DUBAI // Even Paris Hilton admits she is known as a "blonde airhead". But the American hotel heiress, star of such television programmes as The Simple Life, hopes her time in Dubai will make people take her more seriously. The 28-year-old says there is more to her than meets the eye. In the city to film her new reality TV series, Best Friends Forever, she said the show would be a chance for people to see "the real Paris" - an aspiring businesswoman with a keen sense of the value of her family name.
The Simple Life, the show that saw her shoot to fame alongside Nicole Richie, created an image she has found hard to shed. The programme, which was first shown in 2003, portrayed her and Richie as two spoilt rich girls struggling to cope with low-paid manual jobs such as cleaning and serving food in fast-food restaurants. "On The Simple Life, I'd never done a reality show before and the producers told me they wanted me to be a blonde airhead so it was a character I was playing.
"I had no idea the show would last five seasons so I had to carry on the persona. With this show, they can see I'm a businesswoman, it's more the real me," she said. Ms Hilton hopes working in Dubai, with its particular cultural rules and etiquette, will prove she is not the stereotypical Los Angeles party girl as portrayed in the world's media. She and the 22 contestants started filming this week for the show in which they take on challenges in a bid to win the socialite's heart.
"A lot of people will realise I'm a brand and a businesswoman," she said. "I've built a lot over the years. I'll show the girls how I've built my brand and it's not all about going to parties. Now, when I go to parties, it's about working and promoting one of my products." Since The Simple Life, Ms Hilton has had minor roles in series such as The OC, and started her own music label, Heiress Records, in 2004.She announced this week that she would use her time in Dubai filming the fourth series of BFF, the search for her Dubai best friend, to expand her business including searching for potential properties to open a hotel as well as developing her fashion brand, which includes accessories and perfume.
Ms Hilton - who is staying at Festival City during filming - says Dubai is "a huge, growing capital for fashion" and with the strong sense of family in the Emirates, she feels that the kind of friend she finds will be better than the many who over the years, she says, have "used" her. "I know I have a huge following in the Middle East and I've wanted to come here forever. I think there's a lot of misconceptions about this place around the world. I want to show the world how cool it is."
In the show's previous series, filmed in the UK, she chose her new best friend to be the male contestant on the show, Samuel Hextall, beating 12 female contestants. About 300 men and women applied to appear on the show in which 22 contestants from a mix of nationalities, vie for the title of Ms Hilton's best friend. email@example.com Analysis, page b3