BY AYAH BAJWA
The Business of Being an ‘It Girl’
Paris Hilton was practically born to be an ‘it girl.’ Her great-grandfather was hotel mogul Conrad Hilton, and her family collectively is worth upwards of five billion dollars. She’s named Paris, after one of the most romantic and iconized cities in the world. She was young, blonde, thin and rich in the late 90’s to early 2000’s– needless to say, she was the moment, and as she grew up, the world became fixated on Paris.
At the young age of fifteen, Paris started appearing in nightclubs, doing guest appearances both for publicity and income. She exuded ‘angsty teen’ energy in the 90’s, which was the height of grunge-Americana fashion. She penciled-in her brows, boasted dark eye makeup and exclusively wore low-rise pants that flaunted her narrow figure. Then, at the turn of the twenty-first century, she turned 21 and hosted an international spree of exclusive birthday parties, all centered around her party-girl image. She wore a slinky, silver glitter dress and a tiara. The parties were loud, crowded, drunk and studded with celebrities. Entering into the new millenium, she moved away from grunge-Americana and into dark glam, and then later the soft pink Juicy Couture aesthetic. It seemed like Paris somehow always had her timing right, and with each era of fashion and culture came a new era of Paris.
At the time, social media was not the influencing powerhouse that it is today, yet Paris was arguably the original “influencer,” and she did it all through the party scene. When Paris went to a party, she was going to be seen– she certainly posed for the paparazzi, and eventually, for her own camera too. In a 2017 tweet, Paris claimed she invented the selfie with Britney Spears when the two took a flipped-camera flash picture together on a handheld digital cam.
Then, in early 2003, a young Kim Kardashian entered the scene. The up-and-coming socialite worked for Paris as her assistant, or as Kim put it, her “stylist.” The pair was constantly photographed together, which helped a young Kim gain subtle media exposure up until the premiere of Keeping Up With The Kardashians in 2007. However, Kim didn’t come from a family as famous as Paris', so if she wanted a high-exposure, influencing lifestyle like Paris, she would have to do it herself. At first, Kim attempted to replicate a model of celebrity that she had seen firsthand, so for the first few years of her fame, she was very Paris-esque. She, too, would make appearances at some of L.A’s hottest clubs and more casual red carpet events. But as Kim aged into her thirties and forties in the spotlight, she did what Paris never could: she built a billion-dollar empire.
Paris walked so Kim could run in the business world. Paris has certainly earned the title of the OG influencer, and made money of her own from appearances, endorsements and her own makeup lines. But as of 2022, Kim is worth an estimated 1.8 billion dollars, and is arguably self-made. In a way, Kim has graduated from her party-girl Paris era, but her experience working under Paris definitely set the stage for what was to come.
Once she established herself as a socialite just like her mentor, Kim capitalized off of her reality TV show and soon enough, social media trends as well. In the last decade, we have watched Kim go from advocating for hair-growth vitamins and teeth whiteners to launching a video game to a makeup and fragrance line, and now her shapewear brand SKIMS. In a way, SKIMS is Kim’s “Juicy Couture moment” in 2022– the brand is everywhere, whether hidden beneath red carpet looks or worn as athleisure by instagram models. SKIMS even recently partnered with Team USA to produce the undergarments and loungewear for female olympic athletes in Tokyo. These ventures combined have evaluated SKIMS at over $1B since 2021. It’s safe to say that at least in terms of profit, the student has become the master. Kim Kardashian broke the mold of the ‘it’ girl - sporting the trendiest outfits of the moment - by creating the ‘it’ clothes herself.