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Paris Hilton is the latest celebrity with a bill

Flanked by legislators, Paris Hilton speaks in support of Senate Bill 1043 during a press conference at the Capitol Annex Swing Space on April 15, 2024.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
Flanked by legislators, Paris Hilton speaks in support of Senate Bill 1043 during a press conference at the Capitol Annex Swing Space on April 15, 2024.

It was a somber, and at times tearful, gathering today as legislators and advocates promoted a bill to hold behavioral treatment centers for teens more accountable.

Most of the attention was focused on one (some might say, unexpected) speaker: The hotel heiress, socialite and media personality Paris Hilton.

Hilton is the latest celebrity to utilize their fame (or as she said “shine my spotlight”) to persuade the Legislature to change state policy. In Hilton’s case, the physical and emotional abuse she says she experienced at youth treatment centers in California, Utah and Montana has led her on a personal crusade against institutional abuse in the “troubled teen industry.”


“I was subjected to abuse disguised as therapy, isolated from the outside world, and denied even the most basic rights,” Hilton told about two dozen reporters and others in the audience. “…. The sounds of my peers screaming as they were restrained and injected sedatives will never leave me…. If these facilities are scared of a simple transparency measure, then I think we should ask them: ‘What do they have to hide?’”

Senate Bill 1043 won unanimous approval from the Senate human services committee later in the afternoon. It would require the California Department of Social Services to detail a center’s use of “seclusion rooms” and restraints through a publicly accessible online dashboard by Jan. 1, 2026. The information would include descriptions of the incident, the duration of the incident and what staff members were involved in the incident, among other things. Facilities would also be mandated to provide a report to the person who was confined or restrained, as well as the individual’s parent or guardian if they are a minor.

Hilton’s nonprofit, 11:11 Media Impact, is co-sponsoring the bipartisan bill, led by Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, and co-authored by Democratic Sens. Angelique Ashby of Sacramento and Aisha Wahab of Fremont. Disability Rights California and Children’s Law Center of California also support the proposal.

Acknowledging the varied political leanings, socioeconomic levels and traumatic experiences of the (mostly female) speakers at the press conference, Grove said that legislators behind the bill are uniting to protect children.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re worth a billion dollars or you’re worth $20. The word trauma is still there,” she said. “…We’re all here as women championing those children that deserve us to be championing them in this state.”


In 2021, after reports of rampant abuse, California passed a law that prohibited the practice of sending troubled youth, including foster children, to out-of-state, for-profit treatment centers. As an alternative, youths can be sent to “short term residential therapeutic programs,” which are licensed by the state’s social services department. Two years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a measure to fund crisis residential treatment facilities for children on Medi-Cal.

Though Wahab contended that these programs are “sometimes what’s needed” for youths, they still must “serve the needs of these children” and vulnerable individuals need to be protected from further harm.

During Hilton’s time at these youth facilities, including the 11 months she spent at the Provo Canyon School in Utah when she was 17, Hilton said she lived in constant fear: “If I tried to tell my parents about the abuse, the staff would immediately rip the phone from my hand, disconnect the call and subject me to violent physical restraints and solitary confinement.”

Hilton also made a not-so-veiled threat near the end of her remarks: “If you are abusing children, I will find you and I will come with my huge spotlight and shine it on wherever you are.”

As an heiress to the Hilton Hotels & Resorts empire, Hilton skyrocketed to fame in the early 2000s through modeling and a reality television series. Known for her extreme wealth, fashion choices and partying antics, she was a fixture among tabloid news outlets. In the years since, Hilton has remade her image somewhat, as a successful business person and youth advocate.

She joins a long parade of celebrities using their influence to partner with lawmakers and promote policies. A few notable examples include Jane Fonda’s current fight against the oil industry’s referendum to halt a 2022 drilling setback law; Jeff Goldblum’s 2020 support of two unsuccessful bills to require companies to reduce single-use packaging; and Common’s successful advocacy for two juvenile justice laws in 2017.

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