The Real Perez Hilton

Perez Hilton was heralded when he embarrassed Miss California and derided when he did the same to Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. So what's a guy to do when he's the most loved and most hated gay guy in America?

BY Benoit Denizet-Lewis

July 05 2009 11:00 PM ET

Editor's Note:This issue of The Advocate had already gone to press by the time Perez Hilton made national news by calling will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas a "faggot" after they exchanged words at a 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards. This is an Advocate.com exclusive update to the cover story.

If I were to begin this profile of Perez Hilton in the style of one of his blog posts, which is to say that if I were to begin this profile in the style of a catty, celebrity-obsessed seventh-grade girl, I might write something like this: OMG!!! Sources confirm that former fatty Perez Hilton is getting LEAN and wants to get NAKED with writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis! Can U believe it?!?

Perez admits as much to me one recent evening in Los Angeles, as we're braving rush-hour traffic in his Toyota Camry, a car that seems entirely wrong for the self-described Queen of All Media. He's been talking about gay things (cute boys, the gym, gay marriage, American Idol finalist Adam Lambert), but he's kept it all above board until now, blurting out that he's almost ready to take his clothes off.

I'm not sure what to say to that. I also feel a sudden and unexpected kinship with former Miss California Carrie Prejean, who drew Perez's infamous question about gay marriage at the Miss USA 2009 pageant in Las Vegas. When she told Perez that she believed marriage should be a union between a man and a woman, he called her "a dumb bitch" on a video blog on his website, PerezHilton.com, igniting a firestorm and propelling the loudmouthed gossip blogger into the national conversation about gay marriage. (Perez had actually written the question hoping Miss Utah would answer it, thereby bringing attention to the Mormon Church's financing of the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign.) Will Perez call me a mean name too if I respond negatively to his nudist intentions? Fortunately, I've misread the situation. Perez doesn't want to get naked with me in his Camry. He wants to get naked in front of other people at a later date. PHEW!

"I've been working so hard on my health and my body," he tells me sometime during the 20 minutes it takes us to drive four blocks, "and I'm almost to the point where I'm comfortable enough to show it off. When I am, I'm going to be naked, all the time, everywhere. I'm going to be like Marc Jacobs. Every photo shoot he does, he's naked. That's going to be me."

There's symbolism, I think, in Perez's impending nakedness. Both professionally and socially, the 31-year-old Perez, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, tells me he's never felt so happy, so free. (This is a month before Perez saw his world upended in Toronto, June 21, at the MuchMusic Video Awards, when he called Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am a "faggot" and then allegedly was punched in the eye by the band's manager. Instead of receiving sympathy, Perez, who posted an angry and tearful video on his blog the next day, was ridiculed by celebrities and readers of his blog alike, some of whom said he had it coming. Perez also found himself under attack from many in the gay community, who were aghast to learn that he'd used the word "faggot" to describe the musician. "I've always known that a lot of gays didn't like me," he told me a week after the incident, "but after this it felt like no gays liked me. It was one of the worst weeks of my life." More on the incident and Perez's reaction to it later.)

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