Paris Hilton: 'I'm not a dumb blonde, I'm just very good at pretending to be one'


The 'influencer's' memoir uncovers a life of loneliness, upheaval and bullying in which the big party of her youth was a way of dodging pain

Paris Hilton at the 2022 LACMA ART+FILM GALA in Los Angeles.
Paris Hilton at the 2022 LACMA ART+FILM GALA in Los Angeles.SHUTTERSTOCK

Getting to know someone requires going breaking their outer shell. Even when that outer shell is so dazzling it blinds you, so luxurious it intimidates you, so perfected it seems fake. Judging Paris Hilton, the heiress of all heiresses, the blonde party girl who adored (still adores) sequins, pink, and chihuahuas, is quite tempting. And that's why the model (and singer, actress, businesswoman, stylist, DJ, philanthropist, and influencer), on the brink of turning 43, has decided to give herself the best gift possible an adult woman can give herself: a voice. A surprisingly honest voice through which she narrates her life in the autobiography Paris: The Memoir.

The desire to go beyond what has been repeated a thousand times is evident from the first pages of the book: Paris: The Memoir is the unfiltered version of Paris Hilton, full of revelations and some very painful memories that explain who the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of the famous luxury hotel chain bearing his name, truly is. There is one idea that soon emerges before the reader with clarity: the great party of Paris Hilton's life was a response to the suffering and discomfort in which she grew up. Hilton writes patiently about ADHD, the behavioral disorder she was only diagnosed with as an adult. "Should we accept who we are or die trying to be someone else?" she asks in her book. And then she writes, "Fuck adaptation."

It's not a slogan, but it is the most reasonable answer Hilton came up with after feeling deeply misunderstood, even in her own family. A family that, "for her sake," took her away from her when she was a little girl. One night, she was taken from her home by two men who entered her room. Paris thought it was a kidnapping, but the men were carrying out the orders of her parents, who witnessed the scene without intervening. Their destination was a sort of farm-sect created for the purpose of "taming" the most rebellious teenagers. According to Hilton's description, it looked more like a concentration camp than a summer camp. There, the spoiled heiress suffered severe harassment and humiliation and frequented a dark room where the most undisciplined children were stripped, isolated and kept under observation. Hilton says she was scarred by the experience.

Her escape attempts are told without euphemisms but also without rhetoric, as is the harassment she has faced over the years, including that of Harvey Weinstein. Hilton writes about the "horrifically wonderful" kiss from the teacher she was in love with when she was 13. "I never allowed myself to talk or even think about what that kiss really was..... It took me decades to use just the right word: pedophile," the autobiography reads.

QUESTION. It takes courage to write such an honest and powerful book. What drove you to share such intimate and painful moments of your life?

ANSWER. The media has controlled the narrative of my life forever. I felt it was time to reclaim my voice, that I could finally do it. The other motivation was to help other people who have had similar experiences to mine and to use my voice and all my platforms to shed light on important issues. By sharing these vulnerable moments of my life, I wanted the whole world to know the real me and to contribute to positive change in the world.

Q. You describe your ADHD diagnosis as a kind of liberation after years of feeling "different," "wrong".

A. My book includes a quote from Dr. Edward Hallowell: he says the ADHD brain is like a Ferrari with bicycle brakes. A powerful machine, but difficult to control. My ADHD has made me the person I am, so I've learned to treat it like a superpower. It has unleashed a lot of creativity and has helped me succeed in many areas of my life, from being CEO of my own company to being a wife and mother.

Q. However, that feeling of being misunderstood still surfaces in the book, even among your loved ones. The passages about the facility you were sent to are chilling. How did you process that?

A. Looking back, I realize I was just like any other girl who wanted to enjoy her youth while trying to figure out who I really was. The difference was that I had the world watching me and tabloids reporting on every move.

Q. It's clear that you don't want to be cruel to your family; in the book, you express concern about what your mother will think when she reads your memoirs and treat her with a lot of tenderness. How is this possible after everything that has happened? Have you forgiven your parents?

A. My family and I have always been very close. Deep down, they always wanted what was best for me, they wanted to protect me. In the new season of my show, Paris in Love, we share many aspects of the process of working on forgiveness and, more importantly, about my recovery. All steps that will lead to our greater closeness, in time.

Q. You have fans all over the world. But how much do you think they really know about you, deep down?

A. Throughout my career, I've always tried to create a real connection with my fans worldwide; it's been very important to me. If there was anyone who always made the effort to understand me and love me for who I am, it was the fans. From the beginning. Now, since the release of my show and my memoirs, people approach me and tell me that I've opened their eyes to who I really am. Many also identify with the experiences I share, and that touches me deeply. I played the role of the dumb blonde, I turned it into my character on The Simple Life [the first reality show about my life], I used it, and I exploited it; it was a kind of brand. But in reality, I'm not a dumb blonde; I just played it well.

Q. Today you present yourself as a winner, a woman who has succeeded in very different worlds. Did you foresee feeling this way 20 years ago?

A. I've had a very fulfilling life, and I'm grateful for all the love and opportunities I've received. I believe people love you for who you are, and that's why we must live authentically and never let anyone dim our shine. I also have advice for everyone: be kind because the world could use more of that. Kindness is what the world needs most.

Q. The book insists a lot on this; it tells that you're putting a lot of effort into making the world a better place. Do you feel optimistic? For example, about the situation of women?

A. I hope to continue changing the world through my work. I'm very attentive to the condition of women and always try to defend them, but above all, I do my best to remind them that they should be the bosses that I know they are. For me, at this moment, I'm focusing on raising my family and trying to fulfill all my passions and desires. But I do it because I'm very convinced that women can have it all.

Q. You mentioned that your husband was the first person to make the effort to truly understand you, to enter "the crazy whirlwind" of your life. Now you are parents. What is the family you have formed like?

A. Motherhood has been one of the life-changing experiences for me. I was lucky: I got to live a fairy tale to the end. Becoming a mother opened my eyes to a love I never knew existed. Carter is the most devoted and loving husband one could imagine. And together we had Phoenix Barron and London Marilyn, our beautiful and intelligent children. We couldn't be happier.

Q. In your autobiography, you talk about your surname. "I am a Hilton, and that's a huge burden. Here I am, admitting the luck I have, okay? My surname has been defined as that of 'American royalty.' I'm not going to downplay the incredible privilege I've had. I am grateful for everything," you write. Is it still important in your life today to be called Hilton?

A. I've always admired my grandfather. He taught me a lot about business ethics and hard work. I feel very honored to be able to continue his legacy of successful entrepreneurship and to do it in many different industries. Today, I am a CEO, DJ, writer, philanthropist, as well as a wife and mother. I will continue to use my voice and all my tools to inspire, help, and make a positive and lasting impact on the world. "I was born with great privilege and live an extraordinary life... I had to leave all that behind; this book is my way of looking through the mirror," Hilton writes. "Every passing year, I care less and less if others love me, hate me, adore me, or ignore me. And it's strange, because it seems like that's how I can better understand people." So, after about 10 lifetimes lived and countless years of analysis, Hilton's vision is beginning to become clear: "I know we're supposed to spin the negative things that happen to us to make them seem positive. It's nonsense. A heart attack doesn't save our lives. Cancer isn't a gift. Whoever raped you didn't make you better. Bad things are bad, there's no need to spin them further. If you've found some form of strength or wisdom in them, I think that's great, but you must know that strength was within you, it was there all along.