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I never thought I’d see Paris Hilton do anything live, let alone DJ. But curiosity sometimes makes us do crazy things, and I found myself among the EDM faithful at Echostage on Friday night, waiting for the hotel heiress-turned-turntablist to take the stage. The wait for Hilton to arrive was an extended one, leaving patrons ample time to load up on liquor, then dance while sweating it—- and whatever else fueled their exuberance—-out. But the fact that Hilton could entice a crowd to pay money to watch her play music for 90 minutes speaks to the power of the celebrity DJ, with heavy emphasis on “celebrity.”
It would be easy to dismiss or even pick Paris Hilton apart as a DJ. It’s difficult to get past the fact that you’re watching a socialite and former reality TV star behind the turntables. Hilton, who’s only been DJing for a few years, knows this and uses it to her advantage. She finally sashayed across the stage around 12:40 a.m., and after announcing her intentions to take a selfie to commemorate the moment, she asked the eager crowd a question: “D.C., are you ready to party?” By that point, the 30,000 square-foot venue had started to fill up, and the previously empty VIP sections were bursting. But no one was there to listen to Hilton mix or to see how deep in the crates she might go—-they paid to see her because she’s Paris Hilton. She’s not a skilled musician like local legends Dave Nada or Tittsworth; she’s purely an entertainer.
The reason Hilton can make money touring as a DJ, unlimited budget aside, is the very same reason that celebrities have enormous social media followings: people want to feel close to fame. That’s why celebrity DJs are a phenomenon in the first place: Audiences are willing to pay to watch prominent figures essentially make an appearance for a check. Hilton gets it—-as she told V magazine earlier this year, this is just a vanity venture. “I don’t consider myself a DJ,” she explained. “I am a businesswoman, and this is just a small part of what I do.” Give her credit for being self-aware—-she knew exactly why the crowd was there, just like she knew why she was there. Everyone had an agenda.
The initial reaction to her arrival was celebratory, but it didn’t take long for the crowd to get lost in the music. For most of the EDM crowd, it’s all about the uninhibited art of dance. Hilton’s name might’ve brought them there, but the music became their pulse. When she dropped the Prodigy’s “Breathe,” half of the dancers were on a mental trip back to 1997, while the other half were too caught up in the moment to even think. As for Hilton, she got people to pay to participate in the spectacle, all while wearing her beloved fingerless Chanel gloves. She got paid, and the EDM fans who came to dance did just that. Everyone got what they wanted, so in that respect, Hilton did her job.