Paris Hilton’s journey from party girl to icon of “extra”

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This cover image published by Dey Street shows “Paris: The Memoir” by Paris Hilton. (Dey Street via AP)

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This cover image published by Dey Street shows “Paris: The Memoir” by Paris Hilton. (Dey Street via AP)

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

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

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

In her 20s, her fame went mainstream with the near-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 a regular career,” Hilton recalls of her early days, when she was paid to party and attract paparazzi. “I built a brand that would eventually turn into multiple streams of income … but it sounds a lot 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, where she collected a menagerie of animals such as ferrets, gerbils and a barn owl, earning the family nickname “Star”.

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

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

After Hilton began sneaking out at night to go clubbing, 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 in the schools for nearly two years, Hilton says she was mentally and physically abused and sexually assaulted during fake gynecological exams.

When she was released at 18, she stuck to the story her family had made up that she had been away at a boarding school in London. She didn’t open up about the abuse for 20 years and finally discussed it in her 2020 YouTube documentary “This is Paris.” Since then, she has 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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