An Open Letter to Paris Hilton
By Brooks Berndt at Sep 27, 2011
I read recently that your reality TV show “The World According to Paris” has been cancelled. I extend my heartfelt sympathy over this setback to your career as a celebrity personality. As you carefully consider the next phase of your professional journey, I would like to offer to you an idea of undeniable promise. What I propose is that you remake your image. Take on those critics who would malign you as a pampered kitten or a blonde princess. Re-position yourself as someone closely aligned with those who represent strength and mettle of our nation. In short, proclaim yourself to be a friend of the working man and woman. Join with them in their struggles for justice!
At this very moment, there exists a unique opportunity to unveil the new you. As a Hilton heiress, you could make an extraordinary statement by shining the light of your stardom upon the plight of employees lacking adequate pay and benefits at Hilton hotels. Just think of the possibilities! Your next reality show could be entitled “Working with Paris.” In one episode, you could clean rooms side by side with the house keeping staff. In another episode, you could bring room service to ill-mannered guests. To reveal just how committed you are to living a life of solidarity with your fellow workers, you could demonstrate to the public at large how hard it is to pay bills making just $8.93 an hour with family health benefits that cost up to $366 a month. Because your great grandfather Conrad Hilton left a paltry portion of the inheritance to your family, you will be able to identify with the Hilton employees getting short-changed on their paychecks. We could even film some sister-to-sister bonding time with the other staff as they talk about how hard it is pay rent and feed their children.
I happen to live in Vancouver, Washington, where Hilton employees are paid abysmal wages even compared to their counterparts in Portland, Oregon across the river who make $3 more an hour. Last year, the highest paid housekeeper made $21,117 while working more than 40 hours a week. It is estimated that a wage meeting a minimum standard of living for one adult and one child in Vancouver would be $31,714. In order to survive, workers must seek food boxes and rental assistance through the local United Way.
In recent years, many of the residents of Vancouver have faced hard times due to lost jobs and foreclosed homes. We could use someone with your media glow to draw attention to the struggles that poor and working people face in our community. Your actions could have a powerful effect on local leadership. Remarkably, the City of Vancouver owns the building in which the local Hilton operates and oversees its operations through the Downtown Redevelopment Authority. Imagine what our city officials would do if they knew the rest of the country was watching.
In the past, your Christian faith and spiritual “new beginning” after having served time in jail were well documented. Prove wrong those who say that your declarations of faith were made at the prompting of your PR manager. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and stand with the disinherited. In doing so, you could do more than remake your image. You could help repair a community.
Rev. Brooks Berndt
Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