Hilton was born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban parents. He was raised in Little Havana and Westchester, Florida, and later attended Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, an all-boys Catholic school in Miami. Hilton graduated in 1996, and the aspiring actor received a scholarship to New York University.
After graduating from New York University in 2000 and before beginning his blogging career, Hilton attempted a career as an actor. He also briefly worked as a media relations assistant for the LGBT rights organization GLAAD, was a freelance writer for gay publications, worked as a receptionist for the NYC gay events club Urban Outings, and was briefly the managing editor of Instinct, a gay men's magazine. He says he started blogging "because it seemed easy".
Hilton's angle on celebrity gossip includes an unapologetic desire to mingle with and be a part of celebrity culture. He often describes celebrity awards shows, clubs, and private events he has attended, and posts photographs of himself with the celebrities he writes about under the "Personally Perez" category of his blog. Although Hilton has an affinity for some celebrities, such as Lady Gaga and Sophia Bush, he also has a "vendetta" against certain stars, such as Disney Channel star Vanessa Hudgens and Gossip Girl teen actress Taylor Momsen. Teen phenomenon Miley Cyrus publicized her personal disapproval of Hilton via Twitter to which he replied. Some have suggested, however, that Hilton's proximity to the celebrities about whom he writes has led to biased coverage on his blog. He purports to have befriended Paris Hilton, the source of his stage name and frequent subject of his posts. It has been noted, for example, that he rarely reports on stories or rumors casting Paris Hilton in a negative or unflattering light, and that, unlike most gossip blogs, he often acknowledges and praises her positive achievements.
Additionally, Hilton has been known to speak out publicly against the discriminatory behavior of celebrities and other public figures. For instance, he called for the firing of Isaiah Washington from ABC television series Grey's Anatomy for making homophobic remarks and called for his readers to do the same. However, in early 2007, he was criticized by The Hollywood Gossip blog for ignoring racist and homophobic remarks made by Paris Hilton.
Hilton often promotes his favorite up-and-coming musicians by posting streams of their songs under the "Listen to This" category of his blog. London-based singer Mika's 2007 rise to popular success in North America has been partially attributed to Hilton's frequent support. Hilton and Mika also claim to be friends.
During an interview in Cliché Magazine (June/July 2010), Hilton said that he only started blogging as a hobby. "What set my site apart is that prior to PerezHilton.com, most blogs were mainly online journals and diaries, but that never interested me. I wanted to talk about celebrities because they're far more entertaining." On March 11, 2005, within the first six months of Hilton's blogging career, PageSixSixSix.com was named "Hollywood's Most-Hated Website" by The Insider, catalyzing an initial surge in its popularity which temporarily crippled its server. Hilton claimed that on July 30, 2007, a seemingly "ordinary day", Perezhilton.com had over 8.82 million page views in a 24-hour period. Other sources dispute the reliability of Hilton's traffic claims.
Pop singer Fergie has confirmed that she is referring to Hilton in her song "Pedestal" (2006), in which she criticizes an unidentified person for making negative remarks about her on the Internet.
On August 17, 2007, citing exclusive sources, Hilton announced the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro and claimed that he was the first media outlet in the world to break the news. Although Hilton claimed that U.S. officials would be making an announcement within hours no announcement was made, and no major media outlets verified Castro's death. The Associated Press later determined that rumors were sparked by a meeting of Miami officials who were to discuss the city's plans when Castro dies. Rumors were further fueled by a road closure in the Florida Keys that was due to a police standoff. Castro appeared in an interview on Cuban television on September 21, 2007, "looking frail but sounding lucid", and mocking rumors of his death. On September 9, 2009, Perez appeared on The Tyra Banks Show and cited his premature reporting of Castro's death as his "one regret".
On September 15, 2008, Terra.com named Hilton the Hispanic of the Year in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
In an article dated October 2014, the popularity of the site was trending slightly down, as PerezHilton.com was ranked by Alexa as the 1,234th most trafficked website globally.
As of July 2017, popularity has further decreased to a global ranking of 5,976.
A suit against Hilton for copyright infringement was filed by Zomba Label Group on October 11, 2007, stating that Hilton illegally posted recordings by Britney Spears on PerezHilton.com. The illegal postings include at least 10 completed songs and unfinished recordings leaked over a period of three months. The suit asks for real and punitive damages in an unspecified amount as well as legal costs. Spears is not a party to the suit. In March 2008, Hilton announced on his blog that he would no longer blog about artists signed to Sony BMG (which owns Zomba). However, when the lawsuit was settled in November of that year, Hilton ended his boycott and resumed regular blogging about Sony BMG artists.
