As someone who was once famous for being famous, Paris Hilton would make for a fascinating case study in how one reinvents themselves at the end of every success cycle. Over the past decade, the celebrity heiress has been so busy building her lucrative empire that she’s long left the simple life behind.
Dubai, unknowingly, has been at the centre of her meteoric rise, evident as she returned to these shores to launch her 24th fragrance this week, with an agenda to rub shoulders with local investors to finance a planned luxury property. A fact the entrepreneur and reality TV star unabashedly does not deny.
“I already have two properties in the Philippines and we are going to be making more Paris Hilton properties around the world, Dubai being one of them,” the 37-year-old tells Gulf News tabloid!. “Dubai is an incredible market for me and I look forward to investing in real estate here and a lot of future projects.”
Probe further and Hilton admits she is ‘hopeful’ the planned real estate project could materialise before Dubai hosts Expo 2020.
Despite finding fame as a reality TV star on The Simple Life in 2003 and My New BFF that led her to Dubai back in 2009, don’t be fooled by the designer dresses or the glamorous image on which Hilton has built her brand. Today, her retail empire encompasses 50 stores, 19 product lines and sales from her 24 different fragrances, exceeding $2.5 billion. Hilton also has two beach clubs that bear her name in Manila and she’s further looking to diversify into other income streams.
“I am also investing in tech. I have always been a huge tech nerd,” Hilton confesses, before explaining how she plans on using her digital footprint to launch a platform that could one day rival Twitter and Facebook. “I have been in Berlin and I am developing a new virtual reality world that will be like the new social media,” she articulates. “Through this VR tech, you will be transported into the world of Paris where you will get to meet all different kinds of people, be your own avatar. It’s going to be innovative.”
Shades of such future tech formed the premise of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, a 2018 film that was based on Ernest Cline’s best-seller of the same name where people found salvation in the Oasis, an expansive virtual reality universe.
While the salvation of future civilisations is hardly the driving force behind Hilton’s new project, the heiress appears to be finding hers in brand building even as her personal life takes a stumble following news that she’s called off her engagement with fiance Chris Zylka.
The 20-carat rock that once flashed on her ring finger was evidently missing on this trip, with separate warnings issued to the media that no personal questions of any kind would be tolerated. Despite the local press being gagged, Hilton’s latest misfortune has opened her up to ridicule with American talk show host Wendy Williams leading the charge through her tirade a day after the news broke.
“This is the third time she’s been engaged and called it off. Three different men … You know how there’s some women who are very pretty and they have it all, but for whatever reason they’re damaged. I think she’s damaged,” Williams told her studio audience on November 20. “I think she loves herself more than she’ll ever love a man.”
A day later, a visibly tired Hilton finds solitude behind her dark glasses and a shimmering Yussef Al Jassmi dress designed specially for her Platinum Rush fragrance launch. In this weak moment she confesses she is exhausted. Social media influencing may be easy when you are a Kardashian, but for others, it’s a process that takes more than you can give.
“I went to bed at 7am this morning, I was woken up at 7.45am. I am literally running on 45 minutes of sleep. It’s been non-stop ever since,” she admits. “Getting here is a lot of work. It’s really about building your brand, figuring out what you want to do and what your talent is. You have to figure out your focus and get the right content. [You have to] really push it and collaborate with other influencers.”
Hilton is also the first to admit there is a much darker side to social media as well, one that she addresses in her documentary The American Meme that will be out on Netflix in December. The celebrity, who is also a co-producer of the documentary, plays one of four social media personalities in the film who are building commercial brands out of their online presence.
“In The American Meme, we show that a lot of characters in the film go through a lot — like we all do — just being in this industry. It’s the social media and people are judging you all the time so you really need to have a tough head on your shoulders,” she admits.
Almost on cue, the moment of reflection gives way to a dazzling smile as the camera flashes go off. Before she is swallowed up by her army of ‘Little Hilton’ fans, there is a parting advice she imparts to budding entrepreneurs. “Always do background checks and make sure you are working with the correct people. Focus on your work ethic, something I learnt from my parents and my grandfather. But, ultimately, I have worked hard and created my own empire, all on my own. And you can too, if you believe in yourself.”