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Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Perez Hilton — aka Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. — has Hollywood by the balls with his constantly updated, hilarious and often vicious celebrity-gossip blog, PerezHilton.com.
And in case you were wondering, the self-proclaimed ”Queen of All Media” ain’t letting go of those jewels anytime soon.
Since launching his site in the fall of 2004 the 30-year-old Hilton — who was voted the 16th most influential person of the year in a Time magazine poll — has debuted a television show on VH1 and made ”friends” with a handful of celebrities, including gay-fave Kathy Griffin, John Mayer and, of course, Paris Hilton. And he did it all while fighting lawsuits, outing celebrities and making fun of all the wacky things that give celebrities celebrity.
Perez’s just desserts may have been his Bloomberg Network invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Association dinner held last weekend at the Washington Hilton Hotel, marking the Miami native’s second trip to the nation’s capital.
”Great job at getting us into this recession,” is how he’d like to greet President George W. Bush if given the chance. But during the week leading up to the dinner, when talking with Metro Weekly, Perez is fixated on far more important things than dinner with George.
He’s having a Madonna moment.
METRO WEEKLY: So Madonna made you a funny little home video, saying hello. Your reaction?
PEREZ HILTON: It’s hard to describe it. It’s not anything I could have dreamt of. When I started the Web site, I just started it as a hobby. When I was younger, I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing today. I feel so lucky because I love what I do, and so many amazing things have come as a result of the Web site.
MW: Let’s go back to life before Perez Hilton. When did you leave Miami?
HILTON: I left in 1996 to go to [New York University], and I was in New York for six years. I moved to L.A. before I started the blog, because originally I went to school to study acting. I got my BFA in drama — and I still deal with drama every day — but it didn’t pan out for me as an actor.
But it’s great. You know, I feel so much more fulfilled doing what I do today, because I’m not reliant on anyone to give me a job. I’m my own boss. It’s the most rewarding, amazing thing.
MW: What did you imagine you’d be doing, all grown up?
HILTON: It always changed from month to month. For the longest time I thought I’d end up being a lawyer, just because that’s what my parents wanted me to be. But that was never a career for me. I would have been so unhappy doing that.
MW: When did you know you were gay?
HILTON: I think when I was 6 years old. I got naked with the boy next door and we rolled around in the dirt. My parents found out and they sent me to a psychologist, trying to cure me. [Laughs.]
MW: Did a more formal coming-out experience eventually follow?
HILTON: I think my [parents] always knew, but I didn’t come out until my freshman year of college, when everyone at NYU studying acting was gay. [Laughs.] So it wasn’t totally out of the blue. It was a very safe environment for me to say, ”Yeah, I’m gay.”
MW: How did your parents take it?
HILTON: Well, it definitely wasn’t embraced at first. But over the course of time, that changed completely. When I told her I was gay, I still remember my mom saying, ”You know what, you’re my son and I love you no matter what….” [Pause.] ”Because you’re my son and I have to love you.” Now that’s changed to, ”You’re my son and I choose to love you, because you’re an amazing son.”
MW: Have you found an amazing man to call your own?
HILTON: No, but I would love to.
MW: Describe Mr. Right.
HILTON: [Laughs.] Desperate and easy.
MW: Seriously, do you see yourself having a family?
HILTON: Well, you don’t need a guy to have a family, so yeah, I definitely see that. That’s 100 percent a part of my plan. I want to be the gay Angelina [Jolie]. I want to have some kids of my own. I want to adopt some. I want to have a hot husband like Brad Pitt.
MW: When did you decide to start a blog?
HILTON: Pretty much as soon as I discovered the world of blogging. I started it initially in September of 2004, and I never thought anyone would be reading my Web site, except for my friends. Even then I didn’t really even expect my friends to read it.
The fact that now I’ve got 8 million people a day enjoying my Web site worldwide is really amazing. It blows my mind.
MW: What were you writing about when you started?
HILTON: I’ve always been writing about the same thing. I never really wanted the Web site to be about me. Which was one of the things that set my [blog] apart from others at the time.
Before me, blogs kind of were just online diaries. It was people talking about their personal lives. To me, it was much more interesting to talk about celebrities because a lot of them are crazy. And it would be more fun to talk about that every day than myself.
No one really cares like, you know, ”I woke up today and I got into a fight with my mom and then I went to jog in the park and then to my ex-boyfriend’s and then someone tried to mug me.” Who gives a fuck? I don’t give a fuck. I don’t want to read about some random stranger’s life. But I like to read about celebrities’ lives.
