"I would be in tears every single day." In 2003, Paris Hilton's sex tape was released. It left her with PTSD.

This post deals with abuse and might be triggering for some readers.

For more than two decades, we've seen Paris Hilton's life play out in front of cameras, but there's been one thing she has kept private the whole time.

As a teenager, she was allegedly mentally and physically abused at a boarding school.

Hilton, 40, has been in the public eye for much of her life; first as a socialite then a TV star, model, singer, actress and DJ. But mostly, Hilton is known for being one of the first celebrities to become 'famous for being famous'.

Last year, Hilton let viewers inside her life as part of a YouTube documentary This Is Paris. 

WATCH: The 'This Is Paris' trailer. Post continues below video.

Video via YouTube.

In the documentary, which was released in September, Hilton explained that she felt like "the whole world thinks they know me," but often she doesn't even feel like she knows herself. 

She also spoke about her childhood trauma for the first time publicly. 

"Something happened in my childhood that I've never talked about with anyone," she said.

"But I couldn't tell you guys, because every time I tried, I would get punished by them," she continued. "I still have nightmares about it. The only thing that saved my sanity was thinking about who I wanted to become when I got out of there. I just created this brand and this persona and this character, and I've been stuck with her ever since."

In an interview with People, Hilton said she "buried her truth for so long".

She was sent to Utah's Provo Canyon School in the late 1990s, after her parents became sick of her disobedience, that saw her sneak out to go to clubs and parties.

"I knew it was going to be worse than anywhere else," Hilton said.

"It was supposed to be a school, but [classes] were not the focus at all. From the moment I woke up until I went to bed, it was all day screaming in my face, yelling at me, continuous torture."


Hilton said she thinks the staff's goal was to "break" the students.

"They were constantly making me feel bad about myself and bully me. I think it was their goal to break us down.

"And they were physically abusive, hitting and strangling us. They wanted to instil fear in the kids so we'd be too scared to disobey them."

Hilton said she had daily panic attacks and cried each day she was at the institution, which would put students into solitary confinement for up to "20 hours a day" if staff discovered any plans to escape.

"I was just so miserable. I felt like a prisoner and I hated life," Hilton told People.

She has also shared that if it wasn't for the abuse in school, she wouldn't have met her ex-boyfriend and made her leaked sex tape, 1 Night in Paris.

"I would never have let anyone into my life like [the man in the tape, whom she was dating at the time]. I met the worst person I could meet and if I hadn't gone to Provo, I wouldn't have entertained the thought of letting him into my life. Provo affected my future relationships," she told People in her latest interview.

Hilton shared that after experiencing such trauma, she didn't understand the difference between love and a relationship.

"I thought that them getting so crazy meant that they were in love with me. Looking back, I can't believe I let people treat me like that," Hilton said.

"I went through multiple abusive relationships. I was strangled, I was hit, I was grabbed aggressively. I put up with things no one should.

"They all seemed like such nice guys and then the true colours would show. They'd get jealous, or defensive or try to control me. And there would come a point where they would become physically, verbally and emotionally abusive."

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This Is a Survivor. #ThisIsParis

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In her documentary, Hilton said "I'm so used to like, playing a character that it's hard for me be normal".

"Everything I’ve ever done before was more of me just playing that character again. But with this I really just wanted to pull the curtain back and show my real life and talk about things that were very hard to talk about and things that I've experienced in life that I’ve never talked about before."

An heiress and socialite turned TV star.

Hilton, the oldest of four children, was born into American business royalty. Her paternal great-grandfather was Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels.

Her childhood was mostly split between Los Angeles and New York City, and her friendship group consisted of other wealthy children of famous people, including Ivanka Trump, Kim Kardashian and Nicole Richie.

When she was a teenager, she spent a year at the Utah school for 'emotionally troubled teens'.

"It's time these places go down and get what they deserve," Hilton wrote on the Instagram account of Breaking Code Silence, "a movement organised by a network of survivors and activists to raise awareness of the abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry". 

In the documentary, three of Hilton's former classmates will back up her accusations of abuse, including claims they were force-fed medication and held down by restraints as a form of punishment.


She told People she didn't often speak to her family during her time in Utah, only being able to call once every two or three months.

