Mario Lavandeira, better known as entertainment-news blogger Perez Hilton, admits he’s got his head in the clouds. One minute he’s fanaticizing about his ideal threesome – with young Hollywood actors Chace Crawford and Zac Efron, he tells me –, and the next minute he’s conjuring up a vibrant new hair color. But he never imagined that a little website he started in September 2004 would explode into an Internet monster, making him the most popular – and feared – entertainment guru in Hollywood.
With its traffic through the roof, the young Hispanic’s website Perezhilton.com can make or break a celebrity with a stroke of the white pen he uses to draw on their pictures. But Perez, 29, is just in it for fun, and he’s trying to stay true to his Cuban roots in the process. The fluent Spanish speaker finds time during his busy schedule – 5 a.m. to midnight, every day – to keep a keen eye on the Latino community in show business.
You feature a lot of Hispanic celebrities on Perezhilton.com and even write comments in Spanish from time to time…
I really am proud of being Latino, just as I am of being gay. I think it makes me a better person because it gives me more perspective on life. [On my site] I have a whole “Latinoliscious” category. I’ll mention random people on my website like Charytín even though the Anglo audience might have no idea who they are. I try to [reach] as many audiences as possible.
Why do you think you’re perceived as being so influential?
I don’t like to use the word ‘influence,’ I like to use the word ‘opportunity.’ I have a wonderful opportunity to share with my readers every day. These days, I’m getting about nine-and-a-half million readers a day, which is mind-blowing, it blows my mind!
What Hispanic artist do you have the most respect for?
My biggest role model and icon growing up, and still to this day, is Gloria Estefan. She paved the way for so many people. She’s a good person and a great artist. I [have] the pleasure of knowing her personally. That was a dream come true for me – the first time I ever met her I was like ‘Wow!’ I guess I made it. She takes it upon herself to represent the community, and it’s so admirable of her.
Anyone who visits your site frequently knows you’re not fond of Jessica Alba. You call her Jessica “Don’t Call Me Latina” Alba…
I mean, calling her Mexican cousin ‘beaner’ and saying how they’re always popping out babies, that to me is offensive. Just like her dad saying that George Lopez speaks ‘Mexican,’ that to me is offensive and obviously representative of some deep-seated issues that her family has. Not just her, but obviously her father, and probably dating back to the grandparents. But you can’t blame everything on your family, you also have to take responsibility for your words and actions. Some of the things she’s said and done are hurtful. Just as I’m sure mine are as well, so I’ve got my own issues to deal with. (laughs)
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I have like a Don Quijote complex. I have my head in the clouds. [When I was younger] every month I wanted to be something different. Basically what it all boiled down to, I just wanted to have fun whatever I was doing. My motto in life is ‘just have fun, and work hard.’ But have fun comes first because life is too short not to have fun.
How do you feel about your success?
I really feel so lucky to do what I do, to be my own boss. I’m living my American dream, [the reason] why my parents left Cuba to come here. I’m not from a wealthy family. I created this for myself, and I worked really hard. I still work really hard. That’s one of the things, I work harder than anyone I know. Every waking moment of the day and night is spent working. I don’t have a life right now, but that’s ok, I’m not complaining. I love what I do.
How do you pick your hair colors?
I just say, well what can I do to make this really different from what I just had. I’ve been successful thus far, but I think eventually I’m going to run out of colors. I love color. I embrace color. There’s energy in color. It’s great to have different energy on your head.
Are you dating anyone right now?
Are you looking?
I’m not not looking. I’m open to anything that may come. I would make time for a date.