By Joshua Glazer
Perez Hilton isn’t just a celebrity blogger. He’s a serious cultural force. Love him or hate him, at 7 million clicks a day, his infiltration into people’s daily lives is something most media outlets would die for. And more impressive is the fact that he does it all from a Wi-Fi connection in a West Hollywood coffee shop. Perez’s bread and butter might be the glossy celebs that get stripped bare on his sometimes scathing, occasionally sweet and always amusing site. But his championing of underdogs such as Beth Ditto stems from a true support for the underground and a kinship for “loud, obnoxious and openly gay” individuals, like the blogger himself.
URB: When we first reached out to you, you said you sent resumés to URB at some point. You wanted to be a music journalist?
Perez Hilton: I was working as a journalist but mainly freelancing for a lot of the gay publications. And it wasn’t floating my boat. Some of it was cool. I would actively pitch stories—“I want to talk to this person or that person.” I would occasionally have the opportunity to speak to Peaches or speak to Rufus Wainwright, but a lot of the time, they were like, “No. Go interview this local gay businessman or that politician.” My interest has always been entertainment, specifically music, so I would’ve been really happy pursuing a career in music journalism. And now I’m able to be somewhat involved in music and hopefully more involved, and it’s kind of all come full circle.
What was it about Beth that made you go, “She’s awesome. I want to put her on my site,” even though she’s not necessarily the traffic-driving celebrity?
The great thing about what I do is I can write about whomever I want. I don’t have an editor telling me what I can or cannot say. That’s really liberating. I’m just drawn to naturally talented people, and she’s ferociously talented. I’ve always been drawn to the outsiders because I consider myself the freak. I think she is, too. It’s really inspiring to me to know that she and I, in our own ways, have managed to infiltrate the mainstream while still being true to ourselves.
Tell me about when you were a kid. You were raised in Miami.
The Cuban ghetto. I’ve always loved music. My first concert, when I was six, was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. She’s like Cuban royalty. And for the final encore, she did “Conga,” and she invited people onstage. I went running up and did the conga with her at six years old. And it was at that time that I knew I wanted to be an entertainer—I entertain people online.
You probably entertain more people during the day than any of the celebrity entertainers you deal with.
I have a very special relationship with my readers. I love them. I appreciate. I respect my readers. I don’t look down upon them. We talk in shorthand. They’re smart.
That direct communication is really what people expect these days.
Do it yourself. I never could have imagined that any of this would be possible. When I first started, it was my little blog. I did it for fun because it seemed easy. If it would have seemed really difficult, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Anyone can sign up, click a few buttons, customize your template, and, within minutes, you’re online communicating to the rest of the world. That was so inspiring to me and creative and liberating and great. I just did it for fun, but I was always really committed and took it seriously. Even from the very beginning, I was always consistent, and I updated my Web site every single day. And mine was different. Before me, a lot of blogs were very first person. I didn’t want to talk about myself because I’m boring. I wanted to talk about celebrities because they’re crazy.
Do you remember what your first post was?
My very first post was about Howard Stern. I was driving into work that day, and I was listening to him, and he said something that pissed me off, and I reacted to it. The second post was about Melissa Etheridge getting a TV deal to do a sitcom, and I was offering up my suggestions on what it should be instead of what it actually was. But then it never came to be; she got cancer shortly after…It never happened. And then, that’s that.
What does the job of doing PerezHilton.com entail?
It entails getting very little sleep and working very hard. I usually get up around 4:30 AM because I have to be on East Coast time, and I just start scouring the Internet to see what’s out there, what interests me, while following up on e-mails and text messages and calls and IMs that I get from friends and sources—just producing a lot of content. One of the reasons of my success in the most basic of levels is that I work harder than anyone else. I produce more content than any of the other blogs out there. Even some of the big Web sites that are owned by corporations that have a staff of dozens of people. I do it all myself. And this week I set a new record. On Tuesday, I had 7.1 million page views on my Web site.
Technology evolves so fast. Does it concern you that in five years people are gonna say, “Oh, yeah, that old blog,” when they hear of Perez Hilton?
I will hopefully change with the times and adapt and grow. My three-year plan is to have a staff. I already update it enough as it is, but then I could update it even more, constantly update the Web site 24 hours a day. It’ll be insane. I already have a global audience, and I appreciate the fact that my readers come from all over the world. So no matter where you are, at some point there’s always people on my Web site, and they can just keep coming back constantly.
Will you be running it? I’m sure you’ve gotten offers to sell.
No, I haven’t gotten a single offer. Maybe they’re afraid to buy me. I dunno.