July 20, 2011— -- Paris Hilton may be the original celebutante -- a pioneer of the thoroughly modern phenomenon of being famous for being famous.
Yet it must be noted that for 14 years now, Hilton has remained in the spotlight, appearing on reality TV series, in films, and remaining a fixture in the tabloids, while she built a multi-national billion dollar empire that has distinguished her from her wealthy friends and fellow reality stars.
For all of her beauty, early success and entertainment industry experience, the young heiress who was born into one of the world's largest hotel empires can still be jarred by reporters who ask her sensitive questions.
Such was the case when she walked out of ABC News interview that took place at her newly renovated Los Angeles home this week when she was asked if she thinks she may be past her prime.
After storming off, Hilton eventually returned to the interview after some cajoling to discuss her ideas about her own reinvention.
"I've been doing this for 15 years now, so it's been a long time … so just like any other business person or someone in the industry, it's always important to reinvent yourself and come up with new projects," she said.
From New York party girl to reality TV personality on the Fox series "The Simple Life", and now the head of a billion-dollar personal empire, Hilton has certainly kept busy for a girl born into the lap of luxury. She now has stores in 31 countries, selling everything from perfumes to shoes to handbags to beauty products. She's even slapped her name on a motorcycle racing team.
"So many people that are rich do nothing," Hilton said. "I like being able to do what I want, to buy whatever I want, and to not ask for permission like some of my other friends who are adults but live like children."
The celebutante marketplace has become rather crowded since Paris Hilton burst onto the scene in the late 1990s. People like Hilton's former protege and sometimes "frenemy" Kim Kardashian have eating up a lot of the oxygen, with hit reality shows and a mountain of magazine covers.
While others may have usurped her role at the top of the reality television pecking order -- her latest series, "The World According to Paris" debuted to a dismal 400,000 viewers on the Oxygen Network – Hilton has had to deal with a terrifying phenomenon plaguing celebrities: stalkers.
James Brian Rainford was arrested outside Hilton's home on the Fourth of July. Rainford is the same man who attacked her now ex-boyfriend in April outside of a courthouse -- where Hilton was to testify against another stalker.
"It's very unsettling, because you don't know what frame of mind someone like that is in. Now four times he has tried to get in contact with me," Hilton said. "He's keeps getting in trouble for it, yet he keeps coming back, so obviously there's something wrong with him."
Hilton, who turned 30 in February, is eager now to show the world that she has now grown up. Yet "The World According to Paris" shows her engaged in her usual hi-jinks -- inhabiting an ecosystem where paparazzi are as omnipresent as pigeons in Manhattan, and where shopping is the dominant form of hunting and gathering.
Hilton even made a revealing and unusually candid admission about her on screen persona -- that when she is not on camera her voice drops, and she is much more serious.
"It's the character that I developed for 'The Simple Life.' They wanted a character that was an airhead with a baby voice, and so that's a character that I do, and I had to do it for five seasons," she said. "And so sometimes when I'm on camera I'll revert back to it, just because I'm so used to it because I did it for so long."
She defends her behavior on the show as mere entertainment and part of the world of reality television.
"I need to make people laugh. So if I'm always serious about everything I do, it would be boring. So I like to entertain people and make people smile," she said.
Yet everything on the finale of the show's first season, which airs Wednesday, isn't fluff. Some serious and even searing scenes include a tearful exchange with her mother, Kathy Hilton, where Paris is making what appear to be veiled references to her drug and alcohol arrests. The show has also featured fights with her then boyfriend, Cy.
Yet the ratings for the series have been bleak, and the low numbers have many entertainment writers asking whether Hilton's run in the limelight -- which started at age 16 -- is now over.
Though Hilton said that she doesn't feel that the people following in her footsteps, like Kardashian, are overshadowing her, and that the ratings on the show being low don't bother her, she walked out of the interview with the mention of her moment having passed.
When Hilton did return later to answer more questions, she managed to end the interview on an affable note, showing off her massive, air conditioned dog house -- and she even ended the interview with a hug.