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Paris Hilton is many things to many people. An heiress to an incredible fortune, Hilton first rose to fame as one of the original paparazzi targets, a girl who apparently loved to party and be seen at all the hottest clubs.

Hilton cemented her fame and her status as a tabloid fixture with her appearance in the popular reality show, The Simple Life. The show ran for nearly five years, attracting thousands of eager fans.

And, to this day, Hilton is still well known for the show, and for the persona that she developed during her tenure in the series. 

How did Paris Hilton become famous?

Hilton was born in New York City in 1981. The eldest of four children, Hilton is the heiress to the Hilton Hotel Chain fortune. She was raised in a culture of privilege, surrounded by celebrities like Michael Jackson and socialites such as Ivanka Trump.

As a child, Hilton was noticeably beautiful and began modeling when she was very young. At the age of 19, Hilton signed with a modeling agency and began to walk the runway for major brands.

Hilton quickly became a firm fixture on the L.A. nightclub scene, appearing at club openings and exclusive events. The press loved Hilton and her unique brand of beauty and flash, and she was followed almost everywhere she went.

In 2003, her fame only increased when she began appearing in the reality TV show, The Simple Life

‘The Simple Life’ is an iconic reality television show

The Simple Life was based on the same concepts explored in several iconic ’60s-era sitcoms, including Green Acres, where affluent people would trade in their fame in order to spend time with “average” Americans. The show featured Paris Hilton and her friend, fellow socialite Nicole Richie, as they stay with working-class families, try to work regular jobs, and maintain lives outside their privileged LA bubble.

Hilton cultivated a “dumb blonde” persona, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, and her fame began to steadily increase. The Simple Life became wildly popular with viewers, and although it was slammed by many critics, the show was undoubtedly hilarious, and to many, it was the perfect representation of celebrity culture.

The Simple Life went off the air in 2007, after five successful seasons — but it remains popular with fans to this day, a time capsule of the early 2000s, and a visual representation of how Paris Hilton became such a superstar. 

Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton (L) aririve for the "Simple Life 2" Welcome Home Party at The Spider Club on April 14, 2004 in Hollywood, California.
Nicole Richie and Paris | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hilton wasn’t the only star to rise from The Simple Life. Her best friend, Nicole Richie, was at her side every step of the way, from the first season to the fifth, final one.

Richie, however, wasn’t the initial pick to co-star with Hilton in the series. According to a recent episode of the Even the Rich podcast, Hilton was involved in every step of the pre-production process for The Simple Life, and originally, the socialite wanted her sister, Nicky Hilton, to appear in the series with her. 

However, the younger Hilton wasn’t really interested in moving to Arkansas for an extended period of time. At the time, Paris Hilton stated that her sister had a boyfriend, and was hesitant to leave him: “She’s from New York. She was not, like, into moving to a small town, so I picked (Nicole), my best friend since I was two years old.”

No matter what the root of Nicky Hilton’s hesitancy, she turned down the show — paving the way for Nicole Richie’s fame in the process.