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Have The Gossip Bloggers Behind Perez Hilton And Lainey Gossip Changed?

every day after I came home from high school, I’d run to my bedroom, turn on my enormous, whirring black Dell desktop, and read Perez Hilton — the up-to-the-minute celebrity gossip blog — for hours. Paparazzi hunting young famous women and bloggers updating their whereabouts by the second created the feeling that every It girl in Los Angeles was publicly spiraling. And Hilton was there to capitalize on it. Daily, sometimes multiple times a day, he would share salacious details about Paris Hilton’s sex tape or Lindsay Lohan’s love life with a gleeful viciousness. “Let’s Get The Party Started!” Hilton wrote in a 2007 headline about Lohan. The post, which detailed nothing more sordid than Lohan’s return to New York City, was accompanied by a photo of Lohan with Hilton’s signature white scrawl over the top of it: “Need crack!” I’m sure that 16-year-old found this very funny. I was always delighted by his brutal cruelty, the grotesque doodles of ejaculating dicks he’d draw on the faces of rich, famous, beautiful women. I suppose I enjoyed seeing them taken down from their pedestals.

At the time, it felt like the entire world was doing much of the same — in July 2007, less than three years after it started, PerezHilton.com reported that the site hit a record of 8.82 million pageviews in 24 hours. “It was just an ordinary day,” Hilton wrote at the time. “No one was arrested or going in to rehab.” At the height of the site’s success in 2007, its most expensive ad package cost $45,000, and though blog stats at the time were notoriously unreliable, it also claimed millions upon millions of views per month.

For a few gleaming years there, Perez Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira Jr., was the most talked-about celebrity blogger in the world, but by 2014, his site’s view count had taken a big hit. Unsurprisingly, his readership of him started to dive around the time he no longer seemed interested in calling Mischa Barton “Mushy Fartone” or Jennifer Aniston “MANiston.” Hilton, now 43, has continued to run his blog from him, but with a much more mundane tone — he still loves to use ALL CAPS IN A HEADLINE, but now he’s just recapping social media posts or repeating news originally broken by Us Weekly or TMZ.

Regardless, his mean-spirited reputation has always followed him, as it did earlier this year with the release of Framing Britney Spears, the New York Times documentary about Spears’ public struggles and eventual conservatorship. Predictably, a big part of the documentary was about her relationship with the paparazzi and an increasingly hostile press, which was always happy to follow and mock her. Hilton wasn’t mentioned in the documentary, but around the time of its release, his old posts about Spears began resurfacing on Twitter. One, titled “Britney’s Breakdown,” ends with, “Take her children away!!!!!!!” repeated five times in bold. After Heath Ledger died, Hilton sold a T-shirt with a photo from Brokeback Mountain on it that said, “Why couldn’t it be Britney?”

Almost ritualistically, Hilton has had to apologize because of how frequently his old posts reappear and remind the public that he was once the leader in blog-era cruelty. “I’ve apologized countless times,” Hilton, who lives in Los Angeles with his mother and three children, told me in a Zoom interview in late March. “A lot of what I did during that time was reprehensible and toxic. But that wasn’t everything. I wasn’t just nasty and mean and cruel and hurtful. I was also positive and supportive.”

Elaine “Lainey” Lui, the longtime blogger who runs Lainey Gossip, is similarly trying to make amends for her old posts. Last summer, noted Meghan Markle bestie Jessica Mulroney, a stylist and television presenter, whose husband is also among Lui’s colleagues on the Canadian entertainment show e-talk, was caught in a minor scandal. Mulroney had been called out by Toronto blogger and influencer Sasha Exeter, a Black woman, who claimed Mulroney tried to threaten her livelihood and cut her off from brand deals. In a post about the scandal, Lainey suggested that it was Mulroney’s positioning of her as a white woman that made her think she could speak to Exeter the way she did: “This is what makes white privilege so intimidating: it’s wrong and strong; white privilege can be STRONGER when it’s wrong,” Lui wrote. “My complacency has made me complicit in the endorsement of white privilege, allowing white privilege to flourish and damage.”

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