Paris Hilton started off 2018 with a bang, announcing her engagement to Chris Zylka, an actor who’s appeared in shows like The Leftovers, just two days in. Their relationship has been not only one of the first that Hilton’s ever addressed publicly, but clearly one that has both of them completely smitten—even though they’ve been dating for just a year. On a recent afternoon in her New York apartment, the couple sat down to explain just exactly how things came to be. (Along with, of course, what’s next.)
It was love at first sight.
Hilton and Zylka first met was at an Oscars party, eight years ago. “I was with my sister at one of the villas at the Chateau Marmont when he walked in,” Hilton recalled. “And I just looked at Nicky and said, ‘I have to meet him. This is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen in my life.” Zylka, on the other hand, claims to have fallen in love with Hilton “like five times,” stretching back to back when he was watching The Simple Life at home in Ohio with his grandfather (and also from her Guess ads during that era).
Their relationship started over text.
Unfortunately for both Hilton and Zylka, they’d have to wait a few years for their romance to pick up again, at Art Basel Miami in 2016. After Hilton’s brother Barron spotted some of Zylka’s paintings at the fair across from some works by KAWS, he invited Zylka over to his hotel, where Zylka finally worked up the courage to ask Hilton for her number. From there began a texting relationship that lasted well over a year while Zylka was in Austin filming The Leftovers.
Zylka bailed on their first date.
Upon finally returning to L.A., Zylka set up a date with Hilton—and then immediately cancelled it. “I got so nervous that I cancelled and said I was sick,” Zylka recalled with a laugh. After working up his courage and deciding “no, this is going to work,” he rescheduled for the next day. When he showed up on her doorstep, he said, “all time stopped—I saw her and that was it.”
They’ve been inseparable ever since.
Since that first date, when they talked for hours at Hilton’s dining room table and watched The Secret Life of Pets, Zylka claims that “literally, since then, we haven’t spent more than three or four hours apart.” If so, they’ve been together nonstop for over a year—their first date was on February 2, 2017—and have traveled everywhere together, since Hilton’s DJing and 19 product lines have her traveling what she estimates to be 250 days out of the year.
They had radically different upbringings.
Whereas Hilton is “American royalty,” as Zylka put it, he grew up in the Rust Belt in Ohio, dropping out of college at the University of Toledo, where he was “a quarterback and an art major,” to take care of his grandfather (and start his days at 3 a.m. to drive freight across the state). Then, at 19, he moved to California with only a few hundred dollars behind his pocket, living off canned tuna and sleeping behind a 7-Eleven dumpster until his soon-to-be manager spotted him while he was on a break from his job at BJ’s. It wasn’t long before he was appearing on shows like Hannah Montana and making his big break in The Amazing Spider-Man—and, of course, completing his made-for-Hollywood story by running into and falling in love with Hilton. Happily ever after, hopefully.
They love to host “art nights.”
What started as a suggestion from a therapist when he was just nine has turned into a lifelong career of painting for Zylka, who’s gotten more and more into art again, especially now that it’s not so much of a struggle to land auditions. He sells most of his work privately, but has taken plenty of pleasure in making art with Hilton just for fun, particularly during the “art nights” that they host with their friends. Hilton has also always been into art, and not just in terms of collecting it: she’s loved drawing since she was a kid, and has lately been combining it with with painting, photography, LED lights, Swarovski crystals, glitter, and emojis to, as she put it, “make really cool stuff.” She’s been offered exhibitions at Art Basel, too, which she’s now planning to do for charity with Zylka down the road—though at this point, they’ve already started publicly collaborating, with Zylka directing and producing Hilton’s new music video, “I Need You.”
For Paris Hilton and Chris Zylka, the Simple Life Is All About Art:
Zylka’s proposal was almost a fiasco.
After using Hilton’s mom’s ring to design an engagement ring for Paris that came out to a reported $2 million, Zylka brought the precious cargo along to the the pair’s ski trip getaway in Aspen. Ahead of their break from the slopes, Zylka had warned one of his friends of what was coming, since he knew Paris would want the proposal to be photographed—though. unfortunately, his friend didn’t get the hint when Zylka practically had to force everyone outside after they were already sitting down for a meal. Though he’d meant to take a photo, his friend accidentally took a video, which ended up for the best—though of course there were still some photos in there, too:
The biggest success of all, though, was that while maneuvering the slopes, Zylka somehow managed to hold onto the enormous ring, which he’d been worried would fall out of his pocket.
No, they’re not having multiple, worldwide weddings.
A few weeks after they’d announced their engagement, news broke that, in typical Paris fashion, she’d be amping things up and potentially having an American wedding, a European wedding, and “one for everyone around the world.” In yet another example of Hilton’s sly self-awareness, though, this turned out to simply be a joke in response to a question on a red carpet about just how extravagant she was planning to make things on the big day. “That was just lost in translation,” Paris said with a laugh. “One wedding planning is already stressful enough—I can’t imagine doing three. It’s the most special day of my life, so three times is too many,” she added with a laugh. Zylka chimed in: “How do you get married three times?”
As for the real wedding, it’ll take place this year, though they’re still figuring out the location (Hilton wants to keep it close to L.A., because it’s where most of her family is based, and she really wants her grandfather to be there.) She also plans to “make it very magical,” which she’s so far started on by taking inspiration from Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly—”just how classic and elegant and iconic they looked on their wedding days. Those are my vibes.”
Paris is trusting Nicky to find the wedding dress.
“Now that I’ve grown up and I’m getting married and I feel like more of an adult, I look to Nicky for style advice, or just her pictures on Instagram. She always looks so beautiful and chic and just perfectly put-together,” Hilton told me last month while spending some sister time with Nicky Hilton, which include not only attending Fashion Week together but also getting fittings and stopping by showrooms—not that Paris exactly needs more designs to choose from. “My team is getting so many calls from so many designers so I already have stacks of choices, which are all so breathtaking so it’s really hard to pick,” she said. She’s just glad Nicky is part of the “exciting” process. “I trust her taste so I’m going to have her help me pick it out.”
The bachelor/bachelorette parties might both be in—where else—Vegas.
If things go Nicky’s way, the sisters and their partners will all head to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party, which Paris wants to combine with Zylka’s bachelor party because “we love our other halves so much—it’s just way more fun to do it all together.” Back when Nicky got married to James Rothschild, the sisters went to Miami, where Paris, as maid of honor, DJed in between spa visits and massages. Now that it’s Nicky’s turn to be maid of honor, Paris is will certainly be taking her suggestion into consideration—Vegas is something of a special place for her, anyway.
Paris’ first-ever party/club appearance took place at the Palms Casino Resort, when Hilton, then 20, “actually lied to them and sent a fake drivers license to the hotel’s owner—I whited it out and changed the year and pretended I was 21.” They not only believed it, but sent a jet to pick her up—only to realize the next year, when she went all out her for her 21st birthday, that she’d lied to them all along. She laughed, and concluded: “But yeah, they just renovated it, and the suites are insane.” Hint hint.