celebrity

Paris Hilton, Kat Von D, and the "torturous" Provo Canyon School for troubled teens.

Content warning: This post deals with abuse and may be triggering to some readers.

Last month, Paris Hilton pulled back the curtain on her life in her YouTube documentary, This Is Paris.

The Hilton Hotel heiress, who is often regarded as the original influencer, became 'famous for being famous' by using what she refers to as her on-screen "rich, dumb blonde" act. 

But in This Is Paris, Hilton showed her real personality, admitting that she has spent the past two decades playing a character.

Watch the trailer for Paris Hilton's new documentary, This Is Paris, below. Post continues after podcast.


Video via YouTube.

"I'm so used to like, playing a character that it's hard for me be normal," the 39-year-old shared in the documentary.

"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."

While the documentary was originally intended to showcase an unvarnished side of Paris Hilton, the focus of the documentary soon turned to Hilton's experience at Provo Canyon School, a treatment centre for "troubled youths" in Utah.

After moving to New York City with her family as a teenager, Hilton had become increasingly involved in the local party scene, and her parents were concerned.

"I think I just got addicted to the nightlife," she explained in This is Paris. "I felt accepted. I just felt like the queen of the night. That's where I really became Paris."

Hilton's parents, Kathy and Rick, sent her to a number of different programs and 'emotional growth schools' for 'troubled teens', including an outdoor wilderness program which involved "basically doing manual labour all day long".

ADVERTISEMENT

Then, at 17, she was taken from her bed in the middle of the night and transported to Provo Canyon School, where she would spend 11 months.

"It was the middle of the night, and I just heard screaming bloody murder. I knew there was a takedown in the works. I didn't know it was people coming in and capturing her," Hilton's younger sister, Nicky, recalled.

Image: YouTube. 

"I thought I was being kidnapped," Paris added.

In the documentary, Paris recalled regularly being given mystery pills at the school, and being sent to solitary confinement for up to 20 hours with no clothes.

"[That] was the worst of the worst," she said.

"There was no getting out of there. You are sitting on a chair, staring at a wall all day long, getting yelled at or hit. I felt like a lot of the people that worked there got off on torturing children and seeing them naked."

Speaking to People, Hilton shared that she now suffers from recurring nightmares as a result of her experience at Provo.

ADVERTISEMENT

"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," she told the publication.

"[The staff] were constantly making me feel bad about myself and bullying 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."

Listen to Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast, The Spill, below. Post continues after podcast.

In This is Paris, Hilton met with a group of students who attended Provo at the same time as her.

In August 2019, the women spent 12 hours at Hilton's home bonding over their experiences. 

While discussing their experiences, one woman claimed that she was assigned a therapist with no certifications who pushed religious beliefs on her.

Another woman claimed that she "witnessed and endured physical, emotional and mental abuse" at Provo. "I was forced onto medications, I was told that everything that happened to me was all my fault," she added.

Since the documentary aired, a number of women have shared their experiences from Provo on social media, including model and tattoo artist Kat Von D.

In a video shared to Instagram on Tuesday, Von D shared how she was sent to Provo Canyon School after she started listening to punk music and started to "look a little different".

"I think [my parents] were just terrified I was going down the wrong path," the 38-year-old shared. "I’d started tattooing and dropped out of high school and I think they just didn’t know what to do with me."

After being taken from her room in the middle of the night, Von D spent six months at the school, including her 16th birthday.






View this post on Instagram









Thank you, @parishilton for giving me the courage to share about being locked up for half a year, without ever seeing the sun, at Provo Canyon School in Utah. I spent those 6 traumatic months of my teenage years, only to leave with major PTSD and other traumas due to the unregulated, unethical and abusive protocols of this “school” — and cannot believe this place is STILL OPERATING. Please take a moment to watch @parishilton ‘s documentary #ThisIsParis and follow @breakingcodesilence to see other survivors testimonials and better understand the horrors of the “Troubled Teen” industry, and the damage it causes to not just the kids, but the families. 🖤 #breakingcodesilence

A post shared by  𝐊𝐀𝐓 𝐕𝐎𝐍 𝐃 (@thekatvond) on

ADVERTISEMENT

"I had no idea what was going on at the time, and obviously was terrified," she shared.

After being taken from her room and flown to Utah blindfolded, Von D was strip-searched before having her head shaved.

"Once we got there, they did a strip search, which was completely degrading, I remember having to get naked in front of this person, I don’t know their credentials. I have no idea who they were," she said.

"I was 15 years old. I was like a kid.”

While at the school, Von D, now 38 years old, was falsely told that she had contracted HIV through a tattoo.

"I went through those entire six months thinking I had HIV. And this was just a scare tactic to try to get me to stop tattooing," she recalled.

She also recalled other students at the school being subjected to severe punishments, including being forced to stare at a blank wall for "hours on end".

In more extreme cases, Von D claimed that some girls were injected with sedatives or put in a straitjacket in an "octagon or hexagon shaped" room. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"Some girls were in there for days at a time, peeing on themselves and defecating in a drain," she alleged.

In a statement on their website, Provo Canyon School responded: "We are aware of media referencing Provo Canyon School."

"Please note that PCS was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time. 

"We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioural and psychiatric needs. We do not condone or promote any form of abuse."

Drew Barrymore, who recently launched her own talk show, interviewed Paris Hilton about her experience at Provo.

"I was trying to look like I had the perfect life and I was embarrassed for people to know [about my experience at Provo]," Hilton recalled in the interview. 

"I now know that I shouldn't be ashamed, the people who work at these places who are abusing children are the ones who should be ashamed. I'm proud that even though I went through so much, I'm so strong and I could make it through anything."

Drew Barrymore interviews Paris Hilton on The Drew Barrymore Show. Image: YouTube. 

ADVERTISEMENT

While Barrymore didn't disclose where she was sent, Barrymore shared that she was sent to a similar institution as a teenager.

"I have to tell you, the people at my place were really good," Barrymore admitted.

"I mean, I didn't like being thrown in solitary confinement. I will say that I was very rebellious. I started riots there all the time and there were a lot of other kids like me, and my mom just didn't know what to do with me. I was doing drugs, I was out of control. She just threw her hands up and threw me in there, not knowing where else to turn to. And that place really did help me and it did save my life, and I actually wouldn't change a thing."

Hilton, however, shared that her experience gave her "trust issues and post-traumatic stress disorder".

Feature Image: YouTube/Instagram.

For more on this topic:

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or  beyondblue 1300 22 4636.


Sign up for the "Mamamia Daily" newsletter. Get across the stories women are talking about today.



00:00 / ???