The hotel heiress has opened up about the trials and tribulations of her life in the limelightIt is easy to laugh at Paris Hilton. After all, this is the woman who has so many possessions she only noticed she had been burgled at the sixth attempt.
But after earning $1.5billion from her own product lines, launching her 17th perfume range, her 45th store and starting her own hotel chain next year, the Hollywood heiress is the one laughing now.
She is most recognisable as the dizzy blonde with the cringe-inducing baby voice, tottering in stiletto heels on US reality TV.
But gone is the nightclubbing, party-going, spoilt rich girl with a huge collection of shoes and handbags as well as the chihuahua, Tinkerbelle, to go with them. Instead there’s a new word to describe the 32-year-old… businesswoman.
She says: “I’ve grown up and now I’m mature. In my 20s I was just getting to know myself and now I feel I finally know who I am. I’m staying out of trouble and away from negative people.
“I don’t go out that much any more unless it’s for work, so I’m happy to be a businesswoman and focus on more important things. I don’t hang out with a lot of the people I used to see because I’m so busy I just don’t have time for any of that.”
It is quite a change for the socialite and she is the first to admit she has faced her fair share of problems along the way – not least the painfully graphic sex tape recorded and then released to the world by her then-boyfriend.
But a decade on, perched confidently in a West Hollywood office, she talks frankly about how she has rebuilt her life, changed her image and grown up – and wised up.
The explicit tape still stings, she admits, and she shudders in horror when she recalls how it felt when the tape became public.
“It was the most painful thing I ever went through in my life,” she says. “This was not just some random person, it was my boyfriend who I was with for a few years and who I really loved and trusted. It was such a violation of everything.
“I was so hurt and so in shock and it’s been hard for me to ever really trust anyone again, especially guys, because it’s the most horrible thing you could do to a person.”
But as painful as it was, it forced her to shed her bubblegum caricature and helped her on her way to forging a business empire.
Hilton heiress Paris – who starred in The Simple Life, a reality show which followed her and her friend Nicole Richie – was 21 when Rick Salomon recorded them having sex and released the video, “1 Night in Paris”, on the internet.
It caused a global storm and she struggles to believe some starlets and would-be celebrities are
deliberately releasing their own sex tapes to boost their fame.
“It’s very bizarre to me to see girls purposely doing it to launch a career, and I think it’s kind of pathetic and disgusting,” she says.
It has often been a rocky road for Paris, once ranked number five in Forbes’ “Most Over-Exposed” list, as well as one of the “100 Hottest Women of All Time” by Men’s Health. True, some bumps were of her own making – she spent 23 days in jail after breaking probation for traffic offences, including driving under the influence.
She has also been arrested on suspicion of cannabis possession and sentenced to a year of probation and 200 hours’ community service – plus a drug treatment programme.
Then last year a recording of her making derogatory comments about gay people appeared on the internet, for which she issued an apology.
She was also targeted by computer hackers, who posted the phone numbers and email addresses of her celebrity friends online.
And in October 2008, her Hollywood Hills home was raided by a gang of celeb-obsessed teenagers – later dubbed the Bling Ring – who helped themselves to the Choos and Manolos nestling in her air-conditioned “shoe room”, stole her grandmother’s jewellery and danced around in her bra – only being arrested after striking a further five times, and targeting other celebs such as Lindsay Lohan.
Sofia Coppola has now made a film about the infamous gang. Astonishingly, the teens didn’t even have to break in as a spare key was under Paris’s mat which they copied and used at will.
Incredibly, Paris admits it took until the final break-in, when she actually spotted one of the gang, before she even knew they had been there.
“I had no clue until the last time because that’s when they did the big hit and took millions of dollars worth of jewellery”, she says.
“Before that they were just taking little things from everywhere. But the final time, they wanted to get as much as they could.”
When the penny dropped, Paris was traumatised. “They took jewellery left to me by my grandmother, who I still miss,” she has said.
And walking in on a gang member left her fearing for her life. Afterwards she recalled: “I had come home with my friend and walked into my bedroom and saw dirt on the carpet, a man moving behind the drapes. He could have murdered me. We ran up the hill to the guard house and called the police, but it was terrifying.”
She still suffers nightmares and now has lasers and full-time armed guards at home. She even gets scared in public. “I fear someone coming up behind me or out of the crowd. Maybe someone I trust. I am out there and it doesn’t take much.”
Nevertheless, Paris gave Coppola’s film her seal of approval and even agreed to let film-makers use her home to the amazement of the cast, who relished their insight into her lifestyle. Emma Watson, who plays the gang leader, said: “She could never wear all of those clothes, half of them were brand new and still had the price tag on.”
But unabashed, Paris has a cameo – despite admitting seeing the film left her shaking and fighting back tears.
Given her reaction, it’s perhaps easy to see why she’s tried so hard to step – at least a little – away from the limelight.
As well as her stores worldwide and fragrance line, she is planning a chain of Paris Hilton Beach Clubs, the first due to open in the Philippines early next year.
She may still have “probably a couple of hundred pairs of shoes” – “well, I’m a designer and I have 17 product lines so a lot of the things in my house are my products”, she insists – but Paris says she is not what people expect. She’s been in a year-long relationship with Spanish model River Viiperi and now really does, she says, prefer “the simple life”.
“River’s amazing. He’s so sweet and down-to-earth and loyal and kind and has such a big heart so, yeah, I’m really happy.
“My ultimate goal is to be a successful businesswoman and have my own family one day. Making my parents so proud of me is the one thing I care about the most.”
She adds: “One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that because I have the name Hilton, everything was handed to me and I’ve never worked a day in my life.
“But it’s the complete opposite. I’ve worked very hard and done this all on my own. I’m the exact opposite of what people think.”