the star of the 2000s until her friend Kim Kardashian grabbed the public's attention - but now Hilton is back with a memoir and more popularity than ever
Paris Hilton, the socialite, entrepreneur and all-around icon who rose to fame in the early 2000s, is back - and once again one of the hottest names in the entertainment industry.
Now 42, she’s not only held onto her fans from the noughties, but regained and won many more, reclaiming her position as one of the most influential and sought-after celebrities of 2023. The real question though, is if Paris really ever went away.
Hilton shot to superstardom in the early 2000s, when she starred alongside Nicole Richie - daughter of Lionel - in the seminal reality show The Simple Life. The pair travelled across the US on very limited budgets, staying with ‘normal’ families, working in regular jobs and causing all sorts of hilarious mischief. The series ran for five seasons from 2003 and 2007 and even survived a temporary falling out between Hilton and Richie.
Even though The Simple Life has been off the air for a - frankly terrifying for this millennial - 16 years, it’s a core memory for many in their late twenties and early thirties and is still immensely quotable and all around entertaining. After the show finished, Paris moved onto her own venture Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, which ran from 2008 to 2011 and spawned two international versions, one in the UK and one in Dubai. It followed Paris’ quest to find a new best friend, pitching contestants against each other in lively contests, before one was declared Hilton’s ‘new BFF’.
As well as proving her star power, Paris established herself as a style icon during The Simple Life and My New BFF - as well as her noughties musical career, which peaked in 2006 with the eponymous album Paris, which is actually filled with bops; listen to Stars Are Blind if you don’t believe me.
Embodying the Y2K look with her velour tracksuits, sequined outfits, slogan t-shirts and extra long hair and very noughties makeup. Y2K as a trend is firmly back in fashion, with millions of Gen Zers imitating Paris’ looks from two decades ago - and Hilton has capitalised on this in an incredibly clever way, by launching her own brand of tracksuits, with a number of them emblazoned with her famous catchphrases like, ‘That’s Hot’ and ‘Sliving’.
She is, at her core, a businesswoman and marketing genius. Since 2004, Paris has released no less than 29 of her own perfumes, bringing in over $2.5 billion (approximately €2.3 billion) in revenue to date. She’s also had over 50 self-named boutiques in operation worldwide, been a model, actress and even owned a motorcycle racing team in Spain.
Even if Hilton’s star slightly waned as focus moved to her friend Kim Kardashian and family, there’s no doubt Paris has not stopped working, constantly promoting herself and her skills. Since 2012, she’s been a successful DJ, releasing successful hits like Good Time with rapper Lil Wayne, performing at festivals across the globe to great acclaim and securing residencies at places as impressive as super club Amnesia in Ibiza. She’s also huge on social media platforms, with over 23 million followers on Instagram alone.
A star is reborn
Another reason for Paris’ staying power and continued fame is her ability to adapt and reinvent herself.
While in the 00s, she was often criticised for being a ‘bad role model’ by the harsh publications of the day, her career took a handbrake turn in 2020 when she released YouTube Originals documentary This Is Paris.
In the show, she presented a previously unseen, raw version of herself and openly criticised Provo Canyon boarding school in Utah, where she was a student.
She explained how she was physically, mentally and verbally abused while there and has campaigned for its closure - giving evidence at the Utah State Capitol in 2021 explaining, “Although Provo Canyon School marketed it as a premier treatment centre, it was as if hell itself was on earth. I cried myself to sleep every single night, praying I would wake up from this nightmare”.
Although the school remains open, it has faced widespread accusations of mistreatment, including beating, drugging and sexual abuse - and Hilton has been at the forefront of the protests to close it down. This Is Paris was widely referred to as a rebranding of her image and gained her a great deal of respect.
Despite revealing her more serious side, Paris’ eternally youthful energy still remains. Her 2021 Netflix series Cooking with Paris - which was a result of a viral YouTube video in which she cooked a lasagne - featured different celebrity guests and showed off Hilton’s fun side once, becoming a big hit among Gen Z viewers.
Peacock’s Paris in Love followed later that year, premiering on the day she married her now-husband Carter Reum and exploring their relationship and the build up to the wedding. The pair had their first child, a boy called Phoenix, in January this year.
The good books
In 2022, Paris produced a podcast called Trapped In Treatment, which focuses on personal accounts at youth treatment facilities, including Provo Canyon School. Last month, she launched her latest book Paris: The Memoir, an honest look into her life and struggles with schooling, ADHD and her unwillingness to fit in. It's a total 180 from her 2004 publication Confessions of an Heiress, which played up to her girly Simple Life persona, encouraging readers to 'act ditsy' and wear tiaras - it was very well-received and entertaining, becoming a New York Times bestseller.
I attended the book launch at Selfridges department store in London and spoke to some of her super fans - affectionately known by Paris as ‘Little Hiltons’ - about why they love her so much and how she’s remained so popular for over two decades.
