Paris Hilton Reveals Boarding School Trauma in 'This Is Paris'


Jan. 5 2022, Updated 3:41 p.m. ET

Paris Hilton's documentary, This Is Paris, revealed a new side of the TV icon we've never seen before. The YouTube Originals film, which dropped on September 14, 2020, gives viewers a look inside the starlet's upbringing and private life, revolving around the trauma she underwent as a teen at a behavior modification boarding school in Utah.

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Where did Paris Hilton go to boarding school in Utah?

"Something happened in my childhood that I never talked about with anyone," Paris tells her parents in the trailer for This Is Paris. "I still have nightmares about it." The couple-minute teaser then cuts to a home video of Paris at boarding school. 

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"The only thing that saved my sanity was thinking about who I wanted to be when I got out of there," she explains. "I just created this brand, this persona, and this character. And I've been stuck with her ever since."

Paris, whose great-grandfather Conrad Hilton founded the Hilton Hotels, attended Utah's Provo Canyon School, which was founded by followers of Synanon, one of America's most notorious cults. 

Synanon followers also founded the supposedly therapeutic behavior modification schools called CEDU, which operated 11 boarding schools and educational facilities, and famously faced numerous allegations of abuse until their complete closure in early 2005.

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Provo Canyon School, which Paris attended during the 1997-1998 academic year, continues to operate its behavioral health centers in Provo and Springfield, Utah. "We place a heavy focus on the academic, therapeutic, and developmental needs of our patients," their website reads. 

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The "intensive, psychiatric youth residential treatment center" treats children aged eight to 18 with complicated mental health and behavioral health challenges including but not limited to mood disorders, anxiety and trauma disorders, and ADHD.

According to some sources, Paris quietly attended CEDU's Running Springs program for two months the summer before her year at Provo.

What happened to Paris at boarding school?

In teasing her documentary, Paris began to circulate the hashtag #BreakingCodeSilence, which referred to a "movement aimed at raising awareness and creating change to protect children from institutional abuse."

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As Paris tells The Talk, "I started thinking about my past and what I've been through and realized just how much it's affected my life and how I was holding on to so much trauma for so long."

Former students of CEDU and other similar Synanon programs like Provo Canyon also have been speaking out to expose the battery, neglect, racketeering, invasion of privacy, and child abuse that allegedly went on in the CEDU programs by using the #BreakingCodeSilence hashtag.

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The website Legacy of CEDU, which was created to "collect and preserve information about what life was like for survivors over the history and evolution of CEDU" writes that CEDU's institutions were "coined emotional growth boarding schools, wilderness therapy, and tough love for troubled youth," but "in reality they were private residential treatment facilities practicing cultic and grueling, around-the-clock counter-therapeutic behavior modification."

While Paris might be one of the most famous alumni to have gone through one of these programs, she's not the first to speak out. In 2012, James Tipper wrote The Discarded Ones: A Novel Based on a True Story. In 2015, Zack Bonnie wrote Dead, Insane or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir. Most recently, actor and comedian Adam Eget spoke to Joe Rogan about his time in the program.

In Joe's podcast, Adam described CEDU as an abusive cult that endangered children, and made it sound like it was a pretty well-known fact that one of the counselors was arrested for murdering several children who attended the program, after making it look like those kids had simply run away.

This Is Paris is available to stream on YouTube now.

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