On October 11, 2007, a judge cleared the way for Hilton to be deposed in an ongoing defamation suit brought against him by DJ Samantha Ronson, after a post on PerezHilton.com claimed that she had planted cocaine in friend Lindsay Lohan's car and set Lohan up to be photographed while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Hilton's report was a repetition of gossip initially posted on CelebrityBabylon.com. The judge was informed in court that the owner of that site has already settled the case with Ronson. On January 23, 2008, Perez Hilton was awarded $85,000 by Superior court Judge Elihu Berle in this lawsuit filed by Ronson.
Hilton has attracted lawsuits due to his use of video footage of celebrities on his blog. He was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for Irish actor Colin Farrell on July 18, 2005, after posting a link to Farrell's sex tape with then-girlfriend Nicole Narain on his site and on February 20, 2007, a lawsuit filed against him by Universal City Studios Productions LLP for posting a topless image of actress Jennifer Aniston that was allegedly "misappropriated and illegally copied" from unreleased footage from her 2006 motion picture The Break-Up.
Bloggers, journalists, news agencies and photographers alike have charged that Hilton posts paparazzi photographs and other copyrighted content from their sites. On November 30, 2006, the photo agency X17Online filed a lawsuit against L Hilton in federal court, seeking over US$7.5 million in damages for copyright infringement. X17's co-owner Robin Navarre told the Los Angeles Times that the sale value of their photographs has been significantly reduced because the photos have appeared on PerezHilton.com before they could be published in magazines to which exclusivity is important. Navarre said,
X17 can make as much as tens of thousands of dollars from one magazine on an exclusive story. In the case of the Spears smooch shot, X17 sold a two-page spread to Us Weekly, but the magazine decided to shrink the photo play (which lowered the price by $10,000, to $15,000)...because the images had already been on Hilton's site and others.
Hilton defends his use of this material by claiming it falls under the fair use exception to the Copyright Act; that is, according to the Los Angeles Times, the photos are altered "to achieve a satiric or humorous end". On March 9, 2007, a judge ruled that Hilton could continue operating his website while the lawsuit remained before the courts. On April 23, 2007, a consortium of five celebrity photo agencies filed a joint lawsuit in federal district court in California against Hilton, claiming more than US$7 million in damages from 25 instances of alleged copyright infringement. Days later, on April 26, 2007, upon arriving at the Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia to attend the MTV Australia Video Music Awards, Hilton was served with a lawsuit by celebrity photo agency PhotoNews claiming C$4,200 in damages for his alleged unauthorized use of a single copyrighted paparazzi photograph of John Mayer and Jessica Simpson.
In June 2007, Hilton's web host dropped his site upon threats of liability in the cases outlined above. Navarre called this "the first victory, and we put a lot of work into trying to get this to happen." He added, "It's a precedent that's huge. When we were talking to Crucial Paradigm they were saying they were not responsible, dragging their feet. We had to threaten them and show them they were liable. His new host is Blogads, and we're contacting them already."
On June 26, 2007, Hilton posted an open call on his blog to all of X17's photographers, both past and present, to contact him if they have not been adequately compensated for working overtime or pictures submitted in the past. Hilton has not used photos by X17 on his website since the suit. In August 2009, X17's lawsuit against Hilton was settled out of court. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
On his blog, Hilton is open about his homosexuality and about his desire to out those who he claims are closeted gay celebrities. When former 'N Sync member Lance Bass came out as gay on July 26, 2006, Hilton received criticism for having been partially responsible in the outing. "It upsets me that people think what I'm doing is a bad thing", Hilton told Access Hollywood. "I don't think it's a bad thing. If you know something to be a fact, why not report it? Why is that still taboo?" On November 2, 2006, another celebrity often questioned by Hilton for remaining closeted, actor Neil Patrick Harris, revealed that he is gay.
Members of the gay community who have criticized Hilton's outing tactics include Arts & Entertainment Editor of The Advocate Corey Scholibo, AfterElton.com editor Michael Jensen, and Damon Romine, spokesperson for GLAAD. Kim Ficera of AfterEllen.com, wrote,
I have to question the character of a man who attacks others on such deeply personal levels, without provocation and for self-benefit, monetary or otherwise...If he's emotionally incapable of exhibiting even the tiniest bit of compassion for closeted people, if he can't be sensitive to the fact that coming out is a very personal decision and that the process can be difficult for some—especially celebrities—I feel sorry for him. If his juvenile behavior is his shtick, I think it makes him a much more pathetic figure, and one the gay and lesbian community should not support...If we support behavior like Hilton's, we applaud shallowness, arrogance, rage and invasion of privacy, and risk becoming what we despise.
