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The Gossip Whisperer

Psst…Perez Hilton has a secret: he’s a changed man
By Nelson Branco

Whether you like him or not, you can’t deny that Mario Lavandeira Jr., a.k.a. Perez Hilton, has impacted and influenced not only the blogosphere zeitgeist, but also gay culture.

Once the most hated and feared man in Hollywood (remember those penis-drawn shapes on celebrity faces he’d post on PerezHilton.com?), Hilton has pulled a Madonna and reinvented himself into a kinder, gentler version of himself. He even has two kids
to punctuate his evolution from bad boy to responsible blogger and celebrity pundit.

Hilton’s fun, yet abrasive—but, more importantly, unique—way of detailing the daily events of Hollywood quickly drew a loyal (and sometimes horrified) audience. After PerezHilton.com blew up, Hilton ironically became a celebrity himself. He also became pals with the stars he used to look up to as he was growing up, which prompted some to accuse the Miami native of a “reporting bias.” Criticisms aside, no one can accuse Hilton of ever denying his sexuality or not defending the gay community. I’ve known him
since 2004, so thought it would be fun to catch up with the new-and-improved blogger, who’s now a single dad—and a soap star! Well, sort of. Hilton was cast in a recurring role on daytime’s The Bold and the Beautiful last month as a minister named Murphy. Yes, you read that correctly.

Here’s our conversation:

What did you think when B&B cast you as a minister?
I laughed. But it’s not the first time I’ve played a minister. I played one in Another Gay Movie. My only [caveat] was I ideally wanted to play a character and not Perez Hilton. But, let’s face it, I would have played anyone they wanted me to.

B&B has a transgender character, Maya, played by female Karla Mosley. What do you think of the assertion by some that only trans actors should play trans roles?
I don’t think it has to be a mandate. As a gay man, it’s similarly disappointing to see heterosexual actors playing gay roles—and being awarded for that. There are a ton of gay actors who would love to play gay roles. It all comes down to fear. There’s fear of casting openly gay and trans actors in Hollywood. But I’m not going to boycott a movie because they didn’t cast a gay or trans actor. Listen, give a brother and a sister more work. I don’t see any issue with Karla playing Maya, because they didn’t know the character was going to be trans when they created her.

Is acting a bigger priority for you now? You started out as an actor…
I want to continue to work. The world has changed so much since I began 12 years ago as a blogger. I’m doing it all. I’m acting, I have a podcast. I’m incredibly hands-on with the
website, which is the mother ship. As the years have gone on, I haven’t gotten lazier: I’m doing more, not less. I would love to have a really long career and longevity—much like Joan Rivers had. I’ve learned to say yes more often to jobs. I used to turn down a lot of work. I used to think: ‘Well, that’s not cool or good for my brand so I’m not going to do it.’ Now, I don’t care—if someone wants to hire me, I’m down! I have two kids to feed! My new mantra is, make more, spend less.

You are basically credited with being the original mainstream blogger. Technology has changed the game so much. What would you tell yourself 12 years ago if you could?
I would tell myself: ‘You’re going to be successful no matter what you do, so when you know what you’re doing is wrong, don’t do it!’ In the past, I would do something wrong just to get a rise out of people. I would think: I don’t care what people think of me because I’m playing a character. I really believe now that I’m a talented person. I believe now that I could have achieved success without having to do what I’ve done in the past. So, basically, do the right thing when it’s the right thing.

How do you think celebrity has evolved over the years?
Who the celebs are has evolved. When I started blogging it was the Brad Pitts, Angelina Jolies and Jennifer Anistons. Then it became Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Then it evolved to reality TV stars from Jersey Shore and The Hills. Now the ‘celebs’ today are the social media stars. Even though the mainstream media doesn’t mention them much—and neither do I, to be honest—they have eight million followers on Instagram and six million subscribers on YouTube. It’s crazy! But that will change too. Who the social stars are today won’t be the stars of tomorrow. Celebrity is
constantly evolving and changing. That’s why I’m grateful I’m here 12 years later still covering all this. I am a dinosaur of the Internet. I’m happily soldiering on.

Social media: good or bad?
I think it’s bad. Personally, I’m glued to my phone constantly and I hate it. I tell myself I have to be because it’s my job, but I’m fine-tuning it slowly. I unfollowed Kim Kardashian on Instagram along with a lot of other people, so I spend less time on social media.

What do you want your legacy to be?
To be the best dad—not a great dad, but the best.

I’ll be like Giuliana Rancic at the Emmys: how do you juggle it all as a single parent?!
[Laughs] I know! Why don’t celeb dads get asked that? I’m really lucky that I’m my own boss and I can work from home. My mom lives with us, so that helps. I also have nannies, I’m not ashamed to say that. You need help. But I put in the hours with my family—that’s the key. Personally, I love my kids and love spending time with them. I go on vacation with my kids. And I have zero guilt.

Would you be happy if they went into show business?
I have no inclination of what my kids want to do yet, but the only thing I will demand and expect and encourage of them is: whatever they decide to do, they have to work harder than anyone else. That’s what I’ve learned from my career. You have to truly work harder than anyone else to be successful. If they can do that, they can do whatever they want. I think it’s important for everyone to have a need to work for a living. If not, it’s a soul-crushing thing that could lead to depression and an unhappy life.

Are you dating? How does Perez Hilton date?
I would make the time to date but it’s just the matter of finding somebody to date. I don’t have the desire to online date because it’s a time-suck; it’s a full-time job itself. I’m leaving it up to the universe and I’m hoping it happens the old-fashioned way. Like stalking someone on Facebook!

Anything on your bucket list?
To meet Angelina Jolie! I’ve met pretty much everyone from Madonna to Oprah Winfrey. Oh, and I’d like to meet Hillary Clinton too.

Is your feud with Lady Gaga over?
All I will say is, I wish her well.

Gays have made so much progress down south, but the US election might threaten all that. Are you hopeful things will keep progressing for the community?
Yes. I’d rather choose hope than fear. It is so different being gay today [as opposed to when I came out in 1990s New York]. While we’ve made many advances for gay people, being black in America is still ‘criminal.’ We take a lot of steps forward, we take a lot of steps backward. Most of the deplorables—which I think is a great word, by the way—are older and eventually they’re going to die! [Laughs] I’m instilling hope and acceptance into my children.

Should we reinvent Pride? Has it become too commercial? Has it lost its gravitas?
[Sighs] I’ve never been a big fan of parades. I hate parades—even the one at Gay Pride. Unless I’m at Disneyland and they’re really well organized and shorter, parades are boring. To change Pride and what that looks like is really expensive. It’s not going to happen. It’d be cool to have a one-day Coachella-like festival with amazing performances and inspiring speeches. To do that in every city is really expensive. It’s a lot cheaper to put on a parade. I do think educating younger gays about our history is important. There’s a lot who don’t know as much as those who have lived it.

NELSON BRANCO is the editor of 24 Hours Toronto newspaper. As a contributing editor, he’s penned pieces for magazines like Hello Canada, People, TV Guide and online sites like Huffington Post. He’s also worked as a TV producer for Breakfast TV, The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News and Sun News Network

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