Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I continue with interviews for my Embracing SUCCESS series with celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. I interviewed him while he was driving to the set of CSI. He asked to do a cameo on the show and got it! While Perez‘s writing on his website has a strong edginess (some have harsher words for it!) and some of those who he writes about would disagree, I found him to be a delightful, sweet, and sincere guy. Speaking with him was so much fun! Perez, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, was a journalist when he began blogging as a hobby for his friends. Now he’s become very well known and is regarded by many as an example of the new face of A & R people because of his good ear for discovering music and enlightening people about it. After Perez recommended artist Eric Hutchinson‘s music on his blog, Eric’s album went to #5 on the iTunes album chart, becoming the highest-charting album by an unsigned act in iTunes history.

Now Perez is negotiating to start his own record label, acting in a movie coming out this summer, has a book coming out in the fall, and has a radio mini-show . He says he’s also starting a new business venture that he can’t talk about yet. Can’t wait to find out what it is! ?He’s also very conscious of giving back to help others! Perez Hilton followed his passion and created a career that’s turning into a passionate empire. Not bad for a venture that began as a hobby! Here’s what Perez shared. I find him inspiring!

Why did you start your blog? I started it off as a hobby, never thinking that anything would come of it and it took on a life of its own.

How would you describe the power of your blog? I don’t like to use the word power, because it implies that my readers are sheep, and I have control over their actions. But I don’t. I really respect my readers and don’t talk down to them. I like to think that I am my reader. So my reader is smart and can smell through the BS. I like to think of what I do as having an opportunity to share. And my readers have the opportunity to receive. For example, I mention musicians almost daily. Sometimes it connects with my readers, sometimes it doesn’t.

What turned the tide with your blog from seeing it as something you just did for your friends, to seeing it as something with the potential to be a real business? I did different things through different stages. The first stage was when I got on TV for the first time, which was six months into it. I started the website in September of 2004. Six months later I got an email from the TV show, The Insider. They were doing a segment on Hollywood’s most hated websites and asked how would I feel being included in it and being named THE most hated. I didn’t agree with the title but felt, if you’re going to put me on TV, SURE! After that, my goal was just to get on TV a second time. I figured, wow, if I could do that once, I can do it again. Then when I started making money on the website (from ads), about a year after, I thought it would be great to do this full time. This past summer, about two and a half years into it, I really thought I had something that I could turn into a real business/growing empire. That change happened when I was able to move my mom and my sister out to Los Angeles to work with me.

How do you want to be viewed? I want to be me. Me is unlike anyone else out there. I look at myself as a unique individual. I want to be a trailblazer; I want to be a pioneer. I don’t want to hype myself that much but my dream scenario is to be able to do whatever I want. I’m so lucky that this year has been a dream, non-stop. All these things are happening and it seems surreal. Just this week, Madonna sent me a video! That blew my mind. She doesn’t have to send me a video. She wanted to. That in itself meant even more to me.

What are you most grateful for? I’m most grateful that I’m able to do something I enjoy for a living. I would say that a majority of Americans probably hate their jobs. I bet if there were a scientific poll, a majority of Americans would say they hate their jobs. I LOVE what I do! I will always do my website because it’s not a job for me. It’s a way to express myself and be artistic. It’s a way that I’m able to entertain people. It’s a way that I’m able to educate people. It’s a way that I can be silly, and vent and do so many wonderful things. It has made my life better exponentially. I feel lucky and grateful.

How do you get all your gossip? At first I was functioning more as a news aggregator, which most gossip blogs are. They consume a lot of media, digest it, and regurgitate it in their own unique way. One thing about my website is that I have a very unique voice. I think my writing style for the website is very conversational, as if I’m speaking to my friends. I love to write but that’s not how I normally write. I used to be a journalist. I wrote features and very lengthy articles. I have the ability to write in paragraphs and form sentences that make sense together, and all that good stuff! It’s a different art form with the website. So I’d read all the newspapers, consume as much media as possible, and choose and pick what I thought was most interesting. Now that’s still a lot of what I do. But also, I have a lot of original content, and stuff you won’t find anywhere else—fun, quirky, silly things that really helps my website to stand out and keep people coming back.

What gives you the most satisfaction and happiness? I’d have to say just the response I’ve gotten from the music community has been the best. The music actually is what I’m most passionate about in life. I’m not passionate about what’s going on in Lindsay Lohan’s life. But I am passionate about music. I think even the cynics, or the haters, or whatever you want to call them, have grown to maybe not like me but at least respect me as someone who more often than not has an ear for good music. I love that because I love music. That all started organically. I never started mentioning music thinking that I would possibly get a record deal from it or that I would be fill
ing concerts. Or that I’d be doing anything music related. I did it like everything in my life—it happened organically. I thought, “Let me start mentioning bands or artists or musicians that people aren’t that familiar with, or they are but that I love and want to share with the world.”

What lessons did you learn building your business that helped you grow as a person? The most important key to my success is hard work. I can’t stress that enough. HARD WORK!!!!! I work harder than anyone I know. Literally. I’m not exaggerating. I put in 18-19 hour days Monday through Thursday, maybe a little less Friday. Then maybe 10-hour days on Saturday and Sunday. I’m working all the time. But that’s okay because I do what I love. And I also have very specific goals for what I want to accomplish by what age and what time. I know it’s not realistic to continue to work at this pace forever. It’s not healthy. But for the next couple of years, hell yeah! The reason I’m so motivated to keep working as hard as I do, at this same level, is that I’ve seen such amazing results in such a short amount of time.

How do you rate the importance of giving back to others in the big picture of business? It’s important for me. Recently I started doing something on my website where every day I spotlight a charity. Once again, this is something that happened very organically. One day I was reading Rosie O’Donnell’s blog and saw an advertisement for Autism Speaks. I’d been thinking about autism that week. I think Jenny McCarthy was talking about it. It was an issue that was on my mind so I put a link to Autism Speaks on my website and encourage my readers to read up. It was very newsworthy. There’s been an explosion of cases of autism. Now I post them on a daily basis and give my own money and my own time to organizations that I believe in.

How do you feel about what you’re doing? It’s inspiring. I really believe that I’m making the world a better place. I’m so passionate about music and am thrilled that I get to put good music out there to the Universe. I’m not gonna put stuff up there that’s crap. There is no Payola Perez. I only post things that I love and enjoy, and am passionate about; that I think is worthy enough of my website. Even if people think what I do is trivial, inconsequential silly or mean, the readers of my website know the truth—that it’s not all those things. It’s part of it but not all of it.

What does SUCCESS mean to you? SUCCESS means being happy.
Check out Perez Hilton’s website and see what all the fuss is about! He’s definitely a guy who’s using his high profile to follow his passions and help his readers improve their own lives while he entertains them with his own take on juicy gossip.

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