Paris Hilton’s mansion sits in a gated community in Beverly Park, one of LA’s most upscale enclaves where Adele and Mark Wahlberg also live.
In the driveway, a pink Bentley and a blue Porsche. The grand entrance is flanked by a giant white model giraffe and a neon pink Chanel sign and the hallways are lined with framed prints of the woman herself.
We’re led to an upstairs room with a full-size bar and plush white chairs where even the throw pillows have prints of Hilton’s face.
It’s a home worthy of the original “It Girl” – a reality TV star who once ditched her silly persona.
But she’s a grown-up Hilton and we’re here to discuss some serious issues, especially the two years she spent in boarding schools for supposedly troubled teenagers.
“It was like something out of a horror movie,” she says. “It’s like they enjoy abusing children.”
In the early 2000s, Hilton was one of the most photographed women in the world, the leader of a party that included Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian And Lindsay Lohan.
But behind the stardom, there was a darker reality.
At the age of 16, she was sent on a series of residences for teenagers in difficultykids with all sorts of issues, from bad behavior to addictions and mental illness.
“I wasn’t a bad kid,” she says.
“I was just a normal 16-year-old girl. My parents were very strict. They didn’t want me to go out and I rebelled and started sneaking out and getting bad grades.
“My parents spoke to a therapist who recommended these schools. I later found out that this therapist and many others received commissions by sending children to these places.”
Like many children who attend these schools, Hilton’s parents paid for safe transportation, in fact an authorized kidnapping, where strangers pull teenagers out of their beds in the middle of the night and put them in the back of vans on hold.
“At 4:30 a.m., two burly men came into my room and just shook me out of bed and said, ‘Do you want to take the easy way or the hard way?’
“They were holding handcuffs and I had no idea what was going on, I thought I was kidnapped, I had no idea who these people were.
“It blows my mind that there are people like that in the world who could treat kids like that and get away with it for so long.
“I still have serious nightmares about it.”
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Hilton ended up at the Provo Canyon School in the foothills of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.
It’s billed as an ‘intensive psychiatric residential treatment center for young people’, but she says every day there was a living hell.
In her recently published autobiography, Paris: The Memoir, she claims she was woken up in the middle of the night by male staff – not doctors – and taken to a private room, where they forced her to undergo cervical exams. .
“Being treated like a criminal when you’re just a kid,” she says, “and the strip searches are constant.”
“As an adult now I consider this to be sexual abuse. Male and female staff watching a young girl get changed or naked or take a shower, it was just dehumanizing on every level.”
She also claims to have been force-fed drugs.
“One time I was like, ‘I don’t want to take any more.’ So I just got the pills under my tongue and put them in a Kleenex.
“Later someone found out and I got in so much trouble and they sent me to what they call ‘obs’ where you’re just locked in this tiny cell with bloodstains on the wall.
“They put the air conditioning as cold as possible, take away all your clothes and leave you there for hours and hours.”
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In response to the allegations, the owners of Provo Canyon say the school was sold in 2000 and they cannot comment on operations or the student experience prior to that date. But that they do not tolerate or promote any form of abuse.
Hilton, now 42 and mother of two-month-old son Phoenix, says her views have hardened on the struggling teen industry.
“I’m so in love with my little boy,” she said.
“I want to do everything to protect him and I know that by doing this job, I will protect future children.
“I just can’t imagine my little boy being anywhere near those type of people, my heart goes out to all the kids who are locked in there now.”
She believes her own parents were victims of deceptive marketing by the troubled teen industry.
Hilton has become a leading figure in a movement campaigning to shut down schools for troubled teens across America.
She helped introduce new laws in Utah that now limit the use of restraints, drugs, and seclusion rooms in youth treatment programs. It also requires facilities to document any instances in which physical restraints and isolation are used.
But she now wants to effect change at the national level.
“These people need to be held accountable,” she says.
“They need people who have the proper licenses, people who don’t have a criminal record. There are so many things that come into play. For children to have rights, it should be common sense, but unfortunately, in some states it is not that way.
“I know that by continuing to fight this fight, we will succeed and they got the wrong girl.”
Listening to her relive the darkest times of her life and her determination to bring those responsible to justice, it’s hard to argue that they indeed played with the wrong girl.