Paris Hilton at 40: How heiress created £2bn empire from sex tape, selfies, perfume and partying

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PARIS Hilton had a reputation as a trendsetter in the early 2000s – but no one could have guessed she would single-handedly redefinine what it means to be a celebrity.

As the heiress superstar turns 40 today, it’s clear the influence she had went way beyond a craze of carrying Chihuahuas in handbags – with loads of celebs nowadays starring in reality shows and making cash partying like Paris did 20 years ago.

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Rex Features

Paris Hilton, 40, was one of the most influential celebrities of the 2000s

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Getty Images – Getty

Her wildly successful career is seen by some as having redefined what it means to be a celebrity

After years of being sneered at and dismissed as a party-girl socialite who was famous for being famous, she’s remained in the spotlight for decades and built a £215million empire. 

Although she said last year she felt she’d helped to create “a monster” with her public image, it’s carried her to extreme success.

Now celebrities seeking their own success have copied every element of her chameleon career, which has covered blockbuster reality shows, hit singles, and a making a fortune from personal brand endorsements before “influencer” was even a word. 

Here’s how Conrad Hilton’s great-grandaughter created the modern celebrity – from trademarking her catchphrase to pioneering the selfie.

Making money from partying

By the time Paris was 20, she was already making wads of cash from an unusual job – partying.

As one of the most sought-after models in New York, businesses would pay her simply to be at their event.


Paris Hilton was able to charge jaw-dropping appearance fees because she was so in demand

For one of the first she did, Paris wore a dress made with $1million of poker chips at the opening of the Palms Casino Resort opening in Las Vegas.

In the late 2000s, she was reportedly able to charge $500,000-$750,000 for nightclub appearances.

Now “personal appearance fees” are big money-makers for modern celebrities looking to cash-in on their newfound stardom.

Love Islander Tommy Fury was charging £10,000 to appear for two hours at a fan’s birthday party in 2019 shortly after leaving the villa. 

Getty Images – Getty

Paris wearing a dress made of $1million poker chips at an event in 2001 when she was just 20 years old

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Tommy Fury meeting fans – loads of celebs now make money from personal appearances

Even as recently as 2014, Paris confirmed she’d been paid over $1million as a celebrity DJ. 

“My mother always told me it’s not polite to discuss money, but it’s true,” she told the New York Post.

“I’m very proud. I’ve worked hard. I love music. It’s my passion.”

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Paris has also made millions doing celebrity DJ sets in nightclubs around the world

Reinventing reality TV

The airwaves are chock-full of celebrity reality TV shows these days that give fans a glimpse of their idols’ lives. 

From Gemma Collins: Diva to Keeping Up With The Kardashians, some of our best-loved celebrities have made successful entertainment out of just being themselves. 

But the genre was proved to be an enormous success by Paris Hilton with her show The Simple Life, which ran from 2003-2007. 

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Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie starred in The Simple Life, a hugely popular reality TV show

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The series saw the socialites trying their hand at manual work

The premise was that she and her socialite pal Nicole Richie would leave behind their glamorous lifestyles to do a series of low-paying jobs, like farm work and serving in a fast food restaurant. 

It was a sensational success, attracting 13million viewers in its first series – more than the highest ratings of the Kardashians’ uber-popular show. 

Paris has since starred in a string of reality TV shows including Paris Hilton’s BFF in which she tries to find a new best friend and The World According to Paris, which followed her daily life. 

Sex tape scandal

In 2003, just before The Simple Life started, Paris’ now infamous sex tape leaked on the internet. 

It was made years earlier when she was 18 with her then-boyfriend Rick Salomon, who later sought to profit from the video.

It’s the most famous celebrity sex tape of all time and demonstrated a huge public demand for illicit footage of public figures, ultimately leading to more celebrities falling victim to similar leaks. 

The same thing happened to Paris’ pal Kim Kardashian in 2007, when a sex tape she’d made with rapper Ray J was published without her consent.

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Paris with Kim Kardashian, who worked as Paris’ stylist long before she became a household name in her own right

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The pair remain close friends to this day

Both she and Paris became the subject of a kind of international attention which they hadn’t asked for in the wake of the leaks. 

Last year, speaking in a documentary called This Is Paris, Paris likened the incident to being “electronically raped”. 

“Everyone was watching it and laughing, like it’s something funny,” she added.

“If that happened today it would not be the same story at all.”

‘Me and Britney invented the selfie’

Any celebrity worth their salt now has an Instagram account filled with reams of selfies. 

Paris’ own account is no different, sharing endless sultry snaps with her 14million followers. 


Paris claimed this photo of her with Britney Spears was when she ‘invented’ the selfie

But Paris claims to not just be an advocate of the photo format which defines modern influencer culture – she reckons she invented the selfie. 

“11 years ago today, Me & Britney invented the selfie!” she tweeted on November 19, 2017. 

Sadly for Paris, people have been taking self-portrait photos since at least 1839. 

But it could be fair to say she helped make selfies a huge part of celebrities’ everyday lives in connecting with fans. 

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Paris is still partial to posting selfies for fans on Instagram

And she says her fondness for taking photos of herself goes back at least as far as her childhood in the 1980s. 

“If a beeper had a camera, I would have taken a selfie with it,” she once told W Magazine.

£2billion ‘personal brand’

Nowadays, influencers are extremely adept at turning their names into brands to make cash. 

Kylie Jenner allegedly became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 21 thanks to her cosmetics businesses boosted by her reality TV fame. 

And estimates reckon businesses will spend £10 billion a year on influencer marketing by 2022. 

Paris promoting a brand collaboration with Boohoo – one of countless product lines launched in her name
Kylie Jenner has followed in Paris’ footsteps by turning her personal brand into a fortune

But long before every reality TV star was flogging protein shakes and skincare products, Paris was raking in a fortune with product lines set up in her name. 

She put her personal brand on best-selling books, popular Prosecco, and even clothing lines for dogs. 

And she’s also released over 25 perfumes which have reportedly made over £2billion in sales. 

Her sweet-smelling success is something all sorts of celebrities from Taylor Swift to Ariana Grande have tried to copy with their own fragrances. 

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One of Paris’ perfumes in her multi-billion-dollar fragrance empire

Paris is now thought to boast a net worth of around £215million thanks to her booming business ventures. 

“I’ve proven myself as an intelligent businesswoman who’s created a huge brand,” she told Moneyish in 2018.

“Being a woman in the industry, there’s always stereotypes. But I love it when I can walk into a board meeting and completely take over the room.

“It feels amazing to have that respect. I feel like an amazing woman!”

Trademarked catchphrase

As well as her name and image, Paris showed that celebrities could also make money from their catchphrases alone.

In 2004, she trademarked the phrase “That’s hot”, which she used endlessly in her reality TV shows in the early 2000s. 

Getty Images – Getty

Paris trademarked her catchphrase ‘that’s hot’ and other celebs have followed suit

She even sued Hallmark when they used the phrase and her likeness on one of their greeting cards. 

Since Paris’ incredible claim over the saying, a whole host of other celebrities have tried to follow suit. 

Donald Trump unsuccessfully tried to trademark “You’re fired”, and Taylor Swift trademarked “This sick beat”, a lyric from her song Shake It Off. 

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Taylor Swift trademarked a phrase from her song Shake It Off
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After decades of remaking celebrity culture in her own image, Paris is now planning to settle down with boyfriend Carter Reum and start a family.

“We have been doing the IVF, so I can pick twins if I like,” Paris said on the Trend Reporter with Mara podcast.

“I’m really excited to just move on for the next step of my life, and finally just have like a real life.”

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Source: Read MoreCelebrity – The Sun