Hilton attends the invite-only party in person each year, but this particular scene played out last month in Paris World, Hilton’s virtual experience on popular gaming platform Roblox, where she joined as an avatar. Nearly 400,000 Roblox users visited her virtual Neon Carnival that mid-April weekend, about 40 times the number of people who went in real life this year, according to Hilton. (The digital event was sponsored by Levi’s and designed in part by Brent Bolthouse, the founder of the original Neon Carnival).
It’s a concept Hilton has seen success with before. On New Year’s Eve, she DJed a live set in the same virtual world, playing as her avatar. In Paris World, users can also buy virtual clothing, book a jet ski ride or pay to gain access to a VIP section of a club.
“I’ve always been an undercover nerd, so I’ve been obsessed with anything to do with technology and the future,” Hilton told CNN Business in an interview last month. “Now my new nickname is ‘The Queen of the Metaverse,'” she added, referring to a sobriquet she has used on the red carpet and in a number of her social media posts, which, according to her company 11:11 Media, first emerged in the NFT space on Twitter.
Hilton has long been a trendsetter. She arguably became an influencer before the term even existed after her reality TV show, “The Simple Life,” debuted in 2003. But Hilton, the great-granddaugther of hotel mogul Conrad Hilton, has also been working to redefine her public image as a successful businesswoman and to cement her status as an innovator.
Recently, she’s embraced two buzzy but speculative trends in tech: the metaverse, a vision for an immersive virtual world that still does not exist; and non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, which refer to pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital ledger system underpinning various cryptocurrencies.
Her bet on these digital products and services is just one piece of Hilton’s growing empire. Last fall, Hilton brought all of her initiatives under 11:11 Media. The company includes her 19 product lines, such as fragrances, clothing and makeup, which have surpassed over $4 billion in all-time revenue, according to the company. It also includes her production company Slivington Manor Entertainment — which is behind TV projects including “Cooking with Paris” and “Paris Hilton in Love” — and her podcast company London Audio.
“We are growing quickly and want to find the talent of people who are interested in this space,” said Hilton. To that end, Hilton is partnering with ZipRecruiter, an online platform for job seekers, to add more employees to her roster. 11:11 Media is soon launching a sweepstakes for someone to win a mentorship program with her in Los Angeles to learn many of the aspects of running her business.
“Mentorship is also something that’s really important for me. My mentor was my grandfather,” she said of the late Barron Hilton, the business magnate who was the former president, chairman and CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation. “It’s just all the advice he gave me and the support has really stuck with me throughout my career. I want to be able to do that for someone else.”
A voice for NFTs
“I then found myself on sites such as Clubhouse during the pandemic talking to artists about the NFT world and meeting with leaders in the space,” she said. “I became obsessed with it and started collaborating with artists. … It’s something I really believe in.”
The price of Bitcoin — the largest cryptocurrency — dropped below $30,000 earlier this month and has struggled to rise above that level since then. It remains down more than 50% from its record high in November. Other cryptocurrencies have been hit hard too in recent weeks.
“These have usually been associated with cryptocurrencies where the celebrity will hype it up and then when people invest in it they in turn around and sell their currency at a profit,” said Inouye. “This speaks to the less savory side of all of NFT-blockchain-crypto, which is at least in part driven by hype and speculation.”
Hilton said she’s been cautious not to give advice on what people should buy, noting she’s only interested in NFTs to “support the artists” and “not for investment reasons.”
A public perception shift
“The documentary changed my life in every single way,” she said. “For so long, people had so many misconceptions of me because of the character I was playing … almost like a coping mechanism. Now they understand who I actually am and what I’ve been through. I’m not a dumb blonde. I’m just very good at pretending to be one.”
“I will always be grateful to ‘The Simple Life’ because it really helped me launch my brand and all my businesses. But there is so much more to me,” she said. “I want to be known and respected for the businesswoman I am, the business and brand that I’ve created and for being an advocate for children who have suffered from the abuse and trauma that myself and so many others have.”
Hilton said she continues to look for new ways to innovate on and offline, grow her NFT collection and help others grow their own brands.
“It’s amazing now with the technology available to anyone from their living room — if they have Wi-Fi connection, an iPhone or whatever they’re capturing their content on — they are able to build a brand, support their families, be themselves and express themselves in that way,” she said. “It makes me proud that I created this new genre of a celebrity. … I love being an innovator and someone who is a first at things. It’s just incredible to see what that’s morphed into.”