"We were cut off from the outside world. And when I tried to tell them once, I got in so much trouble I was scared to say it again. They would grab the phone or rip up letters I wrote telling me, 'No one is going to believe you.' And the staff would tell the parents that the kids were lying. So my parents had no idea what was going on."

Hilton left the school after 11 months, but refused to speak about her experience.

"I was so grateful to be out of there, I didn’t even want to bring it up again. It was just something I was ashamed of and I didn't want to speak of it," Hilton told People.

After leaving school, Hilton began modeling, appearing in Vanity Fair with her sister Nicky and walking in New York Fashion Week shows in the early 2000s.

In 2003, she and then-best friend Richie debuted their reality TV show The Simple Life, where they lived with a family in rural Arkansas for a month. It became a cultural phenomenon as viewers watched the wealthy young women learn how other people live 'normal' lives.

Shortly before its premiere, a sex tape featuring Hilton and then-boyfriend Rick Salomon was leaked onto the Internet without her permission or knowledge.

The response to the tape shows how far we've come in 18 years. Today, such a tape would be considered revenge porn and seen as a major violation of privacy, but in 2003, it became the favourite topic of gossip columns and a source of material for comedians and late night TV shows. Many considered it a smart marketing ploy for the show.

In a statement, Hilton said she was "embarrassed and humiliated". 

"I was in an intimate relationship and I never, ever thought these things would become public."


In later years, she reminded the public that she was 18 when the tape was made. Salomon was 12 years her senior.

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This Is a Rebel. #ThisIsParis

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18 years on, Hilton says the tape still gives her "PTSD".  

"That will always be something that will hurt me for the rest of my life" she said during Vanity Fair Cocktail Hour, Live! last week. 

"It’s always there in the back of my mind. When it happened, people were so mean about it to me. The way that I was spoken about on nightly talk shows and the media, to see things with my family was just heartbreaking. I would be in tears every single day, I didn’t want to leave my house, I felt like my life was over."

The 40-year-old went on to say that she felt "betrayed" when the tape was released.  

"It was a private experience between two people. You love someone, you trust someone and to have your trust betrayed like that and for the whole world to be watching and laughing… It was even more hurtful to me to have these people think that I did this on purpose — that killed me."

"It still gives me post-traumatic stress disorder to talk about it," she added. 

"I had always looked up to these amazing women like Princess Diana and I just felt like when he did that to me, [he] took that all away from me and people would never look at me the same."


The Simple Life's ratings were no doubt buoyed by the interest in Hilton following the tape's release. Over 13 million viewers watched the first episode, and the audience hovered in the tens of millions for the rest of the first season. 

In 2013, Hilton explained how her 'dumb blonde' persona was created by the show's producers. The stereotype was popular at the time; The Simple Life premiered months after Jessica Simpson's ditzy persona proved successful on MTV's Newlyweds.

"I'd never been on camera in my life. I didn't really know what to do. The producers told Nicole and I, 'Nicole you be the troublemaker and Paris you be the ditzy blonde rich girl'," Hilton explained to Metro in 2013.

"I tried to play the character of Cher from Clueless mixed with Eva Gabor from the Green Acres show - that character. I didn't realise I would end up doing the show for five years and doing that character for five years." 

Listen to The Spill, Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast. In this episode, co-hosts Kee Reece and Laura Brodnik discuss the real Paris Hilton. Post continues below.

Celebrity friendships and feuds.

Production on the fourth season of The Simple Life was reportedly halted due to a dispute between Hilton and Richie.

Hilton confirmed the pair were no longer friends in a statement, saying "It’s no big secret that Nicole and I are no longer friends. Nicole knows what she did, and that’s all I’m ever going to say about it". 

Image: Getty. 


Meanwhile, Richie told the Today Show the friends had simply ‘grown apart’. 

She denied a feud, saying the incident had "just turned into a much bigger thing than it is. It’s just not part of my life". 

However, they now appear to be friendly again, with Nicole telling Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live in 2014 that they resolved all their issues with each other.

"Paris is somebody that's been in my life since day one," she said. "An idea of a true friend is somebody that's going to be there with you through and through.

"I haven't spoken to her in a while, but we are very good friends. I love her and I love her family. I have a lot of respect for her."

Hilton and Kardashian in 2006. Image: Getty. 

