Liz Foster ’22
Before there was the “Instagram influencer,” there was the socialite. Before there was Kim Kardashian, there was Paris Hilton. Often attributed as one of the first people to “be famous for nothing,” Paris Hilton has successfully shaped the current landscape of fame and popularity. Hilton is often criticized on the basis that she essentially did nothing to earn her fame except for being rich and peripherally-famous from her great-grandfather, founder of Hilton Hotels, Conrad Hilton. To reduce the multi-millionaire DJ, entrepreneur, singer, reality star, business woman, socialite, actress, model, and fashion designer to a “famous for nothing” dumb blonde is doing Hilton a massive disservice.
Without Paris Hilton, the modern “Instagram model,” Tik Tok star, or YouTube beauty guru wouldn’t exist. There would be neither Kylie Jenner nor Kylie Cosmetics without the blonde trendsetter. A leaked sex tape boosted Hilton to fame, similar to her once-assistant Kim Kardashian. Shortly after ‘One Night in Paris’ nonconsensual release, Paris Hilton and her best friend Nicole Richie (adopted daughter of famous musician Lionel Richie) premiered the first season of their now iconic reality show The Simple Life. The show featured the two millionaires struggling to survive in rural America, showing the two working as farm hands, maids, and waitresses among other tasks foreign to the heiresses’ lives. This success catapulted Hilton’s career as a business woman as she sold perfumes, makeup, shoes, and other accessories to her devoted fanbase. Over the years, Hilton would secure a foothold in every media and industry form from Hollywood to the music industry to advertising and real estate. Paris Hilton remains an inescapable piece of pop culture.
In 2018, Paper Magazine acknowledged Hilton’s massive impact on the digital age, declaring that: “Hilton didn’t do anything to deserve this attention beyond simply being herself. Now, Hilton’s invention has multiplied by the millions across the Internet. Everyone’s taking selfies and flaunting their lives to an online audience that obsessively follows, likes, and shares.” For better or for worse, the massive success of The Simple Life allowed Hilton to create and capitalize on a brand, creating a mold for other aspiring stars to follow. With the right look, personality, and, typically, budget, anyone could become a star. Now, social media has become a launch pad for careers in modeling, singing, dancing, acting, and more, granting the everyday individual the power to make millions if their numbers add up. Without Hilton’s career to forge the path of capitalizing upon personal brands, modern influencers would be lost in the digital world. The longevity of Hilton’s career speaks to her status as a pop culture icon.
Personally, Paris changed my life with her signature phrase, “that’s hot.” Everyday, I find myself saying “that’s hot.” If someone moves my laundry for me, “that’s hot.” If my professor assigns only ten pages of reading, “that’s hot.” When it’s Taco Tuesday at the Bistro, “that’s hot.” But reducing Paris Hilton’s legacy to those two simple words is a disrespectful summary of her many years of influence, power, and innovation that have created our current world’s pop culture landscape.