Perez Hilton is used to being called names. But the one thing he really doesn't want to be called is a "mogul."
"I don't consider myself a celebrity. I don't consider myself a famous person, " Hilton, who has fashioned a digital empire out of celebrity gossip, told BusinessNewsDaily. "I don't consider myself holier than thou. It's important to be an Everyman and a relatable person. I don't want to be perceived as a mogul, I want to be perceived as a blogger."
Hilton, the world's most famous celebrity gossip blogger, is not being humble. Instead, he recognizes the importance of remaining closely associated with his brand. Hilton, who started blogging eight years ago (back when most people were still getting their gossip fix from print publications and TV shows), believes his websites wouldn't work if they weren't closely aligned with his own personality and his own voice.
"What makes me different is me," said Hilton, the self-proclaimed "Queen of All Media."
Hilton said it's his own personal take on celebrity gossip that makes his websites unique. And it's the reason he probably won't ever sell his business, he says, unless he can continue to be closely involved in running it.
"Not that I've ever received a serious offer to sell," he said.
Doing what he loves
Hey may not consider himself a mogul, but Perez has built quite an empire of digital properties. Since he began blogging about celebrities, he has expanded beyond his flagship site PerezHilton.com. His websites now include fashion site CocoPerez.com, fitness health and wellness site FitPerez.com, a pet-focused site named for his famed mini-Goldendoodle TeddyHilton.com, and Perezitos.com, a celebrity kids and parenting site. In addition, Hilton has two radio shows, runs a music company that manages musicians, and started a TV production company. The CW has picked up episodes of his TV show, "Perez Hilton: All Access."
Hilton said that when he started out, he had no idea he was laying the foundation for the business he has today.
Hilton, who began his career in Hollywood as a reporter, said, "I started as a hobby." He did not anticipate making a lot of money as a celebrity gossip columnist.
Building his business around something he loves doing is part of the reason he's been so successful, he said.
"I think that's the message I would tell people," he said. "Do what you love and happiness and success will follow. Instead, people do what they think will make them the most money. It can be a trap that can lead to a lot of disappointment and unhappiness."
He's careful to point out that doing what he loves doesn't mean he doesn't work at it.
"I work insanely hard still," he said. "But I love every minute of it. I consider it a hobby that I'm able to make a living doing."
The road to becoming a successful entrepreneur hasn't come without a few bumps. The 2009 "Perez Hilton Presents" tour, for example, had critics claiming Hilton didn't understand the music business the way he did his core gossip business.
And, while being a celebrity gossipmonger has earned him lots of fans and followers – including 4.5 million on Twitter – it has not made him as many friends.
Recently Hilton has moved to change that: He says he is trying to bring a more upbeat and less vicious tone to his blog posts, and focusing more on charity.
One of his newer projects, for example, is his "One Night In…" concerts. He has hosted them in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and London, and performing artists have included Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Courtney Love, Katy Perry, the Ting Tings, Estelle, and Kanye West. His latest event, "One Night In Austin," will be held Saturday night (March 17) to coincide with SXSW. Proceeds from the event will benefit the VH1 Save the Music charity.
Hilton's decision to support Save the Music is part of his bigger plan to rethink his persona and the impact he's making on the world.
"I'm trying to move past all that [negativity] and am trying to focus on positive energy out there," said Hilton. He is careful to point out that the change has been organic rather than the result of a calculated business decision. "The universe is telling me what I need to do," he said.
The attempted shift toward a kinder, gentler Perez hasn't been without its rewards.
"People have been responding in a good way to this new direction," he said. "Everything is connected, and though I made that shift two years ago, now that positive energy is making its way back to me."
Hilton said, for example, that celebrities have been more positive toward him – which, he admits, has been good for business.
"Celebrities are coming up to me at events, and unlike in the past, they are being positive and appreciating the new direction I'm going in," he said. He doesn't doubt it's also helped his ad team sell more ads and helped him affiliate with more brands.
He's currently featured prominently in a Lean Pockets advertising campaign, and his site recently featured a big ad campaign for Fran Drescher's TV Land show, "Happily Divorced."
Not all sweetness and light
Hilton said anyone in any business ultimately has to change with the times.
"I'm not going to be defined by my past or prevent me from moving forward. A person or business who is unable to evolve or grow will ultimately die or falter," he said.
Hilton cites the example of Oprah Winfrey's decision to stop featuring salacious topics on her show and to reinvent herself as a New Age purveyor of enlightened content.
"She made a risky move when she said she didn't want to talk about sensationalist things on talk shows anymore," he said. "And she ended up doing great good."
Lest you think Hilton is straying too far from his core business, however, he shows his readers he can still dish with the best of them.
His recent decision to post nude photos allegedly of "Glee" star Heather Morris, for example, had loyal and vocal "Glee" fans far from gleeful.
"'Glee' fans were upset, but that's my job," Hilton said. "Even though I am more positive, I have to do my job."
As to who inspires Hilton most, he mentioned actress Angelina Jolie, who just may be the greatest celebrity rebranding artist of all time. Jolie was met with a lot of skepticism at first, he said, but she eventually succeeded in establishing herself as a spiritually evolved human being.
"She is somebody who had a colorful past and was able to find happiness in her own life and wanted to share that with the world and her family," Hilton said. "I believe her intentions are pure and she wants to help children and refugees and make the world a better place."
As for himself, "I'd love to be remembered as someone who inspired people, made the world a better place, changed the way the way the media reported on celebrities, changed people's expectations, and inspired other bloggers to be more positive and mindful of the words and energy they were putting out there." He also said he'd also like to be remembered as a "fully evolved, well-rounded person, not just a businessperson."
"I'm not defined by my past," Hilton said. "I don't define myself by what I do, but who I am."