Paris Hilton is not who you think she is

Like Pamela Anderson, she’s reclaiming the “dumb blond” narrative

It only took 25 years for Paris Hilton to let us in on the fact that she is the ultimate troll.

Before it had a name or a hashtag, Paris Whitney Hilton was trolling her fans, haters and everyone in between into believing she wasn’t much more than a tag line and a trust fund. But if you watch the socialite, DJ and new mother’s recent interviews promoting her new book, “Paris: The Memoir,” it’s clear how thoroughly she duped us.

"Paris: The Memoir" by Paris Hilton.

Not only is the content of what she’s talking about more substantial than anything she ever gave us — or was asked for — in the first decade or two of her life in the spotlight, but her body language is very different, reading more mature and, dare I say it, more authentic. Even her voice, that iconic girlish tone that gave us an almost ASMR delivery of “that’s hot,” wasn’t real. On the BBC’s “The One Show,” Hilton said in a decidedly deeper tone, “The media has really controlled my narrative for over two decades now, and they really had no idea who I was or what I’ve been through.” It’s hard to believe this is the same Paris who grilled bacon with an iron on “The Simple Life.”

“Paris: The Memoir” by Paris Hilton (Dey Street Books), $25, SHOP HERE

After taking a step back from the spotlight throughout the majority of her 30s, the now 42-year-old hotel heiress’s recent documentary, pre-wedding reality TV show and now memoir have given us insight into some very dark moments from a life that most would have characterized as charmed.

Paris Hilton with her mother, Kathy, and sister Nicky at Versace's L.A. show on March 9.

In “Paris: The Memoir,” she details an inappropriate relationship with her eighth grade teacher, sexual assault at the age of 15, abuse at a Utah boarding school, close calls with Harvey Weinstein and more. The sex tape that launched a thousand sex tapes is, unfortunately, not even close to the biggest bombshell of the book.

While it might seem obvious now that as a woman in this world, Hilton has experienced some form of trauma, I implore you to think back to the pop culture universe of 2005. All we knew about her was that she partied too hard and had never stepped foot in a Walmart. She never said much on any red carpet and we only learned about the details of her personal life when her gossip blogger namesake Perez Hilton drew lewd images on photos of her exiting nightclubs.

Auctioning a puppy at an MS fundraiser in L.A., 2006.

Despite several run-ins with the law — a few arrests for reckless driving, drug charges and a 45-day jail sentence for violating probation — she never seemed fazed by the goings on in her larger-than-life existence (she went on Larry King two days after her release from jail). The realization that Hilton, nepo baby extraordinaire, went through so much is nothing short of cognitive dissonance. The Paris Hilton brand was so incredibly one-dimensional that most of us just assumed there wasn’t much else behind the pink velvet curtain.

The fact is, Paris has been cosplaying the role of the bimbo for more than two decades and doing it so well that we believed it hook, line and sinker. “I created this character of this Barbie doll fantasy life so I didn’t have to think about what I’d went through,” Hilton says on “The One Show,” describing herself as a “naturally shy” person. “Then I got “The Simple Life,” and I had to continue playing that character season after season, and then I almost got stuck in it because I was so used to doing it.”

So, while we might feel like we know the Paris Hilton who has been on our screens since 2003, we only really know the character she created to protect herself.

It’s sad that Hilton had to fabricate an entire dissociative persona in the name of self-preservation, but it’s also genius that she did so.

DJing at a fashion event in Goa, 2012.

The idea of a persona isn’t new — realistically, we know very little about our favourite celebs — but this bimbo Barbie avatar we’ve grown familiar with is particularly brilliant. It capitalizes, literally, on our assumptions about a woman’s physical appearance or social class. And because we’re so used to scrutinizing and judging women’s minds and bodies, the less information they give us the more we fill the gaps with assumptions that the “bimbo” simply doesn’t bother to correct.

Disgraced entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes deepened her voice to convince Theranos investors of her legitimacy; Hilton raised hers knowing we would underestimate her.

Pamela Anderson took the same approach a few years before Hilton, as we have learned in the wake of her own recent memoir, “Love, Pamela,” and her Netflix documentary. Anderson talks about embracing a hypersexualized image to reclaim her sexuality after sexual abuse at a young age and allowing it to continue throughout much of her career. That’s why we knew her as a “Baywatch” bombshell, a 15-time Playboy cover girl and the passion-fuelled ex-wife of bad boy Tommy Lee. But as early as 2010, Anderson told OK Magazine that she found the “dumb blond” stereotype often associated with her funny, saying “I made a career out of it.”

One of my favourite internet rabbit holes to go down these days is “bimbofication” TikTok or BimboTok. Yes, that’s a real thing, in which content creators reject the pursuit of girlbossery in favour of “weaponized incompetence but yassified.” Think Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.” It’s a refusal of the idea that anyone, women in particular, should spend their lives convincing others of their intelligence, and instead embrace whatever signifiers of sexiness and acumen that appeal to them and them only, which may or may not include pink, glitter and stilettos.

And why? As one proponent, @neo_url, put it on Twitter, “The final level of being smart is just pretending you don’t know anything to make your life easier.”

It’s clear now that while most of us dismissed her as a bimbo, Paris was on a whole other level a long, long time ago.


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