Some fellow gossip bloggers have also objected to his approach. Trent Vanegas, who runs "Pink Is the New Blog", told Salon.com, "I do not outright call people gay. I do not feel it is my place, or anyone else's place, to make people come out of the closet. Being shockingly hurtful just to get attention is not my style." David Hauslaib of gossip blog Jossip.com stated, "The rationale that he's doing this for the good of that gay community is tantamount to saying that there is a gay agenda. Is this a positive for the gay community? I'd say, 'No.'" Author, screenwriter, and former friend Japhy Grant has also questioned his motives, writing on Salon.com, "Spreading gossip is just your average pedestrian variety of immorality. Claiming that you're doing it to further civil rights is an outright sham."
When questioned on Midweek Politics about whether reporting on celebrities' sexual orientation incites homophobia by making it news, Hilton indicated that he did not believe so. He said that coming out in Hollywood is not necessarily a bad thing, citing Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell as examples: "I know there is some controversy about outing people, but I also believe the only way we're gonna have change is with visibility. And if I have to drag some people screaming out of the closet, then I will. I think that lots of celebrities have an archaic fear that being gay will hurt their career but look at Rosie. Look at Ellen."
Some prominent gay rights advocates disagree. GLAAD spokesperson Damon Romine told Salon.com, "Media speculation about a celebrity's orientation is not something we support. This kind of gossip can lead some people to the decision to come out, as we've seen recently, or it may drive others further into the closet. People are going to become more guarded and secretive and not less, because they don't want to create any opportunities [for anyone to out them]." Actor Bruce Vilanch said, "What purpose does it serve? These [people like Perez] are professional homosexuals. They are gay people for a living. They have to respect the rights of homosexuals who aren't professional." In an article entitled "Just How Dangerous is Perez Hilton?", AfterElton.com suggested that Hilton's actions put people's careers at risk, because anti-gay bias is still a prominent part of American culture. He continued, "Both as a gay man and a journalist, I question whether the gay community should approve of Hilton's actions...Being associated with someone who publishes photos of panty-less starlets and scribbles dirty notes...makes us look infantile and ridiculous."
Hilton served as a judge for the Miss USA 2009 pageant in Las Vegas on April 19, 2009.
During the Q&A portion of the contest, Hilton asked the Miss California USA representative, Carrie Prejean, whether she believed every state should legalize same-sex marriage. She responded that she believes marriage is between a man and a woman due to her upbringing. After the pageant Perez Hilton made derogatory comments about the contestant and told ABC news "She lost it because of that question. She was definitely the front-runner before that", leading some to believe that the answer directly had caused her to lose the competition. Prejean stated that Miss California USA officials had pressured her to apologize for her statement and "not talk" about her Christian faith.
After the pageant, Hilton posted a video blog on his website, where he called Prejean a "dumb bitch" and said her answer was the worst in pageant history. Several politicians and commentators, including gay rights activists, condemned both Hilton and Prejean for making bigoted comments. However, some people, including a few gay rights activists, defended Prejean for exercising her right to free speech, saying that expressing one's views, no matter how offensive they may be, does not justify the use of misogynistic slurs against that person.
In June 2009, Hilton alleged in a video blog that he was assaulted by The Black Eyed Peas' operation manager, Polo Molina, following the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards after party, where the group's lead vocalist, will.i.am, was DJing; Hilton reported that he was "clocked" in the eye by Molina. will.i.am also released a video statement in which he claimed he had approached Hilton regarding derogatory comments made by the blogger concerning bandmate Fergie and the group's latest release The E.N.D.. During the incident, Hilton called will.i.am a "faggot" (Hilton later admitted in an interview with The Advocate that he originally considered using the word "nigger" instead) in order to get a reaction out of him, and it was at this point that Molina allegedly attacked Hilton. will.i.am claimed the attacking party was a fan, although Molina was detained and appeared in a Toronto court concerning the incident. Hilton later filed a civil lawsuit against Molina, seeking an unspecified amount over $25,000 US to cover medical costs and as compensation for the "humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress" that Hilton suffered as a result of the attack.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called upon Hilton to apologize for using an anti-gay slur against will.i.am during the incident, saying "We have reached out to Hilton and asked him to apologize . . . and we would ask media outlets to avoid repetition of the slur in their coverage of this story." Hilton initially refused to apologize, saying, "I am saddened GLAAD chose to victimize me further by criticizing me for how I non-violently dealt with a very scary situation that, unfortunately, turned violent." On June 25, 2009, however, Hilton did apologize, stating "I am NOT apologizing to GLAAD...I am apologizing to the gay community, to anyone who was hurt by my choice of words, and to all the people who have ever emailed me to thank me for all that I have done to fight for gay rights over the last few years." In addition, he pledged to donate any money won in the lawsuit against Molina to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. In a statement released on its website, Judy Shepard, Chair of the MSF, declined the gift, saying that "because the lawsuit presumably involves the physical attack prompted by Mr. Hilton's admitted use of an anti-gay slur, the Foundation will be unable to accept any funds obtained in such a manner."
