Just in time for Art Basel, where she's a mainstay on the turntables and the social scene, Paris Hilton revels in a newfound life of love, music and her billion-dollar brand.
Multicolored knitted top, $850, and multicolored knitted skirt, $895, both at Versace, Design District; Brug ring, $285, by Paula Mendoza Jewelry at Bossa Concept, Bayshore; earrings, vintage.
Mexico City. The day Paris Hilton and I catch up, the area is still devastated from a massive 7.1 earthquake. In town to launch her Rose Rush fragrance, Hilton has included in her itinerary, as part of a Save the Children initiative, a visit with locals in Xochimilco, while making a donation and helping to build new homes. It’s a far cry from the club scene of the early 2000s, when she was splashed across the tabloids and accused of being “famous for being famous.” There was no Instagram or selfies back then, either. In fact, she was so before her time that if you Google her name now, you’d think she was a record-spinning perfumer and philanthropist who loves her artist boyfriend. Read her Instagram comments and you’ll see icons like Perez Hilton calling her “The Legend” or Demi Lovato commenting “Gorge” on her posts. More than 14 years after filming the iconic The Simple Life, Hilton is finally living a simpler life, surrounded by “six dogs, three cats, three flying squirrels and my pony.” Of course, anyone with a smartphone can see she’s not just sitting at home reflecting on adolescence. In the midst of producing a second album, a third book and 24 fragrances grossing more than $2.5 billion—not including her new “Unicorn Mist”—she’s over a decade into Paris Hilton Entertainment, a multibillion-dollar company consisting of 45 branded stores throughout the Middle East and Asia. There’s also a secret docu-series project on TV this January, “dealing with social media that’s very real, raw, controversial and exciting.” And she’s working on her second hotel property in the Philippines, picking up awards like “Best Female DJ of the Year” or grabbing news headlines like “Highest-Paid Female DJ in the World,” which, by the way, can have her performing onstage “till like 5:30am.” As part of her “Foam and Diamonds” residency at Ibiza’s club Amnesia, she follows her DJ set with an epic foam spray on the audience until 8am. Tired yet? She’s not. “I wish I had seven clones.” And yes, her famous hotel magnate grandfather loves what she’s become. “My grandfather tells me, ‘Paris, I used to be known as Barron Hilton, and now I’m known as Paris Hilton’s grandfather!’”
In 2003 with The Simple Life, there was no social media, no smartphones. How do you think things have changed for you?
It was a completely different world. No social media whatsoever. So I couldn’t control anything that was being said about me. Today, it’s all of these influencers, brand ambassadors and bloggers; they are really making a career out of posting just from their cellphone. It’s amazing how anyone with a phone can basically build a career off of it.
Think about all the potential opportunities and money that could have been made back then...
I was definitely before my time, and the beginning of a whole new era, and it started a new generation and genre of celebrity. I think it was pretty groundbreaking, and I love being a pioneer. But being a businesswoman, I would’ve loved to have capitalized on it. I was just doing it because I was having fun, but at the same time, created a new business of being the first one to be in Las Vegas to start the whole public appearance fee. I’m ver y proud I started a whole new way for young people, young entrepreneurs and people with dreams to make a living and a ver y lucrative business off of it. Instead of most kids getting some boring job, they’re actually doing something they’re passionate about. It’s amazing how this technology has taken it to another level where people are making lives from it.
Do you remember the first time you got paid to party?
It started when I was 16 and first moved to New York City, and I just started getting offers to go to different events. Then, all of a sudden it was like, ‘We’re going to pay you a million dollars to come to Japan’… and my sister and I started going around to different events and parties. And then from there, George Maloof called me. He said, ‘Paris, I’m opening the new Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, and I would love to fly you down in a jet, and I want you to wear this million-dollar dress. It has a million dollars’ worth of the Palms’ gambling chips on it, and I will pay you to come.’ At the time, I wasn’t even 21, but he didn’t know that. He thought I was, so he said, ‘I just need to make sure, so send me your driver’s license.’ So I literally took white-out and a typewriter and changed the age to make it so that I was 21. I was really 20 at that point, and I faxed it over, and then he flew the jet, had the opening, and after that moment, every single club in Las Vegas was calling me, wanting me to come there every week.
What would be your advice if you were staring into a mirror, or you were talking to young stars of today?
I’ve been in this business for so long now, I’ve seen so many people come and go, it can’t just be some little boring shit that they do. I’ve seen a lot of things where people do some crazy publicity stunt that’s humiliating. People are just doing anything now to get attention because nothing is shocking anymore. I think it’s more about finding what you’re passionate about and doing it in a positive way and something that’s going to help the world. I see a lot of things right now that are just very shallow and fake, and it’s not genuine. People need to think about what they do. Everything that’s on the Internet is going to last forever.
