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The phenom enon

No tantrums, no Tinkerbell, just a girl with great attitude and good humour. Oh, and a multi-million dollar business empire. The simple life means dividing time between toys and a towering ambition. By Neena Haridas

india Updated: Oct 10, 2011 11:49 IST
Paris Hilton

The thing about working on a Paris Hilton interview is that there is no point trying to ‘Google research’ her. There are about 142 million entries, with sundry information spanning sex videos, faux pas and random romantic linkups. The problem is that these ‘everything-youever- wanted-to-know-about-Paris’ sites, despite the claims, do not prepare you for the real Paris who sits in front of you in a pair of track pants and a T-shirt.

No entourage, no over-opinionated hangers-on and no know-all ‘pal’ who will ‘decide’ what she looks good in. It’s just her, and a little duffel bag of stuff that she carries herself. Not quite the Paris Hilton, the heiress, the PR miracle, the star who loves her vanilla and lavender candles, that we were nervously expecting. We were told, “Paris needs candles lit and placed in the right corners of her vanity van, a DJ on the set, corn-fed chicken, lots of ketchup, a private plane bigger than a G-4, celebrity-tinted car windows...”

The Paris Hilton we meet turns out to be quite an antithesis of all that we were preparing ourselves for. She arrives bang on time in a car (not a jumbo jet) for the shoot (she didn’t give a damn about the candles or the chicken), walks right into the makeup van and gets to work. She has never worn Indian clothes before, but we insist on giving her a taste of a full-blown Indian bling brigade. She has probably never even heard of most of the ‘famous’ Indian designers. Paris, the fashionista, doesn’t care.

She knows it is work and she must look the part. That’s the job and she is ready to play the Indian fantasy. The good news for all Indian designers out there is that she is now “obsessively in love” with Indian fashion. “It is so gorgeous and beautiful. I love the Swarovski crystals, the gowns, the blouse and the sari, which I hope to learn to drape one day.”

So, where is Paris Hilton, the diva, everybody loves to hate? Non-existent? Grown-up? Media-created? Hiding behind this chiselled face? I am not sure. The girl I talk to is a professional who keeps her interview time to the minute, a regular girl who frets about her feet, a little child who collects toys and a woman who knows the pain of a broken heart.

“I think a lot of things have been written about me, so when people meet me and realise that I’m actually a down-to-earth, real person, they are surprised. I’m a true Aquarian, independent and strongheaded, which is probably misinterpreted at times. I don’t suck up to people and have never changed my ways to please others. Often people forget who they are,” says Paris, but readily admits that with time she, too, has evolved, not just as a professional, but also within her personal space.

“I think I’m in the process of growing up. I am a lot more focussed on work. I have grown up so much in the past few years. I have changed the way I look at the world and my place in it. I have always wanted to build a business empire of my own, not just live off of the Hilton legacy. That is my priority,” she says, taking the air of a no-nonsense woman who means business.

But why take the rough road? The daughter of Richard Hilton and actress Kathy Richards, Paris is the eldest of four children. Together with her three siblings, Nicky, Barron Hilton II and Conrad Hilton III, she is heir to the considerable Hilton fortune, which has been built on Why not just follow the regular inheritor path and enjoy the ride?

In her own way, she did enjoy the ride, which put her in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The media wrote her off as a “wannabe”, “socialite”, “a bad idea” and a “dead loss in cinema”. Her off-andon encounters with the law (in 2006, she was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, and in 2007, got a 45-day jail sentence that was later reduced to home confinement), and a few duds at the box-office gave enough fodder for the anti- Paris lobby to celebrate. “I would go home and cry on my mother’s shoulders and ask her, ‘Why are they so cruel to me? Why do they judge me all the time?’ And she would say, ‘It’s part of growing up, and you will learn to ignore it one day.’”

Maybe she has learnt that bit of the trade. You know that here is a girl with guts, and a sense of humour, when she walks out of a prison and famously tells the papparazi at the gates, “The food was so bad.” And no, she wasn’t driving under the influence, she was just “rushing to get a burger because she was hungry and just wanted to eat”. Now, a girl’s

That’s the whole point of Paris: she is not the kind of person you can write off easily. While her detractors and critics eat crow, she is busy building Brand Paris with a growing business empire that spans clothes, accessories, jewellery, music, publishing, night clubs, real estate and perfumes, reportedly raking in about 100 million pounds (` 75.8 crore) a year. Her first perfume, naturally destined to be called Paris Hilton, was such a huge success that there was a sequel called Just Me and a men’s fragrance called Heir. Once she got a whiff of success

Once she got a whiff of success with her line of perfumes, her appetite grew. She realised that there is a bigger, better world out there she could conquer. Given her background of a life in luxury with all things beautiful, she knew at least one side of the business well – the consumer’s mind. What do regular people want? Value for money, and the pride of possession.

