Perez Hilton, the gorgon of Hollywood gossip who has built his widely feared and often despised internet empire on a reputation for shameless intrusions into the private lives of celebrities, intends to change his malicious ways – in part because he no longer wants to play the part of bully.
The alleged change of heart was proclaimed by the blogger, 32, on the set of a television chat show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. He also posted a video on his website promising to shed his old skin of snark and bile and turn into, if not an angel, then something a little less hellish. "I'm going to do things differently on my website than I have in the past. I'm not going to call people nasty nicknames. I'm not going to go the mean route. I'm going to force myself to be funnier or smarter," Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, told DeGeneres.
The conversion on the road to the studio was not entirely random. Hilton, who is openly gay, said he could no longer go on as before because of his own feelings in the wake of a recent rash of teen gay suicides in the US. Five young girls and boys, two aged 13, took their lives last month.
The most widely reported was the case of Tyler Clementi, 18, an undergraduate at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who jumped to his death from a bridge after a fellow student used a laptop webcam to film him embracing another man and then broadcast the encounter online.
Ironically, "outing" gay stars has become something of a speciality for Hilton over the years. Among those who suffered an unwelcome kick from the closet via his website was the actor Neil Patrick Harris, known for his childhood role in Doogie Howser M.D. and, more recently, How I Met Your Mother. Harris, 37, is now open about his sexuality and, if anything, has seen his career surge in recent years, with regular slots on sitcoms and invitations to host celebrity award shows.
Hilton is otherwise known for locker-room bitchiness. He famously refers to Jennifer Aniston as "Maniston" and the British actress Sienna Miller as "Slutienna". He has long been feared and loathed in equal measures by all those celebrities who have seen their lives jump the rails in some manner (Lindsay Lohan is currently Exhibit A) and would have been happier if their travails had remained private.
It remains to be seen how deep the conversion really is, and DeGeneres was the first to express mild doubt. "A lot of people don't believe you," she told Hilton. "But if you say you want to change, I think it takes a big person to look at themselves and say, 'I've done wrong, and I want to change'. So I want to listen to what you have to say."
Nor was it an accident that he chose The Ellen Show to make his statement. DeGeneres, who was one of America's first gay stars to speak openly and voluntarily about her sexuality, is at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness about the bullying of young gays. Called the "It Gets Better" campaign, it has been joined by the comedian and singer Sarah Silverman, the teen pop star Joe Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) and Harris.
"From now on I really want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem," Hilton told DeGeneres. He told fans on his website, meanwhile: "I don't want to be a bully. I don't want to be called a bully." He added that he was aware of the risks the new tone would mean for his business. "Will my traffic go down? If it does, I don't care because I'm growing. I'm going to challenge myself to be better at what I do and I hope you will stay with me."
For now, industry watchers are agnostic about whether a new, angelic Hilton will retain his following or slide into irrelevance – an eventuality that would cheer many in Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
"The important thing about Perez Hilton is that he has established himself as this brand – this mean, snarky brand – and if he takes away the mean and the snarky, is his brand left?" said Kristin Benson, of Hollywoodlife.com. "We're going to have to see."
Perez vs Lily Allen
Congrats on your album doing well in America. It's REALLY HARD to sell copies when u discount it to $3.99. Desperate!
Perez vs Sienna Miller
The British media is reporting that Sluttyienna and Matthew Rhys are dating... Maybe she just knew he's the one???? More likely, though, she's just a slut!
Perez vs Jennifer Aniston
When will Maniston FINALLY settle down?! It's about damn time already!!! We can't help but feel the sting of Maniston's loneliness every time her rep tells us she isn't actually dating anyone. Isn't there anyone man enough to fill the void in her sad, sad life??
Perez vs Lindsay Lohan
What an effing moron! You'd think with all the people ready to call Lindsanity LOLhan out on her bullshiz, she'd STOP lying!