Paris Hilton is adding her voice to the chorus of women speaking out to reclaim their narrative from the media and the public.
This week she released “Paris: The Memoir,” sharing what it was like for her growing up a Hilton — being sent away to programs for troubled teens but finding mental and physical abuse, a leaked sex tape, the crafting of a party girl image and high-pitched voice and co-starring in a reality show, “The Simple Life,” with Nicole Richie.
In 2020, Hilton released a YouTube documentary “This is Paris,″ addressing her experiences at the schools. “That was the first time that I really became vulnerable and real and shared my story and what I went through,” said Hilton.
Today, Hilton is involved in advocacy work and has welcomed a son with husband Carter Reum.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hilton talks about speaking out, slowing down and what she thinks of being called a socialite.
Answers may have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: You’re one of quite a few women who have taken control of their story in recent years. Was there anyone who inspired you to do the same or to consider doing this?
HILTON: I was at the premiere of Demi Lovato’s documentary a couple of years ago, and I was just so blown away by her honesty and her vulnerability and talking about so many private moments in her life. That really inspired me just to be able to feel free, to be open and to be more honest about what I was going through, because especially in Hollywood, it can be very hard, especially on your mental health. A lot of people go through things, and we all try to project this perfect life, but life isn’t perfect.
AP: If you could map out how this book will be received, what would that look like?
HILTON: For so long I’ve been misunderstood and underestimated, and there’s just so much more to me than what people think. It all really started off with my documentary, ‘This Is Paris.’ That was the first time that I really became vulnerable and real and shared my story and what I went through.
AP: The public knows a lot about your ups and downs, but you shared things in your book like being sexually assaulted and having an abortion. Was that difficult?
HILTON: A lot of the things that I put in the book were very hard to write about, a lot of memories that I tried to not think about for so many years. But I think it was important to include them because it’s part of my story. I just know that there’s a lot of women out there who need to hear that story as well.
AP: Despite your many hats of being an entrepreneur, a DJ, having 30 fragrances and a billion-dollar business — you still get labeled as a socialite. Does that bother you?
HILTON: I don’t really enjoy the term socialite because I feel that there’s just so much more that I do, but I do feel that people are finally now recognizing and seeing me for the businesswoman that I am.
AP: How is your advocacy work against programs that allegedly reform so-called bad kids going?
HILTON: The past two years, we’ve made so much impact, and I’ve already changed laws in eight states and all the way in Ireland. I’m going back to Washington, D.C., in April to introduce a new bill and we already have bipartisan support. So, I am just praying that everybody does the right thing because there are over 150,000 children being sent to these facilities every single year. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry… I’m not going to stop fighting until change is made.
AP: You do write about how it hasn’t been easy to communicate with your parents about what happened to you. Have you been able to really discuss this with them?
HILTON: My family and I have never been closer, and they had no idea what was happening behind closed doors in these places. They have deceptive marketing. My parents just thought I was going to a normal boarding school, and all the brochures have these pictures of children smiling with rainbows and riding horses. I completely understand now, especially as an adult, just everything. My parents and I have talked about everything, and it’s been extremely healing for us. My mom has been coming with me to Washington, D.C., and is there to support me.
AP: You’re a new mom! (Hilton’s son Phoenix Barron Hilton Reum was born via a surrogate.) Are you dialing it back on all your traveling and business responsibilities?
HILTON: I am saying no a lot just because I want to be there for all the moments, so I’m trying to do as much from home as possible, building my podcasting studio there, my recording studio for my music, a photo studio for photoshoots. I try to work from home as much as possible so I can pop in and out of his room because I am just so obsessed with my little baby boy.
AP: You also write in your book about how you have ADHD and your husband researched it when you were dating to understand you better.
HILTON: He’s just so supportive. And he talks to my ADHD doctor and has just really done so much research. He basically knows more about it than I do and is teaching me these things every single day as well. So that’s been really awesome.
AP: Even sharing that you have ADHD will help people feel seen.
HILTON: When people can harness it in the right way, it can actually be a superpower. That’s why I think in my career I’ve always been ahead of my time and taking risks and being an innovator and someone who thinks outside the box. I really attribute that to my ADHD. People should watch the movie ’ The Disruptors,’ to understand more.
AP: Last question. In your book you share you have five cellphones. One is dedicated to prank phone calls. Do you have those on you today?
HILTON: Yeah. I only have a couple of them here. (Hilton holds up three phones.) I love doing prank phone calls with my mom.
Image credits: AP/Alberto Pezzali