I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this ordeal of yours, Paris. I know this is a scary time for you as you adjust to your new life in the big house, but I want to applaud the statement you issued to the press the other day recognizing that you do serve as an example to young people. You stated your willingness to face the consequences, acknowledged your mistakes and declared that you will take a more active role when making decisions. It’s long overdue and a step in the right direction.
In the weeks ahead, you’ll have plenty of time to spend by yourself, thinking. I hope you continue to think about the platform you have, the millions of people you influence and consider what else you might be able to accomplish with all this attention. Here are a few ideas:
1. Write a book about your choices, mistakes and what you’ve learned. Donate a few thousand copies to after school programs and intervention centers for troubled kids.
2. Extend your charity work. Your mother is a celebrated philanthropist and you regularly show up at charity events (including ones you were paid to attend). Why not become the voice and face of a worthy cause you truly believe in?
3. Get to know how the other half lives. Because of your privileged life, you’ve probably haven’t been exposed to a lot of “real” people who face real hardship. Talk to as many of your fellow inmates as you can about their lives and experiences.
4. Learn to spend your money more productively. Pack a calculator and figure out all of the good you could do with the money you spend on an average designer purse. For example, $3,700 could pay for clean water for a year for 3,700 people in Africa or feed 500 children in the slums of Mexico or teach 14 inner city kids how to be entrepreneurs. Then multiply those numbers by how many purses you have purchased and contemplate the impact that you could have made instead.
5. Turn your love of animals into action. Book appearances for after you’re released at events sponsored by local animal shelters or do something to generate support for the millions of pets that are neglected or abused. Better yet, donate and personally deliver animals from the ASPCA to elderly people so they can experience the kind of special bond you share with Tinkerbell.
6. You’re young and have such style and confidence…why not share it with other women? Learn more about non-profits like Dress for Success, which provides low-income women with business attire so they can get a decent job and get back on their feet. Or write letters of encouragement to young girls with eating disorders and major body image issues. Tell them that they don’t need to be stick thin to be beautiful. You could even teach them some beauty tricks. Help them build confidence of their own.
7. Read. Spend those long hours by yourself reading about other women’s lives and their experiences in the world — Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes, Princess: Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, the Diary of Ann Frank, Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou, modern-day girls in the middle east. Challenge yourself to become a more powerful woman.
8. Watch the news or read a few newspapers and catch up on current events. Explore what’s really happening in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Darfur, North Korea or around the polar ice caps. Contemplate how you fit in to the bigger picture and how significant your life really is to the other four billion or so people on Earth. Think about the awesome power of all the publicity you’ve received and how all that attention could be shared with vital humanitarian causes.
9. Build a new life plan for Paris Hilton. Turn this experience into the biggest learning lesson of your life. Think about how you can do something truly good and productive once you’ve served your sentence. Make a real, positive difference in society. Become famous for something other than your looks, partying and money. You have the potential to be so much more.
10. Think about how you can help others learn from your mistakes and those of your celebrity peers. Is there a public service announcement or documentary you could inspire that could focus on the downside to life in the fast lane? Think about the world of all night parties, drugs, DUIs, hospitals, rehabs and reckless living you and your friends have been living in. Help the young people who worship you and the lifestyle you lead by reminding them about the real consequences to bad behavior and stupid choices.
I hope we meet a new you when you emerge from jail in a few weeks. What better way to celebrate your freedom than that? All you have now is time to think and reflect. Consider it a gift. This could just be the best thing to ever happen to you… not to mention a lot of other people out there.