Paris Hilton erupted into mainstream consciousness in 2003 for two reasons. That was the year when her Fox reality show "A Simple Life" where she debuted her squeaky-voiced dumb blonde persona as she tried to live among average folk with her friend Nicole Richie. 2003 was also the year when a scandalous 2001 sex tape with her then-boyfriend Rich Salomon was leaked to the public further fueling her notoriety.
Hilton was famous for being a celebrity only by living an ostentatious lifestyle from her inherited wealth, not really for any particular talent. In the early days of social media, she was the original "influencer" as her choices in fashion and make-up would become popular trends. However, she had a mind for business and took full advantage of her glamorous brand, developing this into successful signature brands in fashion, scents and boutiques.
She already had an autobiography entitled "Confessions of an Heiress" published as early as 2004. She had already been the subject of documentaries talking about her successes and struggles, like "Paris, Not France" (2008) and "The American Meme" (2018). However, despite everything that has been said and written about her, it turned out that Hilton still had a part of her life that she never shared publicly -- until now. Last September 14, 2020, Hilton released the documentary "This is Paris" for free on her YouTube channel.
This documentary started with the parts of Hilton's life which we were already familiar with. She talked about her full-packed schedule as an international businesswoman, owning 19 product lines and 50 boutiques all over the world. However, early in her narrative she already gave hints that there was a dark secret she was about to reveal about herself that she had never talked about before.
Before that revelation, the director built up the suspense with animated renditions of the vivid nightmares Hilton would always have about two men running after her. She would talk about these terrifying nightmares in between real-life drama about her relationships with men, like her called-off engagement to fiance Chris Zylka or the stressful tiff with boyfriend Aleks Novakovic right before her big DJ gig at Tomorrowland 2019. The main meat (the big reveal) was only served in the final 30 minutes of this one hour and 45 minute documentary.
Hilton shared that she had suffered 11 months of physical and emotional abuse at a boarding school for troubled teens when she was 16 years old. This was a repressed memory that she never talked about with anyone, even those closest to her, including her sister Nicki nor her mother Kathy. Her testimony was supported by her fellow classmates from that same school, who all testified to the trust issues and post-traumatic stress disorder they were all going through since the days they spent in that school. They were inviting fellow "survivors" to come forward in their initiative called Breaking Code Silence.
The sober Hilton we meet in these final 30 minutes was a total contrast from the Hilton we thought we knew, even the one we see in the first hour of this film. She had a deeper voice and a more sensible air around her. We actually felt the burden lifted off her shoulders as she finally let go of a secret that had haunted her for several years. Her traumatic stay in that school may have actually caused her to rebel even more -- leading to the shocking behaviors which made her notorious celebrity that she was.
It seems she had turned a major leaf in her colorful life with this dramatic confession at age 39. I guess we can now look forward to a more serious and mature Paris Hilton from now on. While she still needs to keep up the lavish high-end style of her brand, here's hoping that she could genuinely get through this deep emotional turmoil and finally live the normal life she had always longed for. 6/10.
You can watch "This is Paris" here.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."