When the executives behind “Fear Factor” and “Big Brother” asked Paris Hilton's (search) mother, Kathy Hilton (search), to take a meeting about doing her own reality show, "I Want to Be a Hilton" (search) (premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT on NBC), she thought it would last about 30 minutes.
She was curious, but thought she’d answer with firm but polite “No."
"If you’d asked me or 14 months ago if I would ever do this,” said Hilton, 46, “I would’ve said, ‘Not in a million years.’”
Because Hilton, despite the fact that her daughter stars in FOX’s "The Simple Life" (search), doesn’t like reality TV.
“When Paris told my husband, Rick, and I that she wanted to do that show, we were really against it. And we told her so,” Hilton said. “Reality shows make me really nervous.”
Was she worried that her ever-more-notorious daughter would be portrayed in a bad light? “Exactly. But she was over 21 and liked acting and she really wanted to do it.”
And now, the Manolo Blahnik is on the other foot. Hilton loved the idea that under her tutelage, 14 rough-hewn contestants would spend six weeks trying to learn the finer points of nibbling escargots and appreciating "La Traviata." The one who exhibited the best manners would live the New York high life for a year and pocket a $200,000 trust fund.
When Hilton told two of the contestants that they would be going to “21” for dinner, they said, “Gee, we’ve never been anyplace like that. We don’t know what to wear.”
And Hilton says she told them, “Money doesn’t buy class. You wear what you feel comfortable in. You don’t have to grow up in Beverly Hills, or on Park Avenue or wear a fancy Chanel outfit. You walk in the room with your head high, shoulders back. Nobody’s better than you. You’ll own the room.”
It all sounded so noble. But during filming, Hilton walked off the set after one of her neophytes, eliminated that night from competition, humiliated another contestant on camera.
"I was so upset," said Hilton. "I walked into the control room and said: ‘This is not what I signed up for.’"
Fortunately, executive producer Danny Salles (search) ("My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance") was on the same page. "I assured her that the scene would never appear on the show," he said. Because Kathy Hilton is not Jerry Springer? "Exactly," said Salles.
But she’s not The Donald, either. Hilton doesn’t have Trump’s insatiable ego, or ease in front of the camera. Worst of all, she hated sending people home.
"Kathy cried several times, full on, during the deliberations [about whom to send home next]," said Salles. "She would just lose it."
Salles said the contestants, who include a Queens, N.Y., plumber and a Texas ranch hand, learned a great deal from her. But asked if it was a two-way street, Hilton said:
"No, I wouldn’t say that I learned anything from them. I learned a lot about myself — that I have a lot more patience than I thought. I had never worked long hours like that."