Underestimating Paris Hilton was a national pastime for almost 20 years. Her spray tan, Uggs, hair extensions, Juicy tracksuits, Von Dutch hats, undersize dogs, and oversize sunglasses all seemed like some Y2K joke. And now? Just look around; it’s all back. It was back on Balenciaga’s runway last year, although that seemed like a joke, too. What’s not a joke is her financial chops. Hilton stands atop a sparkly pink consumer-product empire that brings in more than $4 billion in total revenue. That’s a lot of $25 perfume. So, who’s got the last laugh now?

Hilton is about to roll out a new fragrance, called Iconic—her 30th. Not that the fragrance aficionados would deign to notice. Their loss. A seasoned executive in the beauty industry tells me that the Paris Hilton fragrances—Love Rush, Gold Rush, Rosé Rush, Luxe Rush, all the Rushes—in bottles shaped like a headless body in an evening gown, may just be the top-selling brand globally. “And nobody talks about it,” he adds.

She doesn’t take any of it for granted. Most luminaries who put their name on products are required to fulfill a certain number of personal appearances, and most tend not to exceed the allotted time by as much as a nanosecond. Not Paris. “Even if she’s contracted to do, let’s say, two hours, she’ll stay until the last person is done,” says Lori Singer, the president of Parlux, which licenses the Hilton fragrances. If it takes five hours for every selfie and signature, as it did in Dubai recently, no problem. “She does not need to work as hard as she does for us. We’re exhausted when we’re with her. I’m like, I need a break.”

Hilton is also busy working with chemists on a skin-care line to create products that address tech neck and puffy eyes, among other things. “Whatever’s new and in the future and people don’t have yet,” says Hilton. The bottles and jars will be pink, because why mess with a good thing?

It’s entirely possible to find something new and pink and rhinestoned with Paris Hilton’s name on it—a sauté pan, water bottle, nesting bowls, mini-fridge, microwave corn popper, dog sweater, cat leash, lip gloss—hitting the stores every week.

When Hilton enters the sitting room of her Italianate house in Los Angeles—and please feel free to call it a mansion—she’s wearing black and carrying her son against her like a sweet, smiling shield. His name is Phoenix and, yes, you could be forgiven for over-analyzing this. Not to be all English major about it, but there’s another phoenix in the room and she’s wearing a velour tracksuit with Boss Babe spelled out in rhinestones on the back. There are no extensions in her hair, which is folded up and fastened into two knobs tucked under a black baseball cap. If she’s wearing makeup, it’s hard to detect what sort, exactly. The effect is a beautiful if slightly tired working mom powering through her to-do list.

“She does not need to work as hard as she does for us. We’re exhausted when we’re with her. I’m like, I need a break.”

“I’ve always been underestimated my entire career,” she tells me. “And I don’t blame people, because I was playing a character from the moment people saw me on the screen. If people don’t know me, they would assume that that’s who I am in real life.”

There are two Paris Hiltons, maybe more. One wears glittery dresses, fake eyelashes, glossy lipstick, and high heels and speaks in a high-pitched baby voice. The one I’m seeing today may also be in costume, but the role is different. “I always like to say I’m not a dumb blonde. I’m just very good at pretending to be one.”

She perfected the act when she appeared in the reality show The Simple Life with Nicole Richie (which, contrary to rumor, isn’t returning; she and Richie have another show coming to Peacock). “I knew I needed to play into this character. And the producers said to me, You be the dumb blonde airhead. Nicole, you be the troublemaker.” As the show continued for five seasons and she did the rounds of talk shows, the act “became like my brand,” she says. “And also an armor.… I really believe that I’ve built this whole character just to protect myself.”

She’s known to stay at a perfume launch for hours.

The Paris on the couch next to me, resting on a throw pillow decorated with her image, tiny dog like a prop bouncing in her lap and in mine, has a low voice, unless she’s mocking herself, which she does often.

It’s low-voiced Paris who talks about the abuse she suffered as a teenager at a boarding school for emotionally troubled teenagers. She’s testified before state legislatures to urge the passing of a bill protecting children from similar abuse. On a vacation in St. Barth’s last Easter with her husband and two children—“my first time going there and actually seeing all the daytime events”—she learned about a child-abuse case in a Jamaican school. She and her husband, Carter Reum, flew there to hold a press conference and send a message.

“If you are abusing children, I will find out and I will find you, and I will shine a huge spotlight on you wherever you are and you will be caught.”

That’s the Paris Hilton who’s found a purpose, who stopped being the butt of the joke. “I put way too much of my happiness and self-worth on beauty and fame and things like that. And now I’ve realized the most beautiful thing about me is my heart.” Her voice rises up a bit, perhaps because she knows that might sound a bit saccharine. Still, she means it.

At 43, she’s also pondering the passing of time. And she’s not taking that lying down, either. Well, she is taking it lying down, if you want to be literal about it. One of the reasons I’m here is to check out what friends have described as her longevity center, a home spa that outshines every home spa in L.A., not that I can say that with any authority.

Past the racks of clothes in the hallways and the dining room, past the enormous framed photographs of Paris Hilton on the walls, past the teetering pile of Amazon boxes, past the pastel rugs in the shape of gemstones, she opens the door to what was once a multi-car garage and now holds every piece of cutting-edge equipment that you’ve ever heard about on the tech-bro podcasts.

She calls it the Sliving Spa. “Or spla,” she says, laughing. “Sliving” is a Hilton-ism, joining “That’s hot” and “iconic,” that she came up with at a party when she meant to say “slaying” and slurred it with “living.” She immediately texted her lawyer to trademark the term. And, yes, there’s a whole mini industry of Sliving products, including the rug in her front hall that’s woven with the words “House of Sliving” in hot pink.

The spa is stuffed with serious machines. There’s a hyperbaric chamber that fits four people plus two TVs. “I can bring in a mattress and pillows and lay in here and work.” The new infrared sauna could accommodate a family of six. She has a big cryotherapy machine and what looks like a tanning bed but emits red, blue, green, and yellow lights to build collagen. “It’s good for calm. Before I go to bed at night, I just lay there.” There’s a Pilates reformer tucked among the gadgets, but she gets on it more or less never.

She brings in a facialist to operate the lasers, the HydraFacial, and the Body Massager Slimming Beauty machine so she can do them all at once. “I like to optimize my time,” she tells me.

She says she’s never had Botox, filler injections, or cosmetic surgery, which has to make her a Beverly Hills anomaly. And when her friends were baking on the beach in Malibu, she covered herself with a big hat and sunglasses. Her tan comes strictly from a bottle. (And she’s selling a line of that too.)

Her plan is to roll out the spa to people beyond her garage and into, perhaps, a Hilton property. “Or, if I have my own hotels one day, which … you’ll see soon,” she says coyly. “Yeah,” she adds, her voice lower, which is what she seems to do when she means business.

Now that her life is filled with family, work, and a mission, she wants to live as long as humanly possible. There’s so much to do.

One reviewer of Paris: The Memoir wrote on Goodreads, “Everyone—Go apologize to Paris Hilton now.” And Hilton appreciates it, but she doesn’t need it. Not anymore.

Linda Wells is the Editor at Air Mail Look