In a few days, Raina Lincicum is due to give birth to her sixth child. She and her family live in Bellingham, Washington, a city where the median household income is $50,844. Her husband owns an electronics repair business, and she's been working on getting her own degree from a local technical college in between raising their kids.
Her life bears little outward resemblance to Paris Hilton's. But at 39, the hotel heiress has come to count Lincicum as one of her few confidantes.
Twenty years ago, the two women met as roommates at the Provo Canyon School, a residential treatment center for supposedly troubled youths. Lincicum, who had fled an abusive household, was living on the streets of California and sent to the program through the state legal system. Hilton's parents decided to ship their daughter off to Utah because they thought she was frequenting too many nightclubs.
But even though the teenagers had shared a barren room - their few belongings stored in trash bags - they never discussed the way they were treated at PCS until last year. That's when, in the midst of filming a documentary about her life, Hilton decided to reveal that she had been physically and verbally abused at the high school. She reconnected with Lincicum and three other students from the institution, inviting them to her home in Beverly Hills to reunite on-camera and share their stories for the first time.
"I can relate to them more than people in this town," Hilton said of her former classmates. "I love that they're actually normal, genuine, real people. They don't want to be famous. They are traumatized like me and have hidden the story and not talked about it. Coming together is almost therapeutic. I won't see a therapist, but I feel like talking to them is like having a million therapy sessions, because they understand me completely."
"This Is Paris," which was released Monday on YouTube, was not initially intended to center on Hilton's adolescent trauma. Filmmaker Alexandra Dean had pitched it to Hilton as a way to show fans a more unvarnished side of herself, theorizing that she'd been misjudged as solely the airhead blonde on "The Simple Life" or the socialite with a sex tape. The director had been trailing Hilton for seven months when, during a press stop in Korea, she noticed her subject seemed particularly emotionally fragile. Hilton hadn't slept in two days and confessed that she'd been having nightmares.
"She'd spent the day taking selfies with people for three hours without a bathroom break in some little lacy dress somebody had literally sewn her into as if she was a living Barbie," recalled Dean. "She would never be angry with anybody. She never snapped. Always smiling. So I thought: 'Oh my God, at what point does she crack?' By the time we got back to the hotel room, I was like, 'What is going on here?' Because she was so exhausted and had clearly pushed the character to the edge, the cracks were showing and it wasn't hard to see that she was desperate to talk to somebody about it."
Hilton divulged that at 17, she had been awoken in the dead of night by PCS representatives and hauled from her bed as her parents looked on crying. During her 11 months at the school - one of five she attended as a teen - she said she was prescribed unknown pills that made her "tired and numb," beaten by staff members and thrown into a cold solitary confinement chamber for nearly 20 hours. She was unable to relay the alleged mistreatment to her parents because her phone calls were monitored, and when she finally graduated, she made a vow to herself to bury the traumatic memories.
But in her dreams, disturbing recollections still haunted her.
"Every single night, literally, 99% of my nightmares were about being taken from my room and being locked up in these places and trying to escape," Hilton said. "It just felt so real, to the point where I would wake up in the middle of night, in hysterics crying, in hot sweats, not being able to breathe and having panic attacks. When I started opening up about it, I realized: 'That's why you invented this character. That's why you put up the mask.' It was all a way to build this happy fantasy life so I wouldn't have to think about what had been done to me."