Paris Hilton is Still Trying to Make the 90's Heiress Thing Happen

Twitter/Paris Hilton. Partying like it's 1995...and '96 and '97 and '98...Nearly two months after she celebrated her 32nd birthday, Paris Hilton spent Easter Sunday hopping around the Playboy Mansion wearing a hot pink sequined body suit with matching bunny ears, and her signature duck face posing for photos with Hugh Hefner. No doubt, the photo is classic Paris, but in light of how Kim Kardashian has puppeteered the new wave of reality television, it's also hopelessly outdated.

Although we can't imagine reality television without the Kardashians, we wouldn't ever have known the famous fam without Paris Hilton who rose to fame in the 90s. Her Heatherette fashion campaigns and hard-partying, "f*ck yeah" attitude combined with her celebrity bed-hopping (Randy Spelling and Nick Lachey, just to name a few) landed her the coveted title of "New York's leading It Girl" in 2001. Cut to 2003 when her sex tape with ex-boyfriend Rick Salamon "leaked" one week before the premiere of her reality show "The Simple Life" which Hilton starred in with then-best friend Nicole Ritchie. The tape made Hilton an overnight superstar and in many ways she paved the road for the new wave of reality stars who were famous for nothing.

All the while, Hilton's BFF, a girl named Kim Kardashian hung around a lot, two steps behind Hilton clutching her arm in crowded clubs (often wearing blue jeans) or on a yacht dancing with sister Nicky Hilton while Paris mugged for the paparazzi.  At the time, there were plenty of socialites—Casey Johnson, Nicole Ritchie, Brittny Gastineau—who could have taken her down but none quite possessed Hilton's perfect mix of fortune, good looks, and hunger for the spotlight. So how did Kardashian surpass and ultimately defeat Hilton in popularity?

Remember them? (Photo by Getty Images)A lot can be chalked up to timing. In February 2007, the same month Hilton was repeatedly pulled over for a suspended license, landing her in prison for 45 days (she ended up serving less then a month), Kardashian's sex tape, which she had made years prior with rapper Ray-J, was leaked. It ended up in the hands of Vivid Entertainment which bought the footage for one million dollars and released the film "Kim Kardashian: Superstar." The tape elevated Kardashian to Hilton levels of fame, one month before the debut of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." Hilton tried to measure up and make amends by carrying around a Bible, quoting Maya Angelou, and telling Larry King, "I feel like, you know, being in the spotlight, I have a platform where I can raise awareness for so many great causes and just do so much with this, instead of, you know, superficial things like going out. I want to help raise money for kids and for breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and…" but it seemed too late. She had already fallen out of favor with the American public, who were too busy anyhow, watching Kardashian navigate family and fame, pose for Playboy, and dance the fox trot on "Dancing With the Stars."

Kardashian also pays attention to Hilton's missteps. While Hilton continues to pursue a dated business model based on bed-hopping and binge drinking, Kardashian reportedly doesn't like alcohol or drugs. From an early age, Kardashian understood that there was no room on the block for two bad girls so she played the angel to Hilton's devil, embodying the opposite of everything Hilton stood for. Hilton is thin and blonde, Kardashian curvy and dark; Hilton dated models, Kardashian (pre-Kanye), athletes. Even their weekend activities differ drastically. On Sunday while Hilton was voguing with Hugh Hefner, the Kardashians were at church.

And  finally, Kim has a strong family dynamic and work ethic. While the Hiltons often give off an air of entitlement, the Kardashian's seem to always be working (as witnessed by Kardashian jetting around to business meetings many months pregnant) and are aware of their good fortune, telling Oprah they recognize that they're spoiled. And Kardashian's mom Kris Jenner who, for better or worse, is unconditionally committed to her daughters' quest for fame. It's a sharp contrast to Hilton's mom Kathy who only seems to get involved in her daughter's legal troubles (mocking the judge at Hilton's sentencing by saying, "May I have your autograph?") and Nicky Hilton who didn't seem interested in following in the footsteps of her older sister Paris.

Kardashian's plan is definitely working. To date, she has almost 18 million Twitter followers to Hilton's 10 million. "Keeping Up with The Kardashians" is a ratings goldmine for E! Entertainment. During its first month on the air in 2007, it became the highest-rated series on Sunday nights among men and women aged 18 to 34 and was viewed by 1.3 million viewers, according to Nielson Media Research, and numbers have continued to rise. Hilton's 2011 reality show "The World According to Paris" ran for one season on Oxygen before the station decided not to renew, based off their lowly 293,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating, making it Oxygen's least-watched series of 2011.

Despite the rise and fall of Hilton, will she ever fade quietly into the night? Doubtful. According to a recent study published in the April issue of the journal American Sociological Review, not only is fame the norm in professions such as sports, entertainment, and politics, it's also self-reinforcing. In other words, a new person such as Kardashian, may suddenly shoot to fame and overshadow the last tabloid sensation but her predecessor is rarely forgotten having already earned her fame crown. We'll always have Paris!