Paris Hilton is an icon whom we’ve followed since the early 2000s, but how much do we really know about her? Over the last 20 years, the heiress-turned-socialite-turned business mogul has carefully crafted an identity built on glitter, selfies, and the idea that life is one never-ending party. From The Simple Life until now, she’s rarely strayed from this bubbly public image, but this week, that changed in a major way. In the new YouTube Originals documentary This Is Paris, we get an unprecedented look behind the façade of Paris Hilton, delving into her personality, her relationships, and the traumatic experiences that shaped her. Here’s what we learned from This Is Paris.
Right off the bat, we’re confronted with the jarring reality that Paris Hilton’s voice is not actually Paris Hilton’s voice. The iconic “that’s hot” baby voice pops up here and there throughout the documentary, but most of the time, Paris speaks in a deep, slightly raspy tone. She may be one of the most famous dumb blondes, but underneath the bleached roots, she’s actually a shrewd businesswoman who doesn’t put up with bullsh*t. Basically, she knew exactly what she was doing on The Simple Life, and it worked like a charm. In the documentary, we see her seamlessly shift into her on-camera persona. In one scene, she frolics in a ball pit to capture content for a skin care event in South Korea, and then totally deflates when she’s informed that she needs to be in full hair and makeup for the next day in just seven hours. When asked at the end of the film if she could divorce her real self from the character, Paris shakes her head, saying that it would be “an expensive divorce.”
It’s no secret that Paris Hilton is rich, but due to her rise to fame as an heiress, I don’t think people realize just how massive her own businesses are. She has over a dozen different product lines including skin care, makeup, clothing, and and accessories, and she says in the documentary that her fragrance line has done nearly $3 billion in sales worldwide. She is also the world’s highest-paid female DJ, reportedly earning $1 million for each appearance. Throughout the doc, she discusses her life goal of earning a billion dollars, citing this as the reason she can’t slow down her packed schedule of traveling and appearances. Similar to someone like Kylie Jenner, it would be a stretch to call Paris Hilton self-made, but she has certainly done an excellent job of using what she was given to create something even bigger.
Paris, who turns 40 next year, has never been married, and This Is Paris gives us an inside look into how difficult it is for her to find relationships that work. She has major trust issues (stemming from some stuff we’ll talk about in a minute), and given her hectic schedule and worldwide notoriety, Mr. Paris Hilton can’t just be any random guy. There’s a scene where Paris discusses this with her sister, Nicky, saying that if she dates an equal, she never gets to see him, but if she dates a guy who will be her “bitch boy” and follow her around the world, she quickly loses respect for him.
In the first half of the documentary, we meet Paris’ boyfriend at the time, Aleks. After meeting at Ultra Music Festival in Miami (a red flag to begin with), they began dating long distance, and we see him visiting her for the first time in LA. But one of the film’s most shocking scenes is at the Tomorrowland Music Festival in Belgium, where Paris is set to perform the biggest DJ set of her career. After doing a slate of interviews before her set, Aleks complains that Paris isn’t giving him enough attention, despite the fact that her performance is just minutes away. As he continues to whine to her, she blows up, and ultimately demands that his festival wristbands be cut off. As Paris takes the stage, Aleks is escorted away by security, and we never see him again.
The scene with Aleks is concerning, and Paris admits she has a history of dating toxic men. She estimates that she’s been in relationships with five different men that have become physically abusive, going all the way back to her teens. In one scene, we see a pile of discarded MacBooks, and Paris says that each time she dates someone new, she has to get a new computer, because guys always try to go through her stuff. It’s not hard to see why she’s had trouble finding the right person to settle down with.
The most shocking parts of This Is Paris deal with Paris’ teenage years, when her parents sent her to numerous schools and programs for troubled teens. Paris went through a rebellious phase as a high schooler in New York City, and her parents were concerned that she would tarnish the family legacy. First, they sent her to a wilderness program in New England. She attempted to run away from the program, and when she was caught, she says she was beaten by the staff. After that, Paris went to several “emotional growth schools” in the northeast, but she ran away each time, so her parents decided on something even more drastic.
Paris recalls that when she was 17, in the middle of the night, she was woken up by two men, and taken kicking and screaming from her family’s New York apartment. She says that she believed she was being kidnapped, until she saw her parents watching her be carried out the door. Her sister Nicky recounts how she woke up to the sound of Paris screaming, and then the next morning, her parents acted as if nothing was wrong.
After the horrifying abduction, Paris was taken to Provo Canyon School in Utah, which looks more like a prison than a high school. There, she says that students were physically and emotionally abused, and were forced to take unidentified pills. Paris recalls that, after she was caught throwing her pills in the trash, she was placed in solitary confinement, spending 20 hours a day in complete isolation. In an interview in the film, Hilton’s mother Kathy is asked about the use of solitary confinement, and it is clear that she is hearing about it for the first time, live on camera.
In the last part of the documentary, Paris meets with several women with whom she attended Provo Canyon School, and they bond over the strength that their shared experience has brought them. Paris helps organize a campaign called Breaking Code Silence to spread awareness of Provo and the “troubled teen industry” as a whole, and with the publicity surrounding the documentary in the last couple weeks, the campaign is generating traction.
Whether you have always loved Paris Hilton, or have always rolled your eyes at the thought of her, This Is Paris is a fascinating look behind the curtain at one of the most famous people in the world. At the very least, Paris is bringing attention to important issues, and hopefully this awareness can create some real change. I don’t know if we’ll ever truly know the real Paris Hilton, but we’re a lot closer than we’ve ever been before.
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Images: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com; Paris Hilton / YouTube