Perez Hilton: The Bad Boy Gone Good
Once upon a time, the cyber realm was tyrannized by a wicked queen named Perez Hilton. He used his poisonous gossip blog to bully Disney princesses and force fairy princes out of their closets. Then, after years of profiting off the victimization of others, something melted Hilton’s icy heart and inspired him to reform his catty ways.
In the fall of 2010, Perez participated in Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, which aimed to prevent suicide among bullied LGBT adolescents through positive celebrity testimonials. Critics quickly pointed out the hypocrisy of a professional cyber-sadist spearheading an anti-bullying cause. Khloe Kardashian, a regular target of Hilton’s, even accused him of being her “personal bully.”
“I was one of the first public figures to make an “It Gets Better” video,” Hilton says, “and the negative backlash I got from it shook me to the core. In my eyes, I was doing something good. But so many people were calling me a ‘hypocrite’ and a ‘bully.’ It was a real wake up call! I knew I had to make a change and integrate my true self more with this character I had created. Continuing things as they were was not an option. I had to change!”
This change was announced in October 2010, when the Queen of Mean met with the Queen of Daytime Television. On an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Hilton claimed he no longer wished to be viewed negatively and vowed to stop his antagonistic tendencies.
“I really want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” said Hilton on air. “I want to be the change that I want to see in others. I’m going to do things differently on my website than I have in the past.”
That website, PerezHilton.com (née PageSixSixSix.com), not only showcased celebrity gossip but also tabloid photos, over which Hilton added snarky captions or doodles. The latter were usually sketches of phalluses aimed at a young starlet’s mouth. Now, without these base gimmicks to fall back on, Hilton’s site has evolved into something more intelligent, yet still satisfying.
“I don’t consider myself a journalist. I’m an entertainer. I don’t try to be objective. I have a clear point of view. I’m super subjective,” he says with a laugh. “Having said that, I take what I do very seriously! And though my main priority is to entertain, I do strive to be as factually accurate as possible and apply journalistic ethics to what I do.”
This new, improved Perez Hilton extends beyond the blogosphere. He has steadily evolved into a respectable role model for the LGBT community, meriting invitations to speak at this year’s GLSEN leadership retreat and the GLAAD Youth Media Awards. He also served on the board of directors for VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, which strives to restore music education programs in American public schools. To Perez, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.
“The best and proudest way I think I have served as a role model to the LGBT community this year is by living my life openly, honestly, admitting my mistakes, not striving for perfection and just trying to be better as a person and a personality and a new father.”
Perhaps more than any other factor, Hilton’s new attitude can be attributed to his son Mario, who was born via surrogate this past February. “Fatherhood has centered me and made me so much happier,” Hilton says. “My son has brought so much pure joy into my life. Work is important, but my son is even more important.”
While his little prince comes first, Perez still hopes to slay a major dragon threatening his queendom.
“The greatest problem currently affecting the LGBT community is the anti-gay violence still hurled at us, even in our largest cities,” he says. “I will continue to do my part to share those stories and share my own. I will do everything I can to create a better tomorrow.”
And hopefully, everyone in the community will live happily ever after.