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Paris Hilton’s Empire

Get to know the shrewd business mogul behind the socialite façade

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Stop the presses: Paris Hilton doesn’t really go out anymore. These days, you’re more likely to find her behind a desk or in a boardroom than on a dance floor. Sure, you’ll see a picture of her, from time to time, with her trademark near-platinum locks and famous pout and pose (oh, that pose), a micro-mini teacup Pomeranian in her arms. And yes, she’s often photographed at a club or a party; she’s not exactly hibernating. But chances are good she’s getting paid to be there. And heftily. Remember when Linda Evangelista said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day? Paris gets a lot more than that.

She may be the original celebutante—a party girl from a fancy family who turned herself into a household name using risqué outfits, reality TV and the requisite sex tape, in the process spawning a whole genre of wannabe girls eager to follow in her well-heeled footsteps. But over the last 10 years, while those girls have been parading on red carpets and keeping up with the Kardashians, Hilton has been busy creating a billion-dollar brand. A whopping 18 perfumes (the newest one a limited 10th-anniversary edition) have resulted in $2 billion in sales; she has 56 eponymous branded stores in the Middle East and Asia selling her line of handbags; and she’s got 16 licenses across the categories of clothing, accessories, beauty and watches. Then there’s an entire DJ and recording-artist career. Her business, Paris Hilton Entertainment, now has hundreds of employees. This kind of empire building isn’t something one does between glasses of champagne.

“I was playing a character on The Simple Life, so I don’t blame people for thinking I was ditzy,” says Hilton, now 33. “People assumed that’s who I really was. Now they meet me and realize I’m completely different. But it doesn’t bother me that people thought I was dumb. Playing that character made life easier—I do have a certain amount of shyness, which I’m sure is a surprise to people. And I’ve never cared what people think about me—I know the truth. I’ve always known what I was capable of.”

What’s a typical day in the life of Paris Hilton now that getting up at noon and partying till dawn are behind her? Meetings, she claims. Playing with her pets, of which there are 30, from flying squirrels to ferrets. Making art projects. Singing. Writing. “I don’t ever get bored,” she says. But the club days are long gone. “I like to see girls looking hot and having fun—that’s what life’s about,” she says. “But I’m kinda over the whole scene. I used to love going out all the time but now it’s only for DJ’ing and getting paid.” She doesn’t go to clubs because “Thursday is the cool night, and I have to get up and work.” She’s an Aquarius, she notes, so she doesn’t mind the grind.

She even dresses like a businesswoman these days, more or less, with a professional penchant for tailored Chanel or St. John suits. “Sometimes I’ll still wear my signature pink, but not all the time like I used to,” she says. The ultimate girly-girl, it seems, is a woman now.


It’s safe to say that, at least during The Simple Life years, few might have expected Hilton to become a perfume mogul like her idol Elizabeth Taylor, or any sort of mogul at all. The assumption was that Hilton would flame out, become old news, settle in with her ample inheritance and live a good life with a suitably rich man. But while confidence is never something she lacked (“I know I have good taste,” she says), she credits her maternal grandmother with pushing her to do something more. “She was really encouraging and we were very close,” says Hilton. “She made me feel so special. I’m lucky I had someone like that.”

Another part of the Paris Hilton empire is music: making it and spinning it. She built her own recording studio in her house, where she records and writes what she calls “dance-oriented” songs. She may not love the dance floor anymore, but she loves electronic music. “I go to music festivals all over the world, and I’m friends with the DJs now,” she says. “I was always in the booth when I’d go to clubs when I was younger and telling them what to play, so it’s a natural evolution. I even love learning about the DJ software and the technical side.” She has a new single coming out soon, with plans for a full album release, her second, later this year. When she does DJ residences at the Ibiza club Amnesia in the summer, she plays for up to 10,000 people. And her average pay is over $30,000—an hour. Asked if it’s true she’s been offered a million dollars for a gig, she proffers, “My mother always told me it’s not polite to discuss money.” But she doesn’t deny it. 

Then there’s clothing and accessories, full of Paris-esque details like bright color and crystals, which sell incredibly well in Asia and the Middle East. For this, she is probably her own best advertisement. When she’s not suited up, she wears her brand of clothes, and she pays attention to what her customers want to wear, too. Asian girls in particular, she says, are “more covered up, more sophisticated, it’s a totally different look.” She designs accordingly. She travels constantly, as you might imagine (and with 20 pieces of luggage, as you also might imagine), to do in-store appearances for her international fans. And soon, she may be able to stay overnight at Paris-branded hotels. Her real estate arm has recently opened the Paris Beach Club in the Philippines and is currently building a second property there—the first two, she hopes, of many worldwide. “The vibe of my places is very modern and sexy and fun, very cool,” she says. “International futuristic. I built my brand, and I’ve always wanted to get into the family tradition.”

The only thing Paris Hilton doesn’t have time for, it seems, is a man. She’s currently single—a state one has never associated with your average socialite. But Hilton, we know by now, isn’t your average socialite. “I’m doing what I want,” she says. “I don’t really have time for a boyfriend.” Also, she says, the guys in L.A. aren’t all that, adding what may be the most antithetical statement to the socialite ethos to date: “I’d rather be single.”

Check out the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at DuJour’s celebration with Paris Hilton in New York City at the PH-D Rooftop and Lounge at Dream Downtown. 

In main: Dress, $1,750, GIULIETTA, Tender, 248-258-0212. Classic Creoles earrings, $16,000, MONTBLANC, montblanc.com.

Hair & Makeup: Etienne Ortega using Oribe Hair Care and Nars Cosmetics at The Only Agency. Production: Frank Roller/GlamPR.com. Fashion Assistant: Ashley Wong. Photographed on location at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, CA.