Many of these fans had travelled from across the country and Europe to meet Paris, including student Alessio Vittimberga, who had flown in from Milan especially. He says he’s loved her since childhood, explaining, “I've been a fan of hers for as long as I can remember. I can actually recall hearing two of her biggest hits from back in the day on the radio and something just snapped in me. That's as far back as I can cast my mind. I must have been around 6”. He speaks to Paris on a regular basis and is a proud member of the Little Hiltons, meeting his best friend Esther - we’ll meet her shortly - through the group.
He says Paris is “super trusting of her fans” and, on the first occasion he met her, she “nearly missed her flight to chat to me and do selfies and stuff”. Alessio and her other super fans all expressed their pride in her increasing openness and vulnerability, saying it’s helped her “reclaim her narrative and told her truth - and she's attracted a whole new audience and let the walls come down around her… her ability to turn her pain into purpose has shone a light on appalling abuse and the institutional cover up going on. She truly is a force to be reckoned with and has always put others above herself”.
While I can certainly attest to Paris’ kindness to her fans - she spent hours longer with them at the book signing than she was billed to do - it’s apparent her Little Hiltons have reason to treat her as their idol.
Esther Woolley - a healthcare professional and Alessio’s aforementioned best friend - told me about one occasion when Paris went above and beyond for her and two fellow Little Hiltons. She explained, “We had arranged to go and see her DJ in Ibiza, but we got scammed and the place we’d booked to stay at didn’t exist. We posted how upset we were about it and that we didn’t think we could come to the DJ set as our money was stolen, but Paris reached out to us and paid for us to stay at a hotel. Then she invited us over to her house in Ibiza and cooked us lunch… She genuinely cares and loves people and sees her fans as her family and friends. We spent that night partying with her at the club she was DJing at and it was the best night of my life”.
Fellow Little Hilton and advocate for special educational needs Ellise Irving has been a fan of Paris from around the age of 7, telling me she was obsessed with her Juicy Couture tracksuit, oversized sunglasses and Louis Vuitton bags.
Her love for Hilton was - and is - so intense that for her birthday one year, her parents bought her a fake Louis Vuitton bag and a toy puppy to put inside a la Paris. Ellise’s dedication hasn’t waned over the following years - she even named her daughter Paris after her hero - and cites the reason as being mostly due to her kindness to her fans and the fact that she’s willing to be an “open book”.
Ellise was particularly inspired by the This Is Paris documentary and Hilton’s rawness in it: “I have struggled with my ADHD and insomnia my entire life. I’ve felt so alone and isolated because of it, and I had never heard anyone talk about it - until I watched Paris’ YouTube documentary. It was a surreal experience seeing someone talk about all of the same hardships I dealt with as a teenager - but not just anyone - THE Paris Hilton who I have looked up to forever. What?!”
She also told me about the history of the exclusive Little Hilton group, which started on Twitter in the late noughties, saying, “Paris has always had many fans across the world but being a proper fan of hers felt very niche at the time so it was easy to find like-minded people online and build friendships quickly. There are some of us that have been speaking all throughout our teenage years, and now through adulthood. It’s fascinating how one person can be the foundation of so many friendships across the world… So many of them have been there for me at my darkest times and I am always here for them too”.
Blogger Abbie Latham has been a fan since 2003 and once had a chihuahua and named it Tinkerbell, just like Paris’ most famous pet - and co-star on The Simple Life. She tells me she’s made friends from around the globe thanks to the Little Hilton group and another I met on the day, Courtney Whitwell, was even a bridesmaid at Abbie’s wedding. She explains that her staying power is partly down to her ability to adapt and her relatability to her fans, “I have gone through certain life events and so has she - I almost feel like I have grown up with her. From the character she played in The Simple Life to now becoming a wife and mother, I can really relate to the phases in her life that she is going through”.
Abbie speaks with particular fondness about the first time she met Paris after corresponding with the star via Twitter for years, “I remember waiting at the train station in Liverpool, wondering if she would recognise me. I had a feeling that maybe this person I had been chatting to on Twitter all these years may have not really been her. But she saw me in the crowd and instantly said ‘Abbie!’ It was such a lovely feeling and a special moment for me”.
Courtney Whitwell has met Paris on several occasions - previously ‘happy dancing’ when her hero would speak to her on social media. Although she’s been a fan for years, her relationship with Paris is particularly special to her as it helps her remember her father, who met Hilton with Courtney on two occasions. She says, “My dad never saw me pass my driving test or move out of home, but he did see me meet Paris twice and that’s one life achievement I’m so happy we were able to share”. Courtney reiterates that Paris is, “so misunderstood”, saying, “there’s so much misconception with who ‘Paris Hilton’ actually is, but everyone who talks badly about her doesn’t know the real her at all. She’s genuinely an angel on earth and I’m just so glad to have been alive the same time she is”.
Paris Hilton’s memoir is now her second book to make the New York Times best seller list - and she’s announced she’s back in the studio working on a new album - so it’s likely her reignited star will continue to rise. As Paris herself would say, “that’s hot”!