Let’s all take a trip down memory lane for a second. The year is 2007: the iPhone had just been announced, then Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President, and Paris Hilton was the most famous woman in the world, so ubiqutous a presence on celebrity blogs and in tabloids that The AP challenged itself to go a week without mentioning her name.
Sound familiar? That’s likely thanks to the Kardashian mania that we find ourselves in the midst of at the moment where every haircut, mundane Tweet, and celebrity feud of the family’s seems to be frenzied front-page news. It’s the kind of fame that Hilton invented, and one need only to remember her heyday, and her fall, to remember that yes, super-fame is fleeting. For everyone.
In 2009, CNN broke the Paris bubble officially with its story: “Why has Paris Hilton disappeared?” penning: “Once a fixture on the red carpet and a staple of the daily news cycle, Paris Hilton has recently all but disappeared from the American consciousness.”
Which brings me to 2015, when I got to meet Hilton for the first time—once the most famous woman in the world, but quite simply, not anymore.
What was it like? A lot like stepping into a time machine.
I got my chance because Hilton was in New York City for a beauty editor’s breakfast celebrating 10 years of her namesake fragrance line along with the launch of crystal-embellished limited-edition bottle of her first scene Paris Hilton for Women.
During the last few days, Hilton had been in Hong Kong for an AmfAR gala and then in Los Angeles for just a few short hours to tape the voiceover for her upcoming video game. You might not hear about her that much anymore, but she clearly hasn’t slowed down.
Gathered in New York’s just-opened Baccarat Hotel in a room decorated with silver balloons, strands of crystals hanging from the ceiling, and ice sculpture centerpieces, a group of us anxiously awaited her arrival like the paparazzi once did outside of Mr.Chow Beverly Hills.
Someone on her PR team announced “drum roll” (hinting her arrival was imminent) and an executive from Parlux (the company that manufactures and distributes her scents) introduced her as “one of the hardest working women in the business.”
Hilton then appeared in the room wearing a patterned skater dress paired with an ivory lace jacket complete with studs—and yes, crystal encrusted heels. Her blonde hair is as blonde and as coiffed as ever. She is as tall and rail-thin as you would think she is. And one has to wonder upon first glimpse, does this woman ever age? Remember, she first hit the spotlight in her teens and is now a 34-year-old woman.
“I was just looking back on all the fragrances and they’re all so different and really show the growth in my life and how I’ve changed,” Hilton told me, in her signature sexy baby voice (slightly deeper in tone that I had always imagined it to be). “I always come up with the scent first, then I think of a name, then I do the bottle, and then I pick what kind of campaign I want…It takes a few months to develop each one.”
Let’s give Hilton credit where credit’s due, she’s been wildly successful in the fragrance business. Hilton has sold over $2 billion in fragrances and over 40 million bottles worldwide to date, putting her on par with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor.
“I’m so good with my fans, and I think that’s a big part of it,” Hilton told me speaking to her success. “I make sure that the bottle is beautiful. That it’s a scent for a lot of different women. A lot of work goes into it. And it’s a great price for all of that. My fans appreciate that.”
Life after superstardom doesn’t seem so bad for Hilton—particularly because she’s been so savvy about it. She might have given up her crown as the most famous woman in America—but the Paris Hilton brand is very much alive and kicking overseas.
She just opened the Paris Beach Club resort in the Philippines, landed a summer residency as a DJ in Ibiza, has a single coming out with Birdman called “High Off My Love” and fashion licenses that include handbags, watches, apparel, and beauty that have made Paris Hilton a huge brand everywhere from the Middle East to Asia (she has more than five million social followers in China alone). According to Women’s Wear Daily 70 percent of her fragrance sales also happen outside of the U.S.
Hilton may have perfected the “famous for being famous” arc that so many have tried to emulate in her wake—sex tape, reality show, wall-to-wall media coverage, a myriad of entrepreneurial ventures to capitalize on said media attention—but it’s her after-fame trajectory that the likes of Kim Kardashian should take notes from.
Hilton often describes her brand as “fun, affordable luxury.” She may be the heiress to a multi-billion hotel fortune, but she’s marketing to the masses with her various businesses, and doing it well. She not only swears to only wearing her own perfume, but is regularly spotted in clothes with her name on the label, and looks every bit the manifestation of the lifestyle brand she promotes whether she’s posting a selfie on Instagram or standing right next to you. And yes, while she’s no longer the go-to for gossip rags, and hasn’t been for some time, she hasn’t strayed from the image that made her a star to begin with.
Some takeaways from her unique brand of success: Have a trademark look, tirelessly promote your ventures, and develop a fanbase that’s more loyal than Us Weekly editors, and you’ll be bankable for the long haul.
Hilton stopped at a certain point during the event to pose near an oversized photo of herself, remembering to ask a handler for a bottle of perfume to pose with, while everyone in the room gathered to take photos. With onlookers snapping away, Hilton expertly changed her position with slight movements to optimize her angles and the room’s lighting like it was the most natural thing in the world. She’s still got it.