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How I spent Shanghai Thanksgiving with Paris Hilton

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on November 25, 2007

Until now, I could safely say that Paris Hilton and I have never shared much in common. So it came as something of a surprise to me to be invited to a private dinner for her hosted by MTV China in Shanghai, not the first place you would have expected to find Ms. Hilton at Thanksgiving. Indeed, this was no traditional holiday feast. Hilton was in Shanghai as a guest of MTV China, where she was followed and filmed doing what just about every first time tourist to the city does—visiting Yu Yuan Gardens, Xintiandi, and loading up on dresses from luxury retailer Shanghai Tang.

Raphael le Manse de Chermont, Shanghai Tang’s executive chairman, was delighted that the hotel heiress had visited the store. I know this for a fact, because he showed me a news item about it which one of his staff had forwarded to his Blackberry. And I can also tell you that he was not the only one of us 40 or so guests checking his emails that evening.

We had plenty of time to kill while waiting for Ms. Hilton to show up to the private dinner MTV had hosted for her. And when she finally showed up two and half hours late from her disco nap [sporting a dress by local designer Lu Kun], the rest of us had tucked into our tuna tartar and scallops. There was no turkey, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie at this dinner, which made sense, as Americans were definitely in the minority. Apart from Hilton, her bodyguard, and publicist there were few other Americans at the meal.

No doubt some of you are wondering what a BusinessWeek reporter was doing at this dinner in the first place. True, Paris has managed use her checkered history to her advantage, having turned being famous for being famous into a sizeable business empire that includes her own perfume, millions of dollars in endorsements, a record, a part in a movie, nightclubs and royalties from her reality TV show. [I’m a bit fuzzy on this one, but I’m confident there are thousands of bloggers out there who can correct me if I’m wrong.]

Another guest at the party, Yue-Sai Kan was full of praise for Paris’s business savvy. And she should know. Yue-Sai is a major Chinese celebrity in her own right, making her name as the host of a national TV program called “One World” launched in 1985, where she introduced her audience to things American. She used her popularity to launch the eponymous Yue-Sai cosmetics brand, which she eventually sold to L’Oreal.

[I have very personal reasons for respecting what Yue-Sai has to say. I met her for the first time in 2005, at an Armani fashion show in Shanghai, and had told me to look her up the next time I was in New York. I was there to undergo surgery on my mitral valve last year. Upon hearing this, Yue-Sai insisted on putting me up in her town house on Sutton Square while I was convalescing—an extraordinary gesture of generosity from someone I’d met only once.]

But as I started to explain, it was not because of Paris that I was invited to the dinner by MTV’s Li Yifei. Rather, it was because it would be a great way for me to improve my Chinese guanxi, a topic I’d written on a week before and had interviewed Li about. And make no mistake, it was a great place to network. The collected net worth of the guests was well north of a billion dollars and I did come away with a good collection of business cards from netpreneurs like Netease founder William Ding Lei, Chinese VCs and media executives.

I did not however, exchange cards with Paris, though we did speak about false eyelashes, one of the few topics I felt I could draw her out on. She was intrigued to learn that the very best ones are made from mink fur but seemed very concerned to know whether they had to kill the animals in order to harvest their hair. She prefers the $10 a pair disposable version, which she, or I should say, her stylist, only applies once to her lids. I guess maybe all those camera flashes can cause lash fatigue.

Speaking of fatigue, Paris said it’s pretty tough work being Paris, but someone’s got to do it. The next night at the MTV Style Awards, she was certainly put through her paces. Three separate appearances on stage, requiring her to don three different dresses. No wonder she got a little flustered and told the Shanghai crowd how happy she was to be in Beijing.

I never got a chance to catch up with Paris again to hear about her overall impressions of her visit. But if she happens to be reading this blog, I’ll pass along the gist of a conversation I had with executives from the two major corporate sponsors of the evening. After she leaves, they’d love to see her say [and have the media report] how much she’d like to thank their companies along with MTV and Shanghai Media Group, for the swell time she had in Shanghai.

P.S. Paris, in case you don’t remember, the brands they represent are Jack Daniels and Huiyuan Juice.

P.P.S. Readers, in case you were wondering, the party girl only drank Evian at dinner, and then some Diet Coke.

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Reader Comments


November 25, 2007 11:54 PM

Paris Hilton is probably one of the most dangerous figures that could undermine the foundation of western civilization. Her party-girl lifestyle is now accepted as the mainstream values of the west. Many young people even look up to her as their role model for success. Chinese are quite stupid to invite this new opium into their Great Wall.


November 26, 2007 11:34 AM

Why is China embracing Paris Hilton and western lifestyle? The West values greed, selfishness, vanity, and declining moral and family values. Paris Hilton is not a good role model for anyone--including young impressionable children...
Hollywood--I mean Hollyweird--is destroying American society.


November 26, 2007 01:02 PM

Is China Ready for Paris Hilton?

Haha! What a ridiculous title! Maybe a few Chinese are her fans, but most Chinese really care about her?

Dirt from west world are not a precious in China. The author should keep this in mind.