MW: Didn’t you tell Howard Stern the blog originally had something to do with Clay Aiken?
HILTON: Well that’s the reason I stopped using my [real] name: I started getting death threats from Clay Aiken fans.
MW: Serious death threats?
HILTON: Serious to the point where they started two hate Web sites against me. They put up my home address, my home phone number, [and] a picture of my apartment building. That’s pretty hardcore, I would say.
MW: What were you saying about Clay Aiken that set them off?
HILTON: Just that he’s gay. He’s repeatedly denied it.
MW: Why do you think it’s okay to out people?
HILTON: Because I’m not doing anything differently than what you do with your friends. I’m sure when you talk to your friends, and when you talk about Clay Aiken, you talk about his being a big queen.
I view the Web site like I’m talking to my friends. I’m not making anything up. And also, I only like to say someone is definitely gay when I know that they definitely are. I probably was the first person to talk about Wentworth Miller being gay, and that’s because he is. He’s denied it, but that’s okay. His ex-boyfriend, Luke Macfarlane, just came out of the closet.
MW: Why is it so important to you?
HILTON: There’s definitely power in numbers. And also the more there are being openly gay, the less of a stigma is attached to being openly gay and the less fear there is around it.
There are so many closeted lesbian and gay actors and celebrities — and most of them are afraid to come out because they’re afraid it’s going to hurt their careers. I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s going to hurt their careers. I know that it’s not going to hurt their careers. In the past it may have been a different story, but I can’t think of a single case in the last five years where someone has come out of the closet and it’s hurt their career. In fact, it helps.
MW: It’s obvious where ”Perez Hilton” comes from, but when you decided to use a pseudonym, why did you specifically choose it?
HILTON: I was in Miami in September of 2004, and that season Paris [Hilton] was throwing a party at the Shore Club. Whenever I would go and visit home, I would always stay at the beach. We would go out to the gay bars and clubs, but we would also go, every once in awhile, to the straight bars and clubs.
About four times during that week, the oddest thing happened. As soon as we were getting ready to leave one of the straight bars or clubs, and even one mixed lounge, our server would always tell us, ”Oh, don’t leave — Paris Hilton is coming!” And after the third or fourth one that they said that and she didn’t show up at, I was like, ”Please bitch! Paris Hilton isn’t showing up, but maybe Perez Hilton is!” Once I verbalized that name, it kind of just stuck with me. I instantly created a character. It was just so funny to me.
I also love that you kind of instantly have an idea of what I’m all about, just by the name. Hilton is the mainstream Hollywood institution, pop culture. And then Perez is me: It’s the outsider, it’s the Latino, it’s the gay, it’s the not norm. So it’s the crashing of these two worlds. It’s the outsider observing, from the inside, this crazy world of Hollywood.
MW: When did the blog become big enough for you to quit your day job?
HILTON: Well, thankfully, I got fired from my day job. I was working at one of the shitty shitty shitty celebrity magazines: Star Magazine. That was a job I got after I started the Web site and it was paying really good money. I hated that job. Thankfully it only lasted about five months.
Then I started freelancing for some of the other celebrity weeklies, and I had a lot of free time to work on the Web site. Which is what I did. Over the course of time I was able to just do the Web site by itself.
MW: Why did you get fired from Star?
HILTON: I got fired because I sucked there and I hated it there. I told all my coworkers. I made it public that I didn’t want to be there.
MW: Was there a specific event that helped your blog gain a huge audience, or did its popularity just build over time?
HILTON: It built up as time went by, but definitely the first time I got on television it really helped the Web site. It was in February or March of 2005. The TV show The Insider named me ”Hollywood’s Most Hated Web site.”
After that I went to the Web site, and I was like, ”Wow, people are actually reading this.” That really shocked me, that people other than my friends were reading the Web site. So the motivation was to try to get on television a second time and see if more people would read my Web site.
MW: You also get a lot of negative feedback. What is your response to people who say you steal content and post it as your own?
HILTON: I pay for every single picture on my Web site. That’s why every photo has a little photo credit at the bottom [of each post].
MW: How do you deal with all the lawsuits that result from the content on your site?
HILTON: I’m so busy doing everything myself, working on the Web site every day, that I don’t let it get to me. I have lawyers and it’s their job to worry about that.
MW: How do you start the whole daily blogging process?
