Reconsidering Perez Hilton
BY Jeremy Kinser
March 21 2011 5:10 PM ET
To call Perez Hilton a polarizing cultural figure is like calling his buddy Lady Gaga a mere pop singer. Since he launched PerezHilton.com in 2005, the blogger, born Mario Lavandeira, has been making news almost as frequently as he covers it. Delivering biting barbs against frequent targets like Jennifer Aniston, Fergie, and Lindsay Lohan made Hilton’s site a daily must read, though many gay people were irked by leading posts they perceived as outing then-closeted celebs such as Clay Aiken, Lance Bass, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Resentment grew stronger following a nasty dustup with Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas and Hilton’s decision to post explicit photos of writer Dustin Lance Black. Anger against Hilton was so strong that when he spoke out against the rash of bullying-related suicides of gay teenagers last year, many people didn’t want to hear it, and called him a hypocrite. Hilton issued a series of very public mea culpas, even going on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to declare his intention to change.
But Hilton swears he’s a new man and to prove it has turned his annual celeb-studded birthday party into a fundraiser for the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). He offered further evidence during this interview by apologizing several times for uttering a few profanities. Hilton speaks with The Advocate for the first time since his controversial 2009 cover story about his strong bond with Gaga, the message for his critics, and how Justin Bieber came to donate his hair.
The Advocate: What’s the biggest misconception people still have about you?
Perez Hilton: That the real person behind Perez is an asshole. I really don’t view myself as an asshole and anyone who knows me in the real world who has known me for a while would say that I’m not an asshole. But it’s OK that people think that.
Why do you say it’s OK?
It will take a long time to change people’s perceptions and that’s OK. I’m not comparing myself to Madonna and Angelina Jolie, but they both had very colorful pasts and found happiness and a calling apart from their professions and felt the need and desire to share with the world and make it better. I’m not trying to be Mother Teresa and say I want to make the world a better place. But I don’t want to make it a worse place so I’ve been taking steps to not contribute what other people could perceive as bullying and hurtfulness.
What brought about the big change in your alter ego?
It was very organic. I’ve always talked about things of interest to me and my readers, such as politics and gay issues. I was very vocal in helping any way I could with Prop. 8 and I was very vocal in animal activism, which I was so involved in I started a website just for that. And there are Latino issues I’ve supported. Anything relevant I talk about so when all these gay teenagers started committing suicide, of course I talked about it. These are not topics you’d usually expect a celebrity blog to talk about, but it’s what I’ve always done. And in doing so, and more than anytime in the past, I got a huge backlash.