November 26, 2007 01:25 PM

The new Asia Tech website is really messed up. The latest comments section is filled with individual comments on the same article. For example, "Paris and Thanksgiving in Shanghai" has 3 comments. Instead of listing the article's title once as having 3 new comments, it is listed 3 times, each linking to the same page. So new comments on other articles may be easily pushed off the short list.

Also, this blog site takes over the entire page, with no links back to the other blogs.


November 26, 2007 01:38 PM

Why are Chinese being so negative about Paris? The Chinese are way more corrupted and capitalist than the Americans from their own doing (special monopoly power). They seem to bash American at every opportunity but still wants to export billion and billions of goods to the (bad) American.


November 26, 2007 02:05 PM

Inviting paris to china is same as destroying culture. paris is like a disease that has already contaminated this country destroying socially accecpted values. China's rich culture does not need paris to destroy the values that are held by the people especially the young


November 26, 2007 03:36 PM

Spare us! I can't believe China would be the least interested in Paris...I never would have guessed. What could they possibly see in her that is worth having her around? She should do something meaningful with all of her money to make the big change in the world she promised to do after getting out of jail!


November 26, 2007 04:27 PM

Paris is coming around...her first instinct was to ask if they killed the minks..even you weren't all that great at 26.


November 26, 2007 04:40 PM

There are suggestions that she is heading off to Australia soon. She really is Dorothy skipping down that Yello brick road. Hilton Hotels have a new interest in the Gold Coast and there is a movie production centre there. Possibly Ms Hilton see an opportunity there from which to launch into her new Asian markets. Interesting times.


November 26, 2007 05:04 PM

Paris is a media icon. Mtv invited her to simply attract more viewers. The Western world is implementing its lifestyle into China with an amazingly rapid pace. China is economically very strong but still a third world country, whereas its people have been trained to be eager to learn and adapt the Western lifestyle. The power of the West is quiet sad.


November 26, 2007 06:01 PM

Please remember MTV is An American Company, That is nothing to do with Chinese.


November 26, 2007 06:13 PM

Hope she had a good time, and may "god" bless her...OMG, this girl needs help, hope she could find REAL help in China. cause in america...hopeless.


November 26, 2007 08:55 PM

I dont think paris, a party girl, can hurt the Chinese wealthy culture. If you think so, it means you know nothing about the Chinese. For some thousand years, Chinese cuculture has never been shaken by other cultures.


November 26, 2007 09:50 PM

Just some publicity stunt by MTV & PH herself... Imagine PH going back and whining to her best pals


November 26, 2007 10:01 PM

Hehe, this article crack me up. Paris is always welcome for a visit in China, just for the sake of fun and entertainment.

Jeff Huang

November 27, 2007 02:51 AM

Just for the sake of fun and entertainment.

Katie Leung

November 27, 2007 02:56 AM

Dear Chinadream

I think you meant it other way round, that Americans grab every single opportunity to bash China whenever they can. It is the American politicians that stir up the China superpower threat, although the Chinese politicians said it is not true and China is still a poor country. And that cast fear amongst the American public, causing them to go hysterical and bash China constantly. My end point is if the USA has problems, it should try to solve it out itself, not look for a scapegoat. How ironic , first Japan now China.

And for Paris Hilton, China did not invite her, it is MTV that invited her. But at least she was reasonable that she wore Chinese traditional cloth.

jun sung kim

November 27, 2007 06:07 AM

I like Paris Hilton and was thrilled that she came to Korea recently. Her image and lifestyle is the envy of many who are less fortunate and beautiful. I think that her image and style is something that the chinese can admire and mimic . This is a good strategic move in gaining publicity using notorious party girl
Who could forget that video of her with rick solomon? I know I wouldn't. I reckon that the chinese are just as stupid as the koreans for admring her.
I wouldn't want my daughter to turn out like her.


November 27, 2007 11:09 AM

I think it's all show business, nothing more. Most people don't care so much about Paris Hilton, nor Martha Stewart, nor Oprah. The real hero in coastal cities is Donald Trump, who has lots of fans among the young generation. People like Trump not because he is one of the icons for American wealth value. The value Trump stands is pretty universal. In today's China, the Internet entrepreneur billionaires are the role models.


November 28, 2007 09:02 AM

Most of Chinese people don't know much about Paris Hilton. When some of us were talking about her trip to Shanghai. One coworker asked, Who is Hilton? Her name sounds she has something to do with Clinton. Is she Cinton's sister?


November 29, 2007 02:13 AM

Do you really know why chinese people invite Paris hilton to china? -make fun of westerner.
See her dress.did you ever see any chinese movie star such as Ziyi zhang or gong li dress that short skirt? the smart chinese female designer really knows how to design some dress that can lets pairs hilton likes it but chinese people can make fun of it.
NBC comment: finally ,chiese people proved how stupid american is just because they invit paris hilton to shanghai .

the truth is .pairs hilton really proved it. she told 1000 audiance "this is the first time i come to beijing" (the truth is .she was in shanghai in the last 3 days, not beijing), all audiances laught at that ..


July 18, 2008 01:14 PM

About Paris Hilton Film Archive - Paris Hilton Filmography

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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