HILTON: I check my e-mail to see what’s come in. That’s always the best. That’s what helps keep my site different. I don’t want to just be reliant on the celebrity pictures, which I pay for, or reliant on the previously published material. I really try to have stuff on my Web site that you won’t find on other celebrity blogs, and I think I succeed in that. That’s one of the reasons that people keep coming back.
MW: Has anyone requested that you stop writing about them?
HILTON: Yeah. Avril Lavigne. She called me once and I said, ”You make it so easy.” [Laughs.] Then I said, ”I’ll stop writing bad things about you if you stop giving me things to write about.”
MW: I take it you’re not a fan of hers?
HILTON: I just don’t think she’s very talented. She’s been accused multiple times of not writing her own songs. She’s also been accused of not being very appreciative of her fans, or her success. I also don’t like how she carries herself. She comes across as a very spoiled brat. Who the fuck likes a spoiled brat?
I want graciousness. I want people that are kind, that give back, that are cool, like Mandy Moore. She may be fucking vanilla, but I like vanilla ice cream. You can pour some hot fudge, some nuts and some whipped cream and have a sundae. Avril Lavigne is like poo sorbet. Nobody wants poo sorbet.
MW: Does the influence you have over celebrities surprise you?
HILTON: I’m always surprised when I have people saying stuff like that to me because my response is, ”If you don’t like what I’m saying, then don’t read my Web site.”
MW: When you start forming relationships with stars, like now that you’re swapping video messages with Madonna, how do you balance a level of honest criticism over favoritism on your blog?
HILTON: It’s definitely hard. I don’t ever actively seek out to become friends with celebrities, it sometimes just sort of happens in a very organic way. If you do have a relationship with them, it makes it complicated — I’m not going to lie — for sure.
MW: So are you still going to make fun of Madonna’s veiny hands?
HILTON: Sure. I’ll talk about ”Lord of the Unibrow” [her daughter, Lourdes] if she doesn’t get it fixed.
MW: What are some of your favorite Web sites?
HILTON: I love YouTube. That’s the greatest creation of the last five years. I love how it’s really created this sense of community. It inspires young people to be creative and I love that. I spend a lot of time on YouTube.
MW: You’ve gotten more political on your blog. Was that a conscious move?
HILTON: It was nothing calculated, premeditated or strategic. It was much more organic, just like the Web site. Just like how I mention music. I’m interested in music, I’m interested in politics. The Web site is an extension of my personality.
I think that my Web site entertains people, so on a very basic level I think that I’m making the world a better place. And also I’d like to think that because I vary it up and have different kinds of stories, stories with a gay interest, and a political interest, and a Latino interest — I’ve also been encouraging my readers to get more involved in organizations and charities and causes — I would like to think that I’m doing my part to make the world a better place.
MW: What organizations do you care about?
HILTON: Up until now, my favorite gay [organization] has always been Lambda Legal, because they’re the ones that are always actively fighting the fight for equality in the courts, which is where we need help the most.
Recently I discovered SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment), which is an organization for gay and lesbian seniors. I’ve featured them on my Web site. I definitely want and need and will get more involved with them, by volunteering, donating money and organizing events. Because that’s a part of our community that gets ignored a lot of times.
MW: Before you do that, what can we expect from you in the near future?
HILTON: I’m starting a syndicated radio show [called Radio Perez] that premieres on the 5th of May. I’m in a gay movie [Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild] that comes out this summer. It will be playing at some of the gay and lesbian film festivals before its theatrical release.
MW: How did that come about?
HILTON: The director, Todd [Stephens], asked me to be in it and I was thrilled to be a part of what will forever be gay history. Any gay movie that comes out is a part of gay history, just because there aren’t that many that are actually released in theaters that people go to see and people remember. The majority of films that play at gay and lesbian film festivals never get a theatrical release. This one will, and that’s really cool.
MW: Are you going to be playing Perez, or a different role?
HILTON: I can’t really talk about it.
MW: Have you shot it yet?
HILTON: Yes. We shot it in Fort Lauderdale and it was a lot of fun.
MW: Finally, how do you deal with the negative press?
HILTON: I don’t ignore it. I like to see what people are writing about me, but honestly it doesn’t bother me, because people aren’t criticizing me, they’re criticizing Perez Hilton.
Perez is just a character. Obviously he’s grounded in reality, but he’s not a real person. I don’t talk about real personal things on my Web site. Once in awhile,…the real me does come through, but that’s not that often. So if people don’t like Perez, then it doesn’t really bother me at all.
Read Perez Hilton’s daily blog at www.perezhilton.com.