It’s been 10 years since Paris Hilton made her first major festival debut as a DJ. At the time, several publications and online spectators disdainfully rejected the multi-hyphenate’s entrance into the electronic dance world and nitpicked her setlist, stage appearance and gear choices (which, if you were curious, consist of the Traktor S8 and Swarovski-encrusted headphones).
“If I’m being completely honest, I think a lot of that anxiety, that initial baggage, for me, is no longer there,” she tells Variety. “I feel comfortable in this world now — having been recognized for the work I’ve put into it my career, whether that be through the awards I’ve received or just the people, the energy I get when I’m on.”
There is something undeniably impressive about the synergy surrounding Hilton. She describes herself as somewhat of an empath when she’s on stage, admitting to being overtly aware of audience reactions.
“At times I get frustrated when things don’t come out as perfectly as I’d like them to — something I’ve always thought was because of my ADHD,” she explains. “But there’s not much that can intimidate me when it comes the actual music or deciding what to mix.”
Hilton’s setlist varies from occasion but the latter rings true as she has fearlessly, and famously, melted modern pop bangers from Dua Lipa and Britney Spears into the thumping basslines of unsuspecting favorites like Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” She has her go-to songs (her easy pick would be Fisher’s “Losing It”) but she’s quick to credit her tight-knit community of musical friends and mentors like Zedd (who DJ-ed Hilton’s wedding anniversary party), Diplo, and Martin Garrix, whom Hilton has championed since he was the teen that scored a U.K. No. 1 with “Animals.”
“I’m lucky that I have friends who are always willing to make remixes for me of my favorite songs, or sometimes I’ll find different variations of tracks that people normally wouldn’t think to play in an upbeat setting, but they’re made to fit the EDM or dance world — sped up or whatever, it works.”
“The only genres I wouldn’t mix with is probably anything country or classical,” she laughs. “That might not work.”
Hilton has already confirmed a forthcoming collaboration set to appear on her long-time friend Kim Petras’ unannounced album and has a string of appearances lined up for the following year. She’ll be playing a set at Hilton Grand Vacations’ Tournament of Champions in January in Orlando, Florida for the kickoff to the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, which aims to bring together sports, entertainment and music for three nights of evening concerts (Jan. 19-22) to spotlight women in all of the aforementioned sectors. Hilton will join an all female-lineup featuring En Vogue, Maren Morris, Ellie Goulding (whom Hilton describes as “a total rock star”), NERVO and Emma Hewitt.
“I hung out with Ellie in London and she’s truly such a beautiful person inside and out. Her voice is incredible and I’m beyond honored to be appearing on a lineup beside her and the rest of the women [on the bill], especially at an event like Tournament of Champions. To have that representation means the most,” she says. “We’re gonna be sliving.”
The 41-year-old business mogul and former reality star has traveled all over the world to perform her eclectic mixes, even performing in her customized metaverse, but remains enamored of and inspired by the music coming out of Ibiza, where she was once the sole American female DJ with a residency. Now, she’s gearing up to release her own music, which for the most part will remain in that same EDM spectrum, “with hints of pop sprinkled throughout.”
“I’ve also been learning to produce,” she adds. “It’s hard, it’s a very technical skill but I’ve made some songs already and I’m excited to see what else I can do. I’ve got new songs on the way, and just a lot of new ideas and projects coming sooner than you think.”
When she’s not on the 1s and 2s, Hilton continues to aid in the ongoing fight for federal change in the “troubled teen” industry, an issue that she spoke to at length in her 2020 YouTube doc “This Is Paris,” where, for the first time, she opened up about her mistreatment in a draconian reform school. “We’ve managed to change the laws in seven states, and there’s still a lot left to do but I’m proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish and I’m proud of the connections we’ve been able to make,” she says. “That inspires me the most.”