Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie had one of Hollywood’s most iconic best-friendships back in The Simple Life era. Then, out of nowhere, it all fell apart. When videos came out of Nicole and Paris getting up to their old tricks at Paris’s wedding, it made us wonder…what happened to their friendship? So we did a deep dive on it and oh boy—there were some real surprises, some scandalous and some just straight-up disturbing
1. They Go Wayyy Back
The Simple Life traded on the fact that its stars, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, were wealthy socialites. But how do two 22-year-old girls actually end up as socialites? Well, it all has to do with their families. While the story behind Hilton’s status is pretty cut-and-dry—it’s right there in her name, Nicole’s story is a little more complicated.
2. She Went From Rags To Riches
Nicole Richie was actually born Nicole Camille Escovedo. Her parents were in the music scene and her dad was in 80s pop and R&B icon Lionel Richie’s band—but they didn’t quite have the success that Richie had, and they struggled to raise Nicole. When she was three, she moved in with Lionel and his wife Brenda. Later, when she was nine, they legally adopted her.
This put Nicole squarely in the same realm as Paris Hilton and a slew of other soon-to-be-famous rich kids—but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
3. Her Childhood Was Seriously Dramatic
When Nicole was seven years old, the happy family she’d been part of nearly exploded in one fateful night. Brenda Harvey had suspected that Lionel Richie was cheating on her, and she tracked him down at the apartment of a woman named Diane Alexander. When Brenda found Lionel there, she started hitting him. Officers showed up and detained her, and it eventually led to the dissolution of their marriage.
When Lionel remarried, it was to a familiar name: Diane Alexander, the woman Brenda had caught him with. Nicole saw a lot of turmoil for a kid—but her teen years would be even more dramatic.
4. They Turned Her Into A Monster
During Lionel Richie and Brenda Harvey’s contentious and very public divorce, they spoiled Nicole as a way to distract her from the turmoil—but they went a little too far, and even Nicole later said that no kid should have that much freedom. With few rules and an unfettered access to her dad’s credit cards, Nicole would take that opportunity and run with it.
While the Paris and Nicole the world got to know through The Simple Life and the tabloids were very similar, their upbringings couldn’t have been more different…
5. She Puts On A Facade
There’s one thing to know about Paris Hilton—and that’s that the image she cultivated in the early 2000s (and continues to cultivate) has pretty much nothing to do with the real Paris. She portrayed herself as spoiled and ditzy, but her upbringing speaks for itself. Paris’s parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton, were conservative and strict with her. They didn’t allow her to date or go to school dances—but as she grew up, this just led her to rebel.
6. She Was An Underaged Club Queen
The Hiltons moved from California to the East Coast when Paris was 16 years old, and as soon as she arrived in NYC she picked up a fake ID and got involved in the nightclub scene there. Thanks to the cachet of her family name, promoters began to offer to pay her to appear at clubs. She was finding her niche—but her strict parents were about to put a serious stop to it.
7. They Sent Her Away
As Paris defied her parent’s strict rules, they panicked about what to do. Eventually, they found a youth residential treatment center and school to send her to—but they were actually sending her into a living nightmare. The Provo Canyon School is just one institution that’s part of what some researchers call the “troubled teen” industry.
What they did to Paris during her time there is absolutely chilling.
8. They Abused Her
Paris Hilton claims that staff at the Provo Canyon School both physically and emotionally abused her during her 11-month-long stay there in the late 90s when she was just 17 years old. At their hands, she was the victim of a “legal kidnapping,” where staff abducts their teen clients instead of performing a regular intake. They also gave “mystery medications” to the teens.
If Paris refused to take the meds, they would put her in isolation, in the cold and without clothing, for up to 20 hours at a time. And then, all of a sudden, she was 18 and free.
9. They Were Both Adrift
While Paris remained on good terms with her family, she held the emotional scars and trauma from her time at Provo Canyon. It’s an experience that she said still haunts her today. She had to take the next steps to decide what to do with her life. At the same time, Nicole was facing the same decisions. Both briefly took a crack at higher education—Paris in a prep school and Nicole at the University of Arizona—but their experiences were unsatisfying.
Both girls dropped out…and before long, they crossed paths.
10. They Went Way Back
Throughout the years, the Hilton family and the Richie family had traveled in the same social circles. Paris and Nicole had actually been very close friends throughout their childhood, before they began attending different schools. By the year 2000, Paris was modeling, making public appearances, and appearing in bit parts in a few unsuccessful films.
Around that time, she began visiting with producers at Fox, looking for her next project. They had a concept for a show—Green Acres but make it reality TV—and they needed a lead. The stars were aligning…
11. She Wasn’t The First Pick
The Simple Life made it look like Paris and Nicole had been the best of friends for years—but there’s something few fans realized about that. When Fox told Paris they wanted her to star in the show, she actually asked two other friends first: Rod Stewart’s daughter Kim, and Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson. After both said no, she thought of Nicole—but Nicole was going through a strange time in her life.
12. She Got In Trouble
When you think of Paris and Nicole having run-ins with the law, most think of their infamous DUI charges (more on that later)—but Nicole’s first arrest came long before that. Just like her friend Paris, Nicole was also living the party girl lifestyle pre-The Simple Life. However, things got out of control one night while she was out at a club.
