Paris Hilton wants to be the ‘Queen of the Metaverse’



By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

A fuchsia Bentley drives down a winding desert highway toward the entrance of the Neon Carnival, an afterparty held every year during Coachella. Paris Hilton has arrived. Her hair is in pigtails, partly twisted with white flowers, and she wears a bright pink romper that matches her platform boots. He greets fans on a red carpet, makes his way to a packed dance floor, and finally finds his way to the go-karts.

Hilton attends the invite-only bash in person every year, but this particular scene played out last month at Paris World, Hilton’s virtual experience on popular gaming platform Roblox, where she joined as an avatar. Nearly 400,000 Roblox users visited his virtual Neon Carnival that weekend in mid-April, about 40 times the number who attended in real life this year, according to Hilton. (The digital event was sponsored by Levi’s and designed in part by Brent Bolthouse, the founder of the original Neon Carnival.)

It’s a concept that Hilton has had success with before. On New Year’s Eve, she played a live set in the same virtual world, playing as her avatar. At Paris World, users can also buy virtual clothes, book a jet ski ride or pay to access a VIP section of a club.

“I’ve always been a covert nerd, so I’ve been obsessed with anything to do with technology and the future,” Hilton told CNN Business in an interview last month. “Now my new nickname is ‘The Queen of the Metaverse,'” she added, referring to a nickname she has used on the red carpet and in several of her social media posts, which her company 11:11 Media says stemmed from first time in the NFT space on Twitter.

Hilton has long been a trendsetter. Arguably she became an influencer even before the term existed after her reality show, “The Simple Life,” debuted in 2003. But Hilton, the great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, has also been working to redefine her public image as a successful businesswoman and cement her status as an innovator.

Recently, it has embraced two trendy but speculative tech trends: the metaverse, a vision of an immersive virtual world that doesn’t yet exist; and non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, which refer to pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital ledger system that underpins various cryptocurrencies.

Hilton has invested in several technology companies, including backing from digital avatar creation company Genies and immi animation app, which allows some NFT owners to bring the characters in their digital artwork to life. He also bought a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, an expensive and highly sought-after collection that attracted celebrity buyers. Hilton has also created her own NFT artwork. One of the last NFT pieces of his, called “Iconic crypto queen” and created in collaboration with popular NFT artist Blake Kathryn, sold for $1.111 million, a nod to 11:11 Media, Hilton’s new company named after her favorite moment of the day.

While the future of both the metaverse and NFTs remains unclear, arguably even more so for the latter after a crypto market crash this month, some say there is real potential for celebrities embracing virtual meetings and products. “For celebrities, like brands, this is another way to engage with their fans and audiences,” said Michael Inouye, principal analyst at ABI Research. “This could be through virtual events, concerts, shows and more. They could sell virtual merchandise so fans could show off their fandom in both their real and virtual lives.”

Its commitment to these digital products and services is just one part of Hilton’s growing empire. Last fall, Hilton brought all of its initiatives under 11:11 Media. The company includes its 19 product lines, such as fragrances, apparel and makeup, which have exceeded $4 billion in historical revenue, according to the company. It also includes his production company Slivington Manor Entertainment, which is behind TV projects like “Cooking with Paris” and “Paris Hilton in Love,” and his London Audio podcast company.

“We are growing rapidly and we want to find the talent of people who are interested in this space,” Hilton said. To that end, Hilton is partnering with ZipRecruiter, an online platform for job seekers, to add more employees to its roster. 11:11 Media will soon be throwing a giveaway for someone to win a mentorship program with her in Los Angeles to learn many aspects of running the business from her.

“Mentoring is also something very important to me. My mentor was my grandfather,” he said of the late Barron Hilton, the business magnate who was chairman, chairman and CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation. “It’s all the advice he gave me and the support has really accompanied me throughout my career. I want to be able to do that for someone else.”

A voice for NFTs

In 2019, Hilton emerged as one of the first celebrity promoters for NFT. She was approached by a friend who was raising money for recovery efforts related to the Australian bushfires at the time. When Hilton was asked to create a piece of digital art on her iPad, she He drew one of his cats, Munchkin. All product went to charity.

“Then I found myself on sites like Clubhouse during the pandemic talking to artists about the world of NFTs and meeting leaders in the space,” he said. “I became obsessed with it and started collaborating with artists. … It’s something I really believe in.”

Since then, he has become a public voice for NFT. During an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” earlier this year, Hilton and Fallon shared images of their Bored Ape NFTs in a conversation that a news outlet described as “frankly, hallucinogenic”. The year before, he used his time on the show to fallon school about how NFTs work.

Other celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Lindsay Lohan, and Shawn Mendes have launched their own NFTs. But recently there have been signs that the NFT market may be deflating. The NFT Market refused to a daily average of about 19,000 sales earlier this month compared to 225,000 in September, according to data cited by the Wall Street Journal.

In 2021, then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold out His first tweet posted as NFT, for a cryptocurrency valued at $2.9 million, but when the man who bought it put it up for sale, it attracted offers at a fraction of the price.

The price of Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, dipped below $30,000 earlier this month and has struggled to break above that level ever since. It remains more than 50% below its all-time high in November. Other cryptocurrencies have also been hit hard in recent weeks.

Along with the risks associated with the volatility of NFTs and the broader crypto space, scams and robberies also persist. Some celebrities have also had class action lawsuits filed against him for allegedly participating in so-called “pump and dump” cryptographic schemes.

“Usually they have been associated with cryptocurrencies where they are hyped by the celebrity and then when people invest in them, they turn around and sell their currency at a profit,” Inouye said. “This speaks to the less savory side of the whole NFT-blockchain-crypto, which is at least in part driven by hype and speculation.”

Hilton said she has been cautious about giving advice on what people should buy, noting that she is only interested in NFTs to “support artists” and “not for investment reasons.”

A change in public perception

Hilton has proven to be a successful businesswoman for years, but said public perception of her, which was obsessed with her status as an heiress and socialite, did not change until the release of the 2020 documentary “This is Paris.” The film, released on YouTube and since viewed more than 58 million times, called the abuse which he allegedly faced in boarding school as a teenager.

“The documentary changed my life in every way,” he said. “For a long time, people had a lot of misconceptions about me because of the character that I was playing…almost as a survival mechanism. Now they understand who I really am and what I’ve been through. I’m not a dumb blonde. I’m very good at pretending to be one.”

Since the release of the documentary, he has worked to change laws in seven states as part of an effort to crack down on abusive youth facilities. Earlier this month, Hilton visited the white house to discuss new legislation aimed at protecting children in such programs.

“I will always be grateful to ‘The Simple Life’ because it really helped me launch my brand and all of my businesses. But there is so much more to me,” he said. “I want to be known and respected for the business woman that I am, the business and brand that I have created, and for being an advocate for children who have suffered the abuse and trauma that I and so many others have.”

Hilton said it continues to find new ways to innovate online and offline, grow its NFT collection and help others grow their own brands.

“It’s amazing now that technology is available to anyone from their living room: if they have a Wi-Fi connection, an iPhone or whatever they’re capturing their content on, they can build a brand, support their families, be themselves and express themselves in that way,” he said. “I am proud to have created this new genre of a celebrity. … I love being an innovator and someone who is pioneering things. It’s amazing to see what that turns into.”

The CNN Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.