Paris Hilton Thought Her Sex Tape Would Cancel ‘The Simple Life’

The socialite Paris Hilton is one of the celebrities that gets accused of being “famous for being famous.”

As the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, who founded the massive Hilton Hotel line, she was born into a life of luxury and privilege that most of us couldn’t even imagine. As such, watching her life has been tantalizing for many, as well as the prospect of her living a life more like the average American in her reality show, The Simple Life with her friend Nicole Richie.

However, there were factors in Hilton’s life that made her fame and her show complicated. What could so seriously affect the life of someone so rich and famous?

Before ‘The Simple Life’

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton | Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

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In 2001, Paris Hilton was dating a professional poker player by the name of Rick Salomon. At some point in their relationship, they filmed a sex tape together. However, this relationship wouldn’t last for more than a year. After the two broke up, Hilton moved on to another relationship with model Jason Shaw. This newer relationship ended in 2003.

Around this time, Paris Hilton was famous, but not mega-famous. She was a model, working under Donald Trump’s company and showing up at high-profile events like New York Fashion Week. With this fame, she was frequently hired to appear as a promoter at various clubs, and even ventured into acting a few times.

This was also when she made friends with today’s “it girl,” Kim Kardashian. So when Fox approached her for The Simple Life, it seemed like a natural progression for Hilton.

Paris Hilton and Salomon

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While Hilton had moved on from her relationship with Salomon by the time The Simple Life started airing, she would soon have to remember him very publicly. Without Hilton’s consent, somebody leaked the sex tape featuring the couple.

It turned into a legal battle: Salomon accused Hilton of defaming him as an exploiter, and sued the company that released the tape. Hilton was emotionally devastated.

Hilton was vilified for the sex tape, even though she had no role in its release. Today, people would recognize it as a violation of consent, but at the time, she was blamed for being a slut and a bad influence.

Hilton herself even started to believe this, and felt like she would be judged for the tape, and that she was a bad person for allowing it to exist in the first place. Meanwhile, Salomon ended up pairing with an adult film company to release the video, and ended his lawsuit against the Hiltons.

Though Hilton was awarded compensation and a percentage of the video’s profits, she’s denied making money off of the tape. It’s never been confirmed whether this is true.

The tape and ‘The Simple Life’

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Despite Hilton’s fears that the public would hate her for the sex tape, its released caused her fame to explode. Everybody was talking about Paris Hilton, and bad publicity is still publicity.

According to podcast Even The Rich, Hilton believed that the show would be canceled, but Fox, the network hosting it, were excited enough to put the show at the 8:30 block, and the ratings started high and only grew. People were drawn in by the infamous tape, and stayed engaged watching Hilton and Richie attempt to lead regular lifestyles.

The Simple Life helped Paris Hilton solidify her celebrity status, but at the same time it gave her a public image that might not have been entirely accurate. Hilton played up the dumb blonde persona, and while it made the show a success, it has affected her image. But perhaps after all these years, people can look at Hilton with a more nuanced view.