Do you think it would be harder to grow up now given all the cameras, social media and bashing that’s going on?
When I was growing up, we didn’t have social media, but we had TMZ and paparazzi, which was very stressful; being chased. But now it’s on a whole new level where people are getting bashed by random people hiding on the Internet. All the bullying that’s happening, it’s just become very dark. I’m lucky that I built tough skin. My whole thing was, if anyone said anything about me that wasn’t true, I would just ignore it and not say a word because I didn’t want to call more attention to it. I didn’t feel like I needed to justify myself for some ridiculous lie. I actually feel bad for these people who have so much time on their hands that they will literally make a fake profile and then just go and bash people. I see they do it to everyone. I think of them as losers hiding in their parents’ basements with no life, and they are pathetic. I feel sorry for them, because I know who I am. I’m happy with the person I am.
“I HAVE NO REGRETS IN LIFE. EVERYTHING MADE ME THE WOMAN I AM TODAY.”
How would you say you’ve evolved?
My priorities have completely shifted. I’ve really grown and just became an adult, learning and having a lot of life lessons. It really shaped me into the person I am today, where my priorities are not about having fun and going to parties. It’s more about giving back, using my voice for those in need of it, and also my business, my family, my relationship, my boyfriend, my pets and my friends. That’s all that matters to me. When I was younger, it was more about constantly having to be on a reality show and having to play a character. You just lose yourself and kind of forget who you are. It’s a shallow existence. I know what’s important in life and what I really care about. I’m very proud of the woman I am today. I didn’t want to be known as just the Hilton Hotel granddaughter. I wanted to be known as Paris.
Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
I have no regrets in life; everything made me the woman I am today. But there are certain people who I wish I never met and that I just wasn’t so naïve sometimes, and I always wish that I knew everything that I know now back then. I look back and I don’t even feel like I’m the same person anymore.
Multi diagonal-striped compact jacquard boatneck top, $1,590, and emerald textured wool trouser, $1,190, both at Oscar de la Renta, Bal Harbour Shops; Verona earrings in Multi, $228, by Native Gem at shopbop.com.
You like to stay in on Saturdays?
I’ve never liked Saturdays. I feel like the weekend is just not as fun because everyone is out, and it’s just way too crowded.
Your first date with your boyfriend, Chris Zylka, was in Miami!
The first time we met was about eight years ago at a Chateau Marmont Oscar party. He walked in and I just thought he was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and we started flirting and talking. We were friends for years, and then it was actually Art Basel in Miami Beach two years ago, and he was showing his artwork there. And my brother said, ‘Oh, Chris Zylka’s here. He’s texting me.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God! Invite him right now.’ So he invited him over. We hung out and then just kept talking and talking, and then had a date in L.A., and ever since that night, we never left each other’s side. It all really sparked with Art Basel.
What about marriage and baby talk?
We are so perfect together. He’s my everything. I’m so happy and excited to have someone who is my best friend, who I trust. Everything I’ve ever wished for came true. I always thought I would end up alone just because I never thought I would fall in love and trust somebody. With him, it’s like God literally made him for me to save me from all these weirdos. I definitely want to have more than one [baby]. Two I would be happy with, but three I would be even happier.
Considering all of your philanthropic work, what are you most proud of?
That’s just something that’s always been a big part of my life. My mom and dad instilled in us to be a philanthropist and realize how blessed and lucky we are, and I feel like it’s my duty to give back. So anytime I ever go on a business trip, before, we’ll plan it months in advance. I’ll have my team look into the most credible charities or orphanages or anything that has to do with animals or children, where I can go and donate and spend my time there, and bring them toys, food, clothes, and just bring life and happiness to their lives, because that’s the one thing that makes me most happy is to see other people smile and make people’s eyes light up. I feel like that is definitely a calling in my life and a special gift that was given to me, and I just love doing that more than anything. There are so many of us in life who can give back, and there are so many people in the world who have nothing. Even if people just do a little bit on their part, if everyone in the world did something, it would make such a huge difference.
The multimillion-dollar question: Would you ever do a reality show again?
I literally get calls every single day from every network, from every single producer in town pitching me different ideas, but I feel like The Simple Life was just so iconic and one of a kind that you can’t replicate that. I can’t see it going better than that show. My priorities are different. I’m running a huge business and I’m traveling. I don’t really have time to do a bunch of fake drama on a reality show.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WARWICK SAINT