Hilton received little sympathy in the media over the incident, a fact he addressed in his video blog. John Mayer made comments ridiculing Hilton and the incident on his Twitter page, resulting in a volley of insults between the two. Gawker viewed Hilton's public apology with skepticism, being of the opinion that it was just an attempt to rebuild his "brand" and a possible attempt to prevent Canadian authorities from filing criminal charges against him for his use of hate speech during the Toronto incident.
On June 25, 2009, shortly after Michael Jackson had gone into cardiac arrest, Hilton posted an article about the star's illness, claiming it was a publicity stunt. Hilton's original post featured sarcastic comments such as "Get your money back, ticket holders!!!!" and "Jacko pulled a similar stunt when he was getting ready for his big HBO special in '95 when he 'collapsed' at rehearsal!", in response to Jackson's recently sold out tour through March 2010. Upon realizing Michael Jackson's death was not a hoax, Hilton immediately deleted the original news post and replaced it with a shorter message that linked to a story at entertainment news site TMZ, which said the singer had in fact gone into cardiac arrest. Hilton has received backlash for the incident, becoming entangled in a Twitter argument with Pete Wentz about the situation.
On June 13, 2010, Hilton posted a Twitter message linking to an upskirt picture of Miley Cyrus, which allegedly showed the singer without underpants. Since Cyrus was still underage at the time, questions were raised as to whether or not child pornography charges could be raised. The site that he had linked to removed the picture in question. Perez responded to the accusations by claiming that the controversy was "fake" and that Cyrus did wear underwear in the photo in question. Hilton did not re-post the photo for proof. Instead, he linked to another image of Cyrus, supposedly taken on the same occasion, to prove that she had been wearing underwear.
In October 2010, Hilton became involved in the It Gets Better Project started by Dan Savage, urging celebrities to support gay teenagers who were being driven to suicide by anti-gay bullying. This prompted Khloé Kardashian to call out Hilton as her "personal bully", claiming that it seemed hypocritical to make an anti-bullying message at the request of a man who had repeatedly bullied her. On October 13, 2010, Hilton posted a video on YouTube entitled "I'm Going To Be Doing Things Differently", in which he addressed his actions over the previous years, and apologized for bullying celebrities. Hilton vowed to change the occasionally malicious tone of his website, even if it meant losing readers and revenue. Hilton also announced the launch of three new websites: CoCoPerez.com, which focuses on fashion, FitPerez.com, which encourages physical fitness, and TeddyHilton.com, an animal rights site.
Hilton expressed that his own son, Mario Armando Lavandeira III, will likely be bullied as well. Hilton said, "He'll probably be bullied out and about because people might say things to me in front of him when we're in public... That's even one of the reasons why, even though his name is Mario, I call him Perez Jr. I want him to have an alter ego as well so when people do say things that are hurtful about his dad or hurtful about him hopefully it won't hurt as much because they don't really know him. Those people know you as Perez Jr. but you're not Perez Jr. so it doesn't matter what they say."
In late 2011, the long friendship Hilton had with Lady Gaga came to an end. The initial cause of their feud is still unconfirmed. In February 2013, Lady Gaga cancelled her tour due to a hip injury caused by repetitive movements in her show. According to claims made by Lady Gaga on Twitter, Hilton responded by sending her a picture featuring a wheelchair with the word Karma written across and Madonna pointing a gun. In August, with the release of Lady Gaga's new single, "Applause", Hilton began posting illegal download links on Twitter and commenting frequently on the single's lack of success.
On August 18, 2013, a Twitter user reported to Gaga that Hilton had been spotted in the singer's New York City apartment building. Gaga asked the follower to enter the building and collect photographic evidence, before claiming that Hilton was stalking her. Later that day, Hilton published a statement on his website in which he denied stalking Lady Gaga. He claimed that he was looking for a place to live in New York after the birth of his son, and that he was shown the apartment without knowing Lady Gaga lived in the building.
