https://www.smh.com.au-By Samantha Selinger-Morris
The way she was: Paris Hilton in New York City in 2004 while filming her reality TV show, “The Simple Life”. Credit:Getty Images
So what’s this about Paris Hilton at Capitol Hill?
The reality TV star spoke in Washington DC on Wednesday to urge the United States Congress to pass the Accountability for Congregate Care Act in order to reform the multi-billion-dollar “troubled teen industry” that, she says, has left millions of young people, including herself, traumatised.
“Today I come here not as Paris Hilton, but as a survivor,” she said, as she appeared to fight back tears. “I was,” she added of her experiences at multiple youth treatment facilities, “strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood.” She said the experiences led to 20 years of sleepless nights.
And this follows a lauded opinion piece in The Washington Post on the same topic?
It does. In it, the now 40-year-old recalls being awoken by two large men in her bedroom with handcuffs asking “if I wanted to go ‘the easy way or the hard way’ before carrying me from my home as I screamed for help.” She was 16 at the time. Her parents, she wrote, “had searched for solutions to my rebellious behaviour. Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the “‘troubled teen industry’…”
Tell me more.
Referring to the aforementioned traumatic event on Wednesday, Hilton said: “Thinking I was being kidnapped, I screamed for my parents. As I was being physically dragged out of my house, I saw them crying in the hallway.
“They didn’t come to my rescue that night. This was my introduction to the troubled teen industry. My parents were promised that tough love would fix me and that sending me across the country was the only way.”
Hilton’s call for action follows her 2020 documentary This Is Paris in which she revealed details of childhood trauma to explain her rise to fame including how her ditzy persona – most famously paraded in her hit reality TV show The Simple Life – was a “shield” she built to “hide behind”.
She’s also been working with Breaking Code Silence, an organisation dedicated to eradicating the mistreatment of children in abusive institutions. It’s a stark change for the head of a reported $US300 million empire who once said she hadn’t revealed the “worst things in the world” that were happening to her because she didn’t “want my brand to be affected”.
She’s not your average human rights campaigner.
The road to change led by, say, Robert F. Kennedy or Gloria Steinem wasn’t paved with paparazzi shots of them carrying chihuahuas in diamante-encrusted bags or walking dogs named Harajuku Bitch, Diamond Baby, Princess Paris Jr., Prince, and Prince Baby Bear.
This could be the making of her.
Maybe. She has wrestled with politics before. While she once said that women who accused former President Donald Trump, a family friend, of sexual misconduct were looking for “fame” and “attention”, she later backtracked and expressed gratitude for the #MeToo movement.
She’s got her work cut out for her.
Certainly, the US is littered with stories of teens who’ve suffered horrific abuse in institutions.
And time will tell how dedicated she is.
Indeed. “I hate when people call me a ‘former reality star’,” she said four years ago. “I want to be known for my business and inventing a new wave.”