Long before her family became one of the most famous in the world, Kim Kardashian was Hilton's personal assistant. 

"I created Kim Kardashian," Hilton said in an interview. "Her whole family owes me life."

Though there's been a few rocky times over the years (Hilton once insulted Kardashian's bum in a radio interview, and Kardashian said Hilton's song 'Stars Are Blind' was not "real music"), they are still friends now.


In 2019, Hilton released a song called 'Best Friend's Ass' and although that speaks for itself, Kardashian appeared in the music video.

On Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kardashian said she would do anything for Hilton.

"She literally gave me a career. And I totally acknowledge that."


From Nick Carter to Benji Madden, Hilton's love life has been tabloid fodder for two decades now.

Hilton and Nick Carter in 2004. Image: Getty. 


In 2018, Paris became engaged to actor Chris Zylka, who she had been dating for a year when he dropped to one-knee. The engagement caused a frenzy at the time thanks to the 20-carat pear-shaped centre stone ring she had on her left hand, worth no less than US$2 million.

Paris' newest ring wasn't the biggest she had ever owned – for five months back in 2005, Paris wore a 24-carat ring while engaged to then-22-year-old Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis.

The socialite was also reportedly briefly engaged to fashion model Jason Shaw in 2003, during their one year relationship.

Paris went through her third engagement breakdown when she called off the wedding plans with Chris Zylka, just a few months after he proposed.

"When I fall in love, I fall in love fast and hard, and it was this whirlwind romance," she told The Talk at the time. "I've always been obsessed with Disney stories and love stories, and I thought it was gonna be my happy ending, and I just realised after time that it wasn't the right decision."

Now, Hilton is now engaged to Carter Reum, a 40-year-old entrepreneur and best-selling author.

Legal troubles and the Bling Ring.

In September 2006, Hilton was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 36 months' probation.


In January 2007, Hilton was stopped while driving with a suspended license. She was caught speeding the following month.

Prosecutors determined she had violated her probation and in May, she was sentenced to 45 days in jail. After one last hurrah at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards on June 3, Hilton entered jail where she remained for three days before being reassigned to house arrest.

She was then recalled to serve her sentence behind bars just a day later. She got out on June 26 due to good behaviour and overcrowding.

Between 2008 and 2009, Hilton's home was burgled several times by 'The Bling Ring', a group of fashion-motivated thieves who targeted famous people around Calabasas. 

Her house was robbed multiple times. It was not until nearly US$2 million in jewellery, clothing, cash and other items were taken that Hilton reported being burgled. 

Hilton later allowed the movie The Bling Ring to film in her house where the burglaries took place.

Hilton said the experience changed how she lived her life; She is less open about her real-time whereabouts and upgraded her home security systems.

In August 2010, Hilton was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession in Las Vegas and her boyfriend, Cy Waits, was charged with driving under the influence.

Initially denying the handbag containing the drugs was hers, she later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanours and was sentenced to one year of probation, 200 hours of community service, a US$2,000 fine and the completion of a drug-abuse treatment program. 

Paris Hilton's life now.


Once the talk of Hollywood, Paris Hilton disappeared from the spotlight for a few years as her relevance waned.

In fact, in 2011, Hilton was asked by Good Morning America if she ever worried "about your moment having passed".

She promptly walked out of the interview.

She later returned, answering: "I've been doing this for 15 years now, so it's been a long time. So just like any other business person or someone in the industry, it's always important to reinvent yourself and come up with new projects."

She's been trying to reinvent herself ever since. 

In 2012, Hilton had a career resurgence as a DJ, with regular residencies and performances around the US and in Ibiza.

She has had a number of fragrances and fashion lines and the occasional song release, most recently in 2019 with 'Best Friend's Ass'.

Her latest adventure is a YouTube channel, which features vlog-style videos and a series aptly titled "Cooking With Paris".

In the 2018 Netflix documentary The American Meme, Hilton reflected on her life over the past two decades of fame and the pressure she’s under to "have a legacy".

"The whole reality show world, or that whole industry, you don’t really grow up," she said. "You're almost like, stuck in this character. I'm a 21-year-old for the last two decades.

"It’s just all part of an image and a brand and being a product. It’s like groundhog day. Everything I do is just the same sh*t, different day."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

This post was originally published in August 2020 and was updated on April 18, 2021.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.