She tested the waters with a line of jewellery, The Paris Hilton Collection, which she helped launch on, followed by a collection of watches, with price tags starting at $100,000. She is currently so “inspired” by Indian jewellery that a whole new collection based on Indian designs is one the way. “I loved the bracelets, bangles and rings, just like Indian girls, beautiful and gorgeous.”

Even as the world was coming to terms with the fact that Paris “the spoilt heiress” Hilton was slowly, but steadily, building herself as a brand beyond her surname, she shocked the system with a book, on exactly who she is, “the heiress”.

Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in- Cheek Peek behind the Pose, which she cowrote with author Merle Ginsberg, not only entered the New York Times bestseller list, but reportedly won her $100,000 in advance. A sequel was obvious. Your

Heiress Diary: Confesss It All to Me was Paris’s way of reaching out to the average reader and encouraging them to aim high and focus on their goals, with a good dose of celebrity insight and secret tips.

Now, it must take some business acumen to strike it right, even if you were to hire the best business advisors money can find on earth. After all, she was smart enough to copyright the phrase “That’s hot” and put the more common “It’s cool” out of business, when she was barely out of her teens. As to why “That’s hot” is copyrighted, “it is like saying ‘It’s cool’, but in a sexier way,” she claims, and according to Urban Dictionary, it can be used in whatever situation, and yet make sense! Example: Can you take the garbage out? That’s hot!

Thankfully, Paris herself does make a bit more sense than that: “I think I’ve inherited more of my dad’s genes. I do have some of my mother’s genes, which is why I love acting and music. But even as a child, I always wanted to be this big girl with a big business empire. I’d watch my dad and grandpa work and discuss business plans. I think I learnt a few smart things from them.”

One of those smart things she learnt is that Brand Paris is not going to be a Coco Chanel. “That’s not the idea of my brand. I love fashion, sometimes I am obsessively in love with fashion. I love feeling like a princess, magical, sexy, young, cool. I want all young girls to feel like that about fashion. So, the brand ‘Paris Hilton’ is for young women who want to feel like a princess without spending a fortune. I want my fashion to be accessible, or it is pointless, especially in this economy.”

Girls, get ready to live the Simple ‘Paris’ Life, as she launches her brand of handbags and accessories in India, with her first store in Bombay, followed by one in Delhi.

There are realty plans, too. “It’s a huge segment, and given our interest in real estate, and my success in the Philippines (a luxury resort chain), India is a natural choice for expansion. All in good time. In fact, the joke is that soon I will be called The Grandpa Hilton,” she, laughs, quickly adding, “But I love my grandpa, and I don’t want to upstage him.”

Does all this mean the “good time” girl is gone? What does Paris Whitney Hilton do and think when she is not playing the star? “I do what all young women do. I spend time with my family, talk to my mother, share my little secrets with my sister Nicky, who is my best friend, collect toys (her favourite is Peter Pan) and fill up my room with super-hero figures. And, of course, I sit and think about boys.”

Boys – an area that has troubled Paris considerably. Heartbreaks and broken engagements have plagued her. She was briefly engaged to model Jason Shaw in 2002. In May 2005, she announced her engagement to Paris Latsis, the heir to a Greek shipping fortune, but that, too, ended in a split. A few more romances followed, but now Paris Hilton, 30, is single, and not desperate to mingle.

“For the first time in my life, I am single, and enjoying it. I’m basically a romantic, and when I start seeing a guy, I think he is the one. I have had my heart broken a few times, and, of course, it has changed me as a person. I think with such experiences, which all of us girls face around the world, we grow up and become the woman we are meant to be.”

Even as she gets philosophical about life and love, she asks, “Do you think there is that special one waiting for me? I hope so. I think we all have a soulmate out there. I’m yet to find mine.” But give her one chance to change one thing in her life, and pat comes the reply, “I think I will turn into a 10-year-old girl and take a duster and wipe out all those boys I have dated. Poof! Make them disappear.”

For the moment, she is using all her ‘single’ energy to focus on work. And, of course, a bit of partying never hurt anyone. Now, “That’s hot!”

First Published: Oct 07, 2011 18:42 IST