LOS ANGELES – “I was so excited to go to the Philippines for the first time and see all my fans there,” Paris Hilton told us in a recent interview.
Lovely in a dress on this afternoon in West Hollywood, the hotel heiress who has four Paris Hilton boutiques in the Philippines, gushed about her first trip to Manila in 2011. “There were thousands of people waiting for me at the mall, at the store opening,” she recalled the first time. “It was so exciting. I was so proud and happy when I saw all my fans and they were carrying my handbag line, wearing my sunglasses or one of my products.”
“I love the Philippines,” Paris enthused. “People there are so sweet. I can’t wait to go back there.”
The 32-year-old multihyphenate is planning to return early next year for the opening of Azure Beach Club, which she designed for the Century Properties Group as part of a luxury resort in Parañaque.
We asked Paris about her sources of inspiration for the project. “I [envisioned it as] a place where people could go to really relax and enjoy themselves,” she answered. “I took my inspiration and designs from my travels around the world, including Maui, St. Tropez, Ibiza, Fiji and Bora Bora. I put all those together for the beach club [which will have] a man-made beach. It will be like being in paradise.”
Fittingly, Paris, who also discussed her fondness for friends, including boxing champ Manny Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee, got to taste Pinoy food again during the interview. She enjoyed empanada and other delicacies prepared by Filipino-American chef and caterer Lem Balagot and his staff. “I love Filipino food,” Paris said.
“I feel so proud,” she said of what she has accomplished on her own—a recent opening in Bogota, Colombia, marked the 44th branch of her handbags and accessories chain. “I now have 44 stores around the world. We are opening more, like every single month or so.”
The stunning entrepreneur declared, “I’m definitely following in my family’s footsteps by getting into real estate and the first properties in the Philippines. The next branches will be in India, the Middle East and China.”
But, she stressed, “I’m doing all of my own properties. This has nothing to do with my family. When I travel, it’s always for work. When I do these properties, it’s just me and my partners from around the world.”
She clarified, “There’s definitely a lot of misconceptions about me. Among the biggest ones is that, because I come from the Hilton family, everything was just handed to me, that I’ve never worked a day in my life, and that I’m spoiled. But really, it’s the total opposite. I’ve done all this on my own. I’ve worked very hard.”
Paris added, “People watched me in ‘The Simple Life’ (a TV series that ran from 2003 to 2007) and assumed that the character I played was really who I am. That’s another misconception.”
“I just grew up,” she said of her transformation from tabloid fodder to budding empire owner. “I’m focusing on my business, growing my brand and getting into the hotel business.”
About being seen less now in the tabloids, Paris explained, “I’m staying out of trouble and [avoiding] negative people. I don’t go out that much anymore, unless it’s for work. I’m happy to be a businesswoman.”
Of her volunteer work, she said: “I support many charities. We have a charity in honor of my grandmother who passed away [after battling] breast cancer. I work with the Starlight Children’s Foundation. I donated part of the cancer wing at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I volunteer at the Los Angeles Homeless Shelters in downtown LA.”
Paris, a practicing Catholic who has visited a children’s hospital in Colombia and an orphanage in India, continued: “I love working with children and animals. I do as much as I can to give back because that’s important. It’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a little girl.”
So many things on her plate! How does she do them all?
“I’m a workaholic,” she explained. “I love being creative and working, so I divide my day into doing all my different projects, whether at a photo shoot, recording studio, design meetings or meeting with my different licensee partners. So every single day, even on weekends, I’m working or traveling for work. I have this drive in me that I need to always be doing something.”
Paris credits her family for inspiring her. “My parents (Richard and Kathy Hilton)—definitely my family [inspires me]. I’m a daddy’s girl so I listen to my dad, but also to my mom and grandfather. I have a really amazing family. We’re very close. I admire and respect them very much. This is who I am today because growing up in such an entrepreneurial family, I learned so much. I do all of this to make them proud.”
As we wrote in an earlier column about the film “The Bling Ring,” director Sofia Coppola brought to the screen the true story of a band of teenagers who robbed the homes of celebs, including Paris. Asked how Sofia managed to shoot the robbery scenes in her home, Paris replied, “During my birthday party last year, Sofia came up to me and told me she was doing the movie. She said, ‘This house is going to be impossible to recreate. It would be amazing if we could shoot here.’ I thought about it and said yes because I respect Sofia very much. She’s an incredible director. She’s very talented. I’ve always loved her films. If anyone else approached me, I would have said no because I’ve been robbed so many times, that I don’t want another bunch of strangers coming into my house.”
The big hit
As to how the band of celeb-obsessed teens broke into her house several times without her noticing that something was amiss until the sixth incident, Paris said, “I travel so much that I’m not there often. When I get home, my staff has the house looking perfect. I didn’t notice until the last time; that’s when they did the big hit and took millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry. Before that, they were taking little things from everywhere.”
About the huge amount of fashion accessories in Paris’ closet, as seen in the film (Emma Watson told us that her jaw “just dropped” at the sight of shoes, clothes and more), the entrepreneur explained, “I’m a designer and I have 17 product lines so a lot of the things in my house are my products—my handbag line, sunglasses, shoes…”
She stressed that her home security system has been beefed up since the robberies and two other incidents. “One stalker came with two giant knives. He found my address on a star map and walked all the way from Hollywood Boulevard to my house… Then I had another stalker who busted through the gate on a bike and came to my door.”
An anchor for Paris these days is her boyfriend. “I’ve been with my boyfriend, River Viiperi, for a year now,” she said. “He’s amazing. He’s so sweet, down-to-earth, loyal, kind and has such a big heart. So yeah, I’m really happy. He’s a model. He’s Finnish and Spanish, the most beautiful man in the world. He’s so hot. We celebrated our first anniversary during the Cannes Film Festival. We’ve been together for 14 months now.”
Paris admitted that she was learning to trust again, after her sex-tape scandal in 2004. An ex-boyfriend, Rick Salomon, released the explicit video showing him and Paris. “It was the most painful thing I ever went through in my life,” she said. “When you’re with somebody and you love and trust him, and this was not just some random person… this was my boyfriend who I was with for a few years, who I really loved and trusted. It was such a violation of everything. I was so hurt and in shock.”
Paris’ heart goes out for her namesake, Paris Jackson, the late Michael Jackson’s daughter who reportedly attempted suicide last June 5. “I knew her father because he and my mom were friends since they were 13,” she said. “I’ve known Paris since she was a little girl. I have so much love for her. I’m wishing her the best. It’s very hard when you’re growing up in Hollywood, especially if you’re a young girl and you have mean people on the Internet saying things that are not true—so many haters. I would tell her not to pay attention to any of that. She’s a special, beautiful girl.”
A bright note was that, on the day of our interview, the US Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for all states with gay marriage laws to have those marriages federally recognized, with due benefits. “It’s so amazing,” Paris commented, smiling. “I’ve been talking to my friends all day about it. They’re all so happy. Everyone’s planning weddings in Vegas, Ibiza and all these places this summer and Christmastime. So I have a lot more weddings to go to, which I’m excited about because I love going to weddings. It’s how it should be. Love is love. It doesn’t matter if you’re two men, two women, whatever. No law should prevent that.”
(E-mail the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)