Paris Hilton’s path from party girl to icon of 'extra'

In her new memoir, party girl-turned-mogul Paris Hilton chronicles growing up as part of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton's family dynasty

Mae Anderson
Tuesday 14 March 2023 13:56 GMT

“Paris: The Memoir” by Paris Hilton (Dey St. Books)

Dubbed the “OG Influencer,” club kid-turned-mogul Paris Hilton pioneered becoming “famous for being famous,” in the early 2000s, a playbook since adopted by everyone from the Kardashians to Housewives and countless social media influencers.

Hilton became a staple on the New York City club circuit in her teens in the late 1990s, decked out in designer fashion and towering heels, an irresistible magnet for paparazzi.

In her 20s, her fame became mainstream with the nearly simultaneous debut of her reality show “The Simple Life,” and the leak of a scandalous sex tape.

“I knew I wasn’t trying to build an ordinary career,” Hilton recalls of her early days of being paid to party and attract the paparazzi. “I was building a brand that would eventually turn into multiple income streams … but that sounds way more calculated than it was.”

Born into the family dynasty of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, Hilton spent her childhood in a rarefied world of privilege, collecting a menagerie of animals like ferrets, gerbils and a baby goat and earning the family nickname of “Star.”

But a diagnosis of ADHD put a damper on the idyllic childhood, making it difficult to focus in school. Her constant need for excitement and penchant for escaping over fences and through bathroom windows branded her a troublemaker.

“I don’t just love fun. I need fun. Fun is my jet fuel,” she writes.

After Hilton started sneaking out at night to go to clubs, sometimes disappearing for days, her parents took a “tough love” approach and sent her to a series of schools for troubled teens, with devastating consequences. Locked away at the schools for nearly two years, Hilton says she was psychologically and physically abused and sexually assaulted during sham gynecological exams.

Once she was released at 18, she stuck to the story concocted by her family that she’d been away at a London boarding school. She didn’t open up about the abuse for 20 years, finally discussing it in her 2020 YouTube documentary “This is Paris.” Since then, she’s become an advocate for reform in the “troubled teen” industry, testifying before Congress about her experience.

Now embracing her ADHD as her “superpower,” these days Hilton focuses on being a mogul with a perfume and jewelry line and other ventures, with a legion of fans she calls her “Little Hiltons.”

She married husband Carter Reum in 2021 and the couple now have a son. Hilton says she appreciates how Reum accepts the “endless spin cycle” of her life. “Where most people see a dumpster fire, Carter sees Burning Man,” she writes.

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