According to recent revelations, Paris Hilton’s “Simple Life” was actually anything but. The 39-year-old actress and media personality recently opened up about a painful secret she’s kept private for over two decades.
“I buried my truth for so long”
Paris mentioned her past trauma in the trailer of her upcoming YouTube Originals documentary “This Is Paris.” Premiering Sept. 14 on Hilton’s YouTube channel, the documentary will see the entrepreneur revealing for the first time, the mental, emotional and physical abuse she went through as a teen while attending a boarding school in Utah.
Hilton, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview about the horrific abuse and pain she underwent while at Provo Canyon School in the late ’90s. “But I’m proud of the strong woman I’ve become. People might assume everything in my life came easy to me, but I want to show the world who I truly am.”
“It was so easy to sneak out and go to clubs and parties”
Before garnering fame on the 2003 series “The Simple Life,” Hilton was a rebellious teen living in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel with her parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton. Along with younger siblings Nicky, 36, Barron, 30, and Conrad, 26.Along with the privileges of her big city life came big temptations.
“It was so easy to sneak out and go to clubs and parties,” recalls Hilton. “My parents were so strict that it made me want to rebel. They’d [punish me] by taking away my cell phone, taking away my credit card, but it didn’t work. I would still go out on my own.”
Eventually, Hilton’s parents, Rick and Kathy were fed up with her disobedience. They made the decision to send their then 17-year-old daughter to several boarding schools that claimed to focus on behavioral and mental development. The last of which was Provo Canyon School, where Hilton would stay for 11 months.
“I think it was their goal to break us down”
Almost immediately after she arrived, Hilton knew, “It was going to be worse than anywhere else. It was supposed to be a school, but [classes] were not the focus at all,” says Hilton. “From the moment I woke up until I went to bed, it was all day screaming in my face, yelling at me, continuous torture.”
Recalling the troubling period in her life, Hilton continued, saying, “The staff would say terrible things. 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 instill fear in the kids so we’d be too scared to disobey them.”
“I was having panic attacks and crying every single day”
According to reports, 3 of Hilton’s former teen classmates are also set to appear in the documentary, making similar allegations about Provo Canyon School. Including one when they were often force-fed medication and held down by restraints as punishment.
When one of her classmates told staff that Hilton had plans to run away, “you couldn’t trust anyone there,” she says, the students would be placed in solitary confinement. “They would use that as punishment, sometimes 20 hours a day.”
The fear of continued abuse began to take its toll on the once vibrant teen. “I was having panic attacks and crying every single day,” says Hilton. “I was just so miserable. I felt like a prisoner and I hated life.”
“I got in so much trouble I was scared to say it again”
Paris’s attempts to inform her parents about the horrifying conditions at school were in vain. “I didn’t really get to speak to my family,” says Hilton, “maybe 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.”
Finally, when she turned 18 in 1999, Hilton left the school and headed back to New York, but was terrified to speak a word of her experience to anyone. “I was so grateful to be out of there, I didn’t even want to bring it up again,” says Hilton. “It was just something I was ashamed of and I didn’t want to speak of it.”
“It feels like my nightmare is over”
Now, more than 20 years later, Paris has finally found the courage to open up about her past trauma while filming the documentary and hopes that she can finally move on from that troubling time in her life.
“It feels like my nightmare is over,” she says. “And I’m going to watch the movie with my parents. I think it will be good for us, but emotional too. There are no more secrets.”
Hilton reveals that she currently doesn’t have any plans to pursue legal justice. Instead, the actress is focused on raising awareness about other so-called behavior improvement schools. Which she claims, still employ as a practice, the kind of physical and verbal abuse she endured for so long.
“I want these places shut down,” says Hilton. “I want them to be held accountable. And I want to be a voice for children and now adults everywhere who have had similar experiences. I want it to stop for good and I will do whatever I can to make it happen.”
According to reports and insiders, Hilton’s sister, Nicky Rothschild Hilton and their mother, Kathy Hilton will also be appearing in the documentary. “This Is Paris” has been directed by Emmy-winning talent, Alexandra Dean and produced by Industrial Media’s The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC).
The documentary was initially scheduled for a debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in May, after which it was set for a theater release. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hilton decided ‘it was best to wait’ and hence the project was delayed. “This Is Paris” is now set to premiere, September 14 on Hilton’s YouTube Channel.