After letting the media do most of the talking while she was in — and then out of, and then back in — jail, Paris Hilton gave her first interview since the ordeal on CNN's "Larry King Live" Wednesday night (June 27). She opened up about the "traumatic" experience, telling the host that she's learned from her mistakes — but still believes she got a raw deal.
"It was a very traumatic experience, but I feel like God does make everything happen for a reason," the rejuvenated heiress told King. "It gave me a timeout in life just to really find out what is important and what I want to do, figure out who I am." She added, "It was nice to be away from all the flashes for a while."
Hilton's interrupted 23-day jail stint — for violating probation that stemmed from a DUI arrest — began when she unexpectedly turned herself in to authorities after making a surprise appearance at the MTV Movie Awards on June 3 (see "Paris Hilton Turns Herself In To Authorities").
She revealed to King why she decided to go to jail that evening: "Actually, I was playing a trick on everyone [by appearing at the awards show], because outside my house [and] outside [the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood, California,] there was paparazzi, I heard, from all around the world. So I thought, 'If I went to the MTV Awards, snuck out during the show, I could get [to jail] unnoticed,' and that's what we did. No one even saw me going in. ... I didn't want to cause a whole media circus."
Of course, that was only Hilton's first attempt at serving her sentence, as she was subsequently "reassigned" to house arrest due to a medical condition and then later ordered by a judge to return to jail (see "Paris Hilton Ordered Back To Jail; Won't Appeal"). She was released again, after completing her sentence, early Tuesday morning (read "Paris Hilton Released From Jail" or watch Paris Hilton leaving jail right here).
While in jail, Hilton said she "was treated like any other inmate — no better, no worse." She lacked privacy, was confined to her cell for 23 hours a day and had to eat "jail slop." She also admitted that she had been strip-searched, calling it "the most humiliating experience of my life." She bided her time by reading the Bible and letters from fans — including correspondence from U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, she said.
"I would literally sit in bed crying, reading these letters," she said. "I had no idea I had so much support from so many different age groups, so many people from around the world." While she didn't receive any hate mail while in jail, she did say she was "scared to open letters, because I was like, 'Uh-oh, I hope this person isn't mean.' "
Hilton choked up and looked downcast when King asked her about her toughest day in jail. "[It was] the first Father's Day when I couldn't give my dad a hug, and that was really hard on me," she said.
The tone changed when King questioned the heiress about the medical conditions — claustrophobia and ADD — that allowed her to leave jail initially. When asked if she has been cured of claustrophobia, she coyly replied, "Well, now that I'm out of there, yes," and when asked how her ADD affected her time in jail, she smiled, "I don't know, it's something I've dealt with my whole life."
Hilton was equally unforthcoming when asked about other women she's notoriously befriended. She wished the best to Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan as they go through their own similar ordeals, and said of Britney Spears: "She's a sweet girl. She's a good mom. She loves her children."
Taking her empathy a step further, Hilton, reading from notes she kept while in jail, she said wants to "help set up a place where these women can get themselves back on their feet. ... I know I can make a difference and hopefully stop this vicious circle of these people going in and out of jail."
But while Hilton reiterated numerous times during the interview that she had learned her lesson by going to jail, she stopped short of claiming full responsibility for what had transpired. She defended her decision to drive on a suspended license, saying, "My lawyer told me, 'Your license is suspended for 30 days, no driving, then 90 days after that you can drive to and after work.' " When King asked her if she thought she had gotten a "raw deal," she replied, "Yeah, I do."
Later she added: "I never would have driven on a suspended license. I get followed by paparazzi all day - why would I have the audacity to do that? ... Even before I went in jail, my license was fully reinstated, no restrictions whatsoever."
Even still, Hilton insisted that her focus is on the future. Another season of "The Simple Life" will begin shooting soon, she has two movies to film this summer and wants to start a family in the next couple of years, she revealed.
Hilton sounded equally optimistic when reading aloud another note she wrote while in jail: "They say when [we] reach a crossroad or turning point in life, it really doesn't matter how we got there, but what we do next after we get there. Usually we arrive there by adversity, and that it is then, and only then, that we find out who we truly are and what we're truly made of. It's a process, a gift and a journey, and if we can travel it alone, although the road may be rough at the beginning, we find the ability to walk it, a way to start fresh again. It's neither a downfall nor a failure but a new beginning."