In February 2014, after Hilton criticized Ariana Grande's hairstyles, Grande's fans posted negative comments to Hilton's social media, including threats against his young son. Hilton then tweeted Grande, her brother Frankie and her employer Nickelodeon with accusations that Grande had been seen using cocaine at a party. Grande denied the allegations. Hilton demanded that Grande speak out against her fans' comments. Grande eventually tweeted to her fans: "...please don't wish negativity upon any1". Grande reportedly hired lawyers to file a lawsuit against Hilton for slander.
In 2001, Hilton made an appearance in the third episode of the third season of The Sopranos, "Fortunate Son". His character hands over the proceeds of a Jewel benefit concert at Rutgers University, whose ticket office Christopher Moltisanti and Benny Fazio rob at gunpoint.
In 2004, a then-206 lb. Hilton appeared as a contestant on the "Madonna Style" episode of VH1's reality weight loss show, Flab To Fab. At the time, Hilton had 30% body fat and a 41" waist. Hilton lost a total of 45 lbs. in three months and dropped 13" around his waist, leaving him at 160 lbs and a 28" waist for his 6'0" frame, and a greatly reduced level of body fat.
On July 13, 2007, Hilton announced on the TV show The View that he would star in his own reality television show on VH1. The series of six one-hour episodes, titled What Perez Sez, aired its first part on September 11, 2007.
Hilton appeared as a contestant on MTV's Celebrity Rap Superstar, which debuted August 30, 2007. He was eliminated in week 6 of the contest by judges' vote. On September 29, 2007, he hosted a Best of MADtv episode featuring pop culture parody sketches from previous seasons. He has appeared in music videos such as Simple Plan's "When I'm Gone", The Pussycat Dolls's "Hush Hush", Rihanna's "S&M" and in the video of the Latin music Anahí and Christian Chávez "Libertad". Hilton has also appeared in reality shows such as Victoria Beckham: Coming To America, MTV Cribs, The-N's Queen Bees, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Tori Spelling THS and Paris Hilton's My New BFF. In addition to reality television Lavendeira has guest starred as himself in scripted shows such as Privileged.
Hilton is also a regular on TV Series TRL, MuchMusic, and Extra where he appears via satellite from his closet studio to talk about gossip.
He co-hosted the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards and after Rick Astley did not show up to collect his award for best act ever at the MTV Europe Music Awards, Perez Hilton collected the prize on Rick's behalf.
On June 21, 2009, Hilton was a presenter at the 2009 MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, Ontario. On December 2, 2009, Hilton was a guest on the TV show The View.
In 2010, Hilton guest starred as himself in the episode "Wi-Fi in the Sky" on Victorious.
Hilton created and presented four-part British television series, Perez Hilton Superfan for ITV2 in December 2011.
On the January 16, 2012 edition of WWE Raw, Hilton was a special guest referee for a Divas tag team match, between The Bella Twins and Kelly Kelly and Eve, stopping the twins' switch place and win. In April 2012, he appeared on Oprah's Lifeclass live at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, along with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, talking about how after his "spiritual awakening", he changed his past celebrity bashing ways and how he had found a new purpose.
In January 2015, Hilton took part as a housemate on the fifteenth season of the British reality series, Celebrity Big Brother. He became the seventh celebrity to be evicted on February 4, 2015.
Hilton starred as Danny Tanner/Bob Saget in Full House! The Musical, an Off-Broadway musical running at Theater 80 in New York City from September 10, 2015 through November 29, 2015. The musical was a satire on the sitcom Full House that aired on the American Broadcasting Company from 1987 through 1995.
Hilton premiered his nationally syndicated radio show, Radio Perez, which included updates from his blog, on May 5, 2008. He has also appeared on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
On September 1, 2011, Hilton published a children's book entitled The Boy with Pink Hair. Hilton described the book as a story "about every kid that's ever had a dream, felt excluded, wanted to belong, and hoped that one day they could do what they loved and make a difference." In a September 2011 interview with The Advocate magazine, Hilton admitted that the book was inspired by his own childhood: "I've always considered myself a freak, an outsider, and a bit of an interloper. I never really fit in with any groups, so I just did my own thing."
He moved to New York City in 2013, stating, "I love New York and that is where me and my growing family want to call home right now". Hilton was referring to his first child, Mario Armando Lavandeira III, born on February 17, 2013, conceived with a donor egg and carried by a surrogate mother. His daughter, Mia Alma Lavandeira, was born on May 9, 2015, via surrogate.
Hilton released a song called "The Clap" (2008), about gonorrhea, composed and produced by Lucian Piane. The song's music video is from the movie, Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! (2008).Hilton appears in Rihanna's video "S&M" (2011) "on a leash as Rihanna's pet".
HIlton appears in MattyB's cover of PSY's "Gangnam Style"