Paris Hilton Looks Back at Her Life in Parties

Paris Hilton dancing in silver dress.
Hilton at her 21st birthday party. Courtesy of David Benett.

“My mom was friends with Andy Warhol,” says Paris Hilton. “They used to go to Studio 54 all the time and have afterparties at our place at the Waldorf. Andy would come over. I would sit in his lap and draw, and he would always say to my mom, ‘This girl’s going to be such a star one day.’ ”

Not even Warhol could have predicted, however, how much of an impact on the concept of fame the great-granddaughter of the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton would have. Building her brand on the notoriety she received from sneaking out to New York’s hottest nightclubs as a teen in the late ’90s, Hilton redefined celebrity for the new millennium, paving the way for countless influencers, so many Real Housewives, and the Kardashian-Jenner clan in the process. “I was planning on building my own brand because I didn’t want to be known as the Hilton Hotel Paris,” she says. “I wanted to be known just as Paris.” Her advice to those wanting to follow in her footsteps? “Back then I had no social media—I was just being myself,” she says. “Nowadays, it’s so much easier with all of the platforms available. So figure out what your passion is, what you want to be, what you want to do, and start collaborating.”

Photo by Sarah Jones & Maureen Paley, London

“I lived such a sheltered life before I moved to New York,” says Hilton of growing up in Los Angeles. “Then, all of a sudden, I was getting invited to every single event and party, movie premiere, gala, and nightclub opening. Sometimes I would sneak out while my parents were in Europe. I would get caught because they would read Page Six.” Above: Hilton with (from left) her mother, Kathy Hilton, and sister, Nicky Hilton.

Sam Jones/20th Century FOX TV/Kobal/Shutterstock

Hilton parlayed her appearances in the gossip pages into a spot on Fox’s prime-time schedule in 2003. Her reality show The Simple Life debuted to an audience of 13 million, cementing her status. “My family did not want me to do it,” Hilton says. In fact, her sister, Nicky, turned down a costarring role, so Hilton recruited her childhood friend Nicole Richie. “There’s no one funnier on the planet than Nicole,” Hilton says, adding that she has no regrets about doing the show. “It’s so timeless—it’s brought so much happiness to people, and I love seeing all the memes now. It makes me proud that I was ahead of my time, as usual.”

Courtesy of David Benett

Hilton may have descended from uptown stock, but her Y2K-era style was all downtown. “I didn’t have a stylist or agent, so I would just go to Patricia Field because I was obsessed with that whole club-kid vibe. David LaChapelle was one of my best friends, and we’d hang out with Amanda Lepore and all these really fun people who loved to dress up.” The silver Julien Macdonald dress she wore to her 21st birthday party in London (one of many bashes to mark the occasion) has achieved iconic status. “Now I’m seeing everything I was rocking back then on the runway and all over social media.”

Photo by Jamie McCarthy

“There was nothing like 2000s nightlife. It was so fun and free, and no one was looking at a phone. It was all about dancing and hanging out with your friends,” says Hilton. “It wasn’t about bottle service or people buying their way in. If you were cool and they knew who you were, you were there. People today don’t know what fun is.”

Courtesy of Jon Kopaloff

Of course, more fame begat more invitations for the young socialite, pictured here with (from left) Nicky, Pharrell Williams, and Richie in 2004, at a party for PlayStation 2. So how often was she actually going out? “In L.A. especially, every night there would be a different club happening. So I’d go out probably Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then the weekends were always lame, so we didn’t really go out on the weekends.”

Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard

Hilton can’t remember why she brought so many dogs to a 2003 party held ahead of the MTV Movie Awards. “It must have been some dog brand that had us do that,” Hilton says, before having a sudden realization about her most famous pet, Tinkerbell the Chihuahua: “Oh my god, think about that—not only was my daughter, Tinkerbell, the OG celebrity dog, she was also the first pet influencer.”

Photo by Rick Kern

These days, Hilton, who has traveled the world as a DJ, hardly ever goes out simply for fun. “I invented getting paid to party,” she says. “I was friends with some DJs, and I loved being up there and seeing how the crowd was reacting. When I did those appearances, I was already telling the DJs what to play, so I was like, Why don’t I just learn how to do it myself?” Hilton’s nightlife entrepreneurship is still evolving, and she currently has her sights on the world of Web3. “I used to travel 250 days of the year and was playing shows all around the world. Now, with the metaverse, I DJed in my Paris World and on Roblox, and we had more people at my party than in New York at Times Square.”

Photo by Christopher Polk/Filmmagic

“I just remember her looking so gorgeous,” says Hilton, pictured backstage before she presented Britney Spears with an award at the 2008 MTV VMAs. “I’m always so proud of her, because she’s my favorite pop star in the world.” Hilton recently attended Spears’s wedding and, despite rumors to the contrary, is on good terms with both Richie and Kardashian, who were guests at Hilton’s 2021 nuptials. “The media was just so vicious back then, and they would invent a lot of stories and have these fake sources. That was definitely stressful. We’d see each other, and we’d be like, ‘Yo, like this is not even true.’ But there was nothing we could do, because there was no social media. We didn’t have our own platforms to be able to say it.”

Photo by Jon Furniss/Stringer

“Nobody knows how to throw a party like him, except for me,” Hilton says of Diddy. Below: She joined the rapper and a pre-fame Kim Kardashian for a White Party bash in Saint-Tropez back in 2006. Hilton’s requirements for a good fete: “Definitely the crowd, the lighting, the music, and the temperature. I hate when it’s hot; it needs to be at least air-conditioned, or have fans or something. That’s pretty much it. I think it’s really just about the vibe.”