Paris Hilton is a popular American pop culture figure and the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, founder of the worldwide hotel conglomerate Hilton Hotels.
She was born on February 17th, 1981 in New York City to parents Richard and Kathy Hilton. Paris’ parents were both successful in their own right, but she was another in a long line of Hilton heiresses who rose to socialite status thanks to the family fortune.
Hilton spent parts of her adolescence living in a suite at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, and childhood friends included fellow socialites Kim Kardashian and Nicole Richie. A rebellious youth, Hilton had disciplinary issues at a number of elite private schools in California during her high school years, before ultimately being expelled from a Connecticut boarding school in 1999. She eventually earned her GED certification.
At an early age Hilton showed an affinity for acting and modeling, just as her mother Kathy had in the 1970s, when she appeared in television shows like “Family Affair,” “Happy Days,” and “The Rockford Files.” Paris Hilton began modelling at the age of 19, after securing representation by Donald Trump’s management agency Model T. When Hilton was 21 she parlayed her popularity in New York City’s tabloid media into an appearance in 2001’s hit comedy Zoolander.
In 2002 Hilton appeared as the lead in the straight-to-video horror film Nine Lives, but it would be scenes filmed the year before that would launch her unlikely ascent to superstardom one year later.
In 2004 a pornographic video was distributed by Red Light Video which depicted Hilton engaging in sexual intercourse with Rick Salomon – her boyfriend at the time the acts were filmed in 2001. The film had been leaked to the internet in 2003, but Salomon – a professional celebrity spouse and part-time poker player – sued the company attempting to distribute the footage, along with the Hilton family, claiming defamation. He then released the video 1 Night in Paris under his own name the following year.
While Hilton filed her own countersuit against Salomon, resulting in an out of court settlement in which she was reportedly awarded $400,000, the resulting wave of publicity launched her into the mainstream consciousness. Shortly after the infamous sex tape’s release she appeared in Fox’s hit series The Simple Life, spawning a cottage industry in which Hilton perfected the postmodern art of “being famous for being famous.” A series of television and film appearances, advertising campaigns, books, musical recordings, product developments, and other monetization of her personal brand followed over the years, with Paris proving to be another in a long line of savvy businesspeople to carry the Hilton name.
In 2007 that name made global headlines, as Barron Hilton pledged to donate at least 97% of his family fortune – which was estimated to total more than $2.3 billion – to various charitable causes. The stunning philanthropic donation significantly reduced the potential inheritance Paris Hilton was poised to assume control over.
Hilton has always maintained a reputation as a recreational gambler, but as is the case with most of her exploits, her time at the tables usually makes national news. In 2006 Hilton told the press that herself and sister Nikki were both part of the poker boom sweeping America by storm:
“I’m obsessed with poker. It’s my favorite game now. We love it. We play at tournaments in Vegas. I’m really lucky in Vegas, I always win!”
That same year Hilton was rumored to have lost her Bentley, a luxury vehicle valued at more than $165,000 at the time, in a private game of high-stakes poker held at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Casino. While her agents denied the claims, they were enough to compel the following challenge from PartyPoker.com spokesman Warren Lush:
“If she goes heads-up online in a no-limit Texas Hold’em challenge against poker legend Mike Sexton and wins, we’ll hand her the keys to a brand spanking new Bentley. Forget one night in Paris, we’re offering her one night to win her wheels back.”
The rumors regarding her lost Bentley may have motivated 2006 tabloid claims which purported Hilton to be banned from her family’s casinos by order of her grandfather Barron, along with reports that she was ordered to complete gambling rehabilitation. In 2007, guest co-host Jeff Probst devoted a segment of Live With Regis and Kelly, to discussing his own defeat at the hands of Hilton in a poker tournament.
On February 18th of 2012 Hilton tweeted the following commentary on her 31st birthday celebration, during which she claims to have won a substantial sum playing blackjack:
“Just won 30k playing blackjack at @WynnLasVegas! #YES! #BirthdayGirlsLuck! I love gambling! :D”
Two years later Salomon – the man who made money by releasing a sex tape of his ex-girlfriend well before that became an industry of its own – won $2.8 million at the 2014 World Series of Poker. He finished in fourth place in the $1 million buy-in high-roller event known as the “Big One for One Drop,” coming close to winning a gold WSOP bracelet in the process.
That same year Hilton made news of her own by posting a photo of her Atlantic City blackjack winnings to Instagram, this time amounting to more than $50,000. Hilton captioned the photo, which contained both casino chips and $100 bills, simply with “At the blackjack tables. #Killingit.”