Her documentary last year showed the complexities behind her party girl persona.
Paris Hilton has said she still has some "healing to do" with her parents following last year's revelation that she was allegedly abused at a behavioural camp they sent her to in order to quash her teenage rebelliousness.
In a documentary that began streaming on YouTube last year, the heiress revealed her parents Rick and Kathy Hilton sent her to several disciplinary institutions during her teens in a bid to get a handle on her wild child behaviour. Though Paris has since defended them and said she's "closer than ever" to her mother, a trailer for her new show suggests it's something time will have to help heal.
In the trailer for Peacock's Paris In Love, her fiancé Carter Reum asks her if she's "had a sit-down with mom and dad" to which she replies, "no."
"I still have healing to do with mom and dad," she says. "It's painful to talk about."
— ParisHilton (@ParisHilton) October 26, 2021
Last year's documentary, entitled This Is Paris, was supposed to show the "real" Paris Hilton and debunk perceptions about her informed by the Barbie-like character she invented for the media and for shows like the Simple Life. It ended up becoming a platform for Breaking Code Silence, a non-profit that supports survivors of the US's troubled teen industry.
According to the US National Youth Rights Association, the "troubled teen industry" refers to for-profit institutions across the States that are marketed to parents who feel like they need a drastic fix for their child’s behaviour, be it attitude problems, drug and alcohol use, sneaking out, staying out late, or in the case of conversion camps, showing an interest in the same sex. These institutions are often located in isolated areas and are referred to in different ways, such as "boot camps", "behaviour modification facilities", or "wilderness therapy".
The industry reportedly generates billions of dollars annually despite incarcerating and enforcing strict rules on children through militaristic and other extreme measures, which many survivors have claimed to include emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Paris has claimed her stays at four of these facilities have left her with PTSD. In them, she says, she was "strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis," and disturbingly, "thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood", plus more.
“Today, I come here not as Paris Hilton, but as a survivor”: The hotel heiress joined members of Congress on Wednesday in support of legislation aiming to establish a bill of rights for teens in congregate care facilities. pic.twitter.com/amoi9LSykc
— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 20, 2021
While Paris initially hadn't intended on bringing up the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of the troubled teen industry – she had never told anyone about it in her private life, let alone addressing it publicly – she wound up disclosing the abuse to the documentary's director, with whom she had grown close. It was the director who convinced her to share her story first with loved ones and then with the world.
Her parents found out about the abuse for the very first time during filming.
During an interview scene in the documentary, Kathy was told her daughter's nightmares stem from abuse rather than simply from a stay at a structured camp that she didn't enjoy.
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Speaking to the crew, Kathy said: "I think all of the things that she's gone through have made her stronger. She would say things to me after, like 'I still have nightmares, still in the middle of the night I feel...' you know, she would say that.
"And I always take what people say with a grain of salt. Like I think, 'Yeah, it did bother her, but it was our way of saving you.'"
A production member then said: "Did she tell you she was put into solitary?" to which Kathy replied, "What do you mean, solitary– What do you mean?"
"Solitary confinement, treating children like they're in a prison instead of in a school," the crew member said to a bewildered-looking Kathy.
"Are you serious? She's never told me that... in Utah?" she awkwardly responded.
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The documentary then cut to a scene of Paris and her sister Nicky discussing the night Paris was first taken to one of the institutions, during which two men came into the then-16-year-old's room and forcibly took her from her bed, kicking and screaming.
"I thought I was being kidnapped," Paris said. "I started screaming for mom and dad, like 'help me,' and no one came. As they were taking me, I saw my parents standing by their door, crying."
She added that nobody came to her aid or would tell her what was happening. Nicky then revealed that the next morning at breakfast, their parents were smiling and carrying on as though nothing had happened, and the other kids knew not to ask questions about where Paris was. "And then I think they said she went to boarding school," she said, as Paris wiped at tears beside her.
"Have you ever said sorry to mom and dad?" Nicky asked in the same scene.
"No?" Paris replied, seemingly confused.
"Like, hell–" Nicky continued before Paris interrupted with "I went through hell, too."
Paris later explained that the one thing that kept her sane during her 11-month stay at the "worst of the worst" institution was dreaming about what she wanted to do and about becoming so successful her parents would never be able to control her again. Never speaking to her family about feeling traumatised after leaving the place, she said her anger went into her drive for success. At one point, she comes to the conclusion that the character she put on for so many years was created as a defence mechanism after all she went through in the troubled teen industry.
Her parents, her mother in particular, were met with a significant amount of criticism after the documentary's release. Many felt how they handled teenage Paris's partying was drastically uncalled for given not just the fact that many teens party and break rules, but that Paris's behaviour of going to clubs and ditching school was also not unusual for a young person who has ADD/ADHD, with which she was diagnosed as a child. Viewers were also left unimpressed by Kathy's on-camera reaction to being told of the solitary confinement by production and, later, of specific abuse by Paris herself, though she appeared shaky in the latter and told her daughter she was proud.
While doing press for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, on which she starred and quickly became a fan favourite this year, Kathy said her "heart almost stopped" when she first found out and that she was shocked Paris wouldn't have told her about the alleged abuse. "I'm the kind of mother, you can tell me anything," she told the Daily Blast, adding that she went into a "deep depression" after the revelations and has been unable to watch the documentary. She has also travelled with Paris to DC as she joined members of Congress in support of legislation to protect children in facilities like the ones she stayed in.
Paris has defended her parents non-stop since the documentary's release, saying she didn't tell her parents about the alleged abuse as the institutions had convinced her they wouldn't believe her. She has also said she feels parents are manipulated by such facilities into believing they're safe environments in which their kids' behaviour will be corrected. The family have, she clarified, also had conversations off camera after the initial shock her mother had of being told on camera.
Despite the fact that there's clearly a lot of love there, it's understandable that Paris still needs to heal with her parents given the fact that she only opened up to them a year ago. A wound long closed has been freshly opened in front of the whole world, and it'll take time to recover from.
Here's hoping Paris finds peace and healing in her new projects, in her activism and in being the most authentic we've seen her yet.