Police ended up detaining her after a brawl. Fortunately for her, they dropped the charges—but she wouldn’t have the same luck the next time.
13. She Had A Problem
In February 2003, Nicole got in trouble with the law again—and this time, it was serious. Officers in Malibu detained her for driving with a revoked license and possession of an illicit substance. Nicole acted fast in hopes that the charges wouldn’t damage her budding career and checked herself into rehab. Later, a judge gave her three years’ probation—but her problems with substance misuse would come back to haunt her before long.
14. They Caused Chaos—And People Loved To Watch
Later that year, Nicole and Paris teamed up to wreak havoc on the Leding family and their friends and neighbors in Altus, Arkansas for the first season of The Simple Life. It debuted to great ratings and the season was a smashing success. Paris and Nicole had made appearances on tabloid pages before the show, but now, they were really in the spotlight.
However, their stardom also left them vulnerable.
15. He Betrayed Her
Shortly after The Simple Life debuted, a scandalous part of Paris’s past came to public attention. In 2001, Paris and her then-boyfriend Rick Salomon had made a tape together in the bedroom. She’d never intended for it to get out, but when she got famous, Salomon saw an opportunity. He released 1 Night in Paris without her consent—immediately causing a huge controversy.
16. It Devastated Her
Paris Hilton was still dealing with her newfound fame—and now, all of a sudden, she was the subject of jokes on late-night TV, and the media went wild with it. It humiliated Paris. Throughout it all, including the mockery she experienced and the lawsuits that went back and forth between her and Salomon, she was able to lean on her family and her close friends, including Nicole.
But as we’ll see, this would later come back to haunt her.
17. They Came Back For More
Season 1 of The Simple Life was such a success that Fox brought the show back for a second season. This time, Paris and Nicole went on the road and took us various blue-collar jobs, including catching fish and working on a nudist resort—but behind the scenes, Paris was hurting.
18. It Came To A Screeching Halt
Right after they began to make season 2 of The Simple Life, Paris suffered a terrible tragedy when her grandmother died. She returned to set, only for a horse to throw her off while filming. Her injuries were so bad that paramedics had to airlift her to a hospital. Paris got back on the proverbial horse and finished up the season with Nicole at her side.
With that under their belt, they went back to their off-season routine of paid club appearances—and tabloid hijinks.
19. It Was Coming To A Head
Paris and Nicole started filming the third season of the The Simple Life, which was subtitled Interns, in October 2004—but by the time it premiered in January 2005, the cracks were starting to show. The pressures of fame and the attention from the paparazzi were getting more and more intense—and Paris seemed to play into it.
She was the more attention-seeking of the two, while most fans and casual observers could clock Nicole as the funnier of the two. Which makes what happened next all the more strange.
20. They Only Wanted One
Soon after the premiere of the third season of The Simple Life, the producers of Saturday Night Live capitalized on the show’s popularity by inviting Paris to host. But it immediately left people wondering why Nicole wasn’t involved. After all, she was clearly “the funny one.” The night that the show aired, many expected her to make a cameo—but they were in for a surprise.
21. She Didn’t Show Up For Her
On the night that Paris hosted SNL, Nicole was nowhere to be found. Instead of showing up for her BFF, she spent the night with friends. Many trace the eventual dissolution of their friendship back to this night (more on that later), but one thing is for sure. By the spring of 2005, it was clear that something dire had happened between Paris and Nicole.
No one was really saying anything about it…at least, they were at first.
22. She Was Super Cryptic
In April of 2005, when someone asked Paris about what was happening with her friendship with Nicole, she finally broke her silence—and what she said was shocking. All that Paris would reveal was that “Nicole knows what she did, and that’s all I’m ever going to say about it.” But, unsurprisingly, Paris did have a little more than that to say about it…
23. She Tried To Get Rid Of Her
Fans of The Simple Life knew that the show was on the rocks. Between the problems with Paris and Nicole’s friendship and season 3’s dwindling ratings, there was talk that it may never come back. But, as always, Paris had a plan up her sleeve. In April of 2005, she said that The Simple Life was coming back…and that her friend Kimberly Stewart would be replacing Nicole.
It was a serious bombshell—but what did Nicole have to say about it?
24. She Claimed It Wasn’t A Huge Deal
Seven months after Paris made the shocking announcement about replacing Nicole on the show, Nicole finally got to express her thoughts on the matter when she appeared on the Today show. She briefly discussed what had happened, claiming that she and Paris had grown apart and that it wasn’t as much of a big deal as people were making it. And as for the show?
25. She Knew She Was Irreplaceable
Nicole categorically shut down reports that Paris was trying to replace her on The Simple Life with Kimberly Stewart. She expressly said: “That was never going to happen.” At the time, there was a lot of scrutiny on Nicole—and it wasn’t just because of the ongoing tension she had with Paris. No, she was in the papers for a much darker reason.
26. People Were Worried About Her
Nicole had undergone a radical transformation since the beginning of The Simple Life. By 2006, she had lost a shocking amount of weight and appeared gaunt and fragile in paparazzi photos. There was immediate speculation that she was dealing with an eating disorder—something that Nicole expressly denