What comes to your mind when you think of Paris Hilton? A rich influencer who created a whole genre in the industry? A ‘dumb’ blonde that isn’t really grounded in reality? Or a businesswoman who comes from a good background? Well, there were a lot of the sentiments of the general media and even myself. But we were so desperately wrong. ‘This is Paris’ documentary proves that there is a lot about her that we just didn’t know.
There was a reason no one knew the real Paris
The fact of the matter was that Paris Hilton was mostly famous for being famous initially. Slowly, the woman cultivated and created a very particular character starting on ‘The Simple Life’. The character was of a ‘dumb’ blonde rich girl that is acting airheaded and doesn’t really know how simple things work like a ‘mop’. But that was just a facade. Even the very popular sexy voice that we often associate with Paris Hilton was not the real her. It was a brand identity that she created.
She created this character of ‘Paris Hilton’ in order to gain freedom from her troubling past. Paris Hilton never felt in control of her life during her childhood and adolescent years. In order to escape the horrible things that happened, she builds a billion-dollar empire with products such as fragrance lines and skincare lines. But there was also another product that she was creating, herself. She was no longer a real person who had a real life. Paris was the Paris Hilton who had to just keep expanding her business to earn money, to be independent so that she would never have to be controlled by someone else.
For all of it to be possible, she had to portray a picture-perfect version of herself that’s always smiling, always happy. Paris Hilton was like a real-life Disney Princess with a lavish lifestyle, big houses, successful businesses, and millions of fans. Once she started this brand and grew it, she could not stop and she could not reveal her dark past. Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t:
I built this kind of shield around me and kind of this persona, almost to hide behind, because I’ve been through so much where I just didn’t even want to think about it anymore.
Her terrible abusive past in her childhood shapes most of her life
Paris Hilton reveals a shocking fact about her life. She gets nightmares almost every day, leading to a severe case of insomnia. Paris hustles hard but it almost feels like she’s working like a robot, working every single day, traveling all the time, catering to her hundreds of businesses. She claims that she’s never woken up fresh and she has nightmares about people coming in and taking her away from her room every night.
The nightmare stems from her traumatic experience when she was taken at night for the Provo Boarding school:
I thought I was being kidnapped. I started screaming for my mom and dad, like, “Help me,” and no one came. As they were taking me, I saw my parents standing by their door, crying. I was like, “Please help me. What’s happening?” And no one would tell me what was happening.
In ‘This is Paris’ we also see what ultimately led to her being taken away at this abusive boarding school.
Paris Hilton’s mother was always trying to shield their children from bad things. Her mother was also, intentionally or unintentionally controlling of Paris’s behavior. They came from the prestigious Hilton family so Paris was expected to be a certain way, to carry herself a Hilton woman is supposed to carry herself:
My mom had us go to etiquette classes. So we basically were taught
how to be debutantes. It’s very proper, very prim, almost like a Stepford wife. It just didn’t seem real or natural to me. I wasn’t allowed to go out or go on dates or school dances because my parents were so strict.
Ultimately, Paris Hilton’s teenage self hit the limit and started to rebel by going to night clubs, missing class, and doing everything her parents told her not to do.
That’s why they put her through many different schools that were going to ‘correct’ her behavior or be the version they wanted her to be. When she ended up escaping from many of those schools, her parents thought of sending her away to a Provo Boarding School.
Paris Hilton and many others suffered terrible mental and physical abuse at the Provo Boarding school
Paris also mentioned in some teasers how the Provo boarding school was abusive but we got to hear the details of the horrifying events that happened:
There’s no getting out of there. You’re sitting on a chair staring at a wall all day long getting yelled at or hit. I felt like a lot of the people who worked there got off on torturing children and seeing them naked.
Moreover, the staff at the school would try to further control the children there by pumping their blood full of pills without telling them what was in it:
They would prescribe everyone all these pills. I didn’t know what they were giving me. I would just feel so tired and numb. Some people in that place were just gone. Like, the lights are on, no one’s home. A lot of people were on suicide watch, and I was so scared that was gonna happen to me.
Paris Hilton ultimately found a way of not consuming the pills. But when the staff found out, they put her in solitary confinement. It must be noted here that Paris was still a teenager and not an adult yet.
They’d make people take their clothes off and go in there, like, for 20 hours. It felt like I was going crazy. – I was just freezing, I was starving, I was alone, and I was scared. My parents were in New York. They didn’t know. But I was so angry and so upset, I just– I hated them.
The only way for her to hold on to her sanity was for Paris to think about the future and what she would do after she got out.
I was gonna do everything in my power to be so successful that my parents could never control me again.
She also tells the audience that she never told any of the details of what happened to her family. Moreover, she also used all of her anger and pain into her drive to be successful. That’s why she worked so hard to be where she is now, with her own brands with her name on it.
How Provo affected her relationships in life
The traumatic experience affected her mind a lot. Paris still has nightmares about being kidnapped again, she’s also anxious and she has had a lot of trust issues because of it. Paris Hilton could not easily open up to anyone and let people in her heart because she was not able to.
After the abuse she faced at the boarding school, her mind started to think that such abuse was ‘almost normal’.
And I just wanted love so bad that I was willing to accept being hit or yelled at or screamed or strangled or a lot of things. Even the tape. That never would have happened if I hadn’t went to Provo. I was just so lost and desperate for love that I found the worst possible person.
Paris Hilton talks about how she was blamed for the se*-tape leak
In the early 2000s, a major reason why Paris Hilton became such a popular topic for gossip sites was her se*-tape leaking. She was pressurized to do the tape with her boyfriend at the time Rick Saloman. But people thought that Paris Hilton leaked the tape herself and blamed her for making it in the first place. Much like how victim-shaming happens to this day to survivors of sexual assault and rape.
The tape leaking news was everywhere and it even became a joke at late-night shows. We see clips of even people like David Letterman taking a dig at Paris Hilton’s tape leaking.
It was like being electronically raped. And for people to think that I did it on purpose– because after that all of these leaked tapes were coming out, and it almost became like a blueprint to become famous.
Paris Hilton shared that she didn’t need to do any of that and the tapes were leaked without her consent. She always had a plan in mind to be successful and this was not it:
My grandmother always called me Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, and I always wanted to live up to that for her. That was my dream. It was going to come true. And I just felt,
when that happened that took it all away from me.
Paris Hilton reconnects with other survivors of her boarding school
We also see a heartwarming reunion Paris Hilton has with other survivors at the Provo Boarding School. All the women gathered and shared their own personal experiences at the facility and how it shaped their lives.
There’s one survivor, Katie McNamara, who’s created this campaign Breaking Code Silence to ensure that there’s awareness of the abuse that went into that school. The initiative is also set up to make the parents realize that this is what’s happening to the children. Paris Hilton also shares:
“I have received tons of letters from other survivors who have thanked me for being brave and telling my story because they feel like they can open up and tell theirs as well. We are working to reform the troubled teen industry, by pushing for legislation which will create better rules of operation, oversight and accountability. People can go sign the petition to call for reform. I am in contact with Oregon [state] Sen. Sara Gelser to support her efforts to pass legislation to finally change the industry and save other children.”
Paris Hilton also shares that’s she excited about how the influencer genre has transformed into an activism genre:
“I think it’s amazing what [social media has] morphed into. Obviously there is some negative that comes along with it. But the people who are using it in the right way, I’m just so impressed. … Because the more people talk the bigger difference that can make. I think activism and being an activist is the new influencer.”
Paris Hilton’s new identity is something that I personally am excited to see. There’s a lot of pain that shaped her and no one can take away the hard work she put into each of her ventures.
Perhaps, we’ll be seeing more of the normal voice Paris, the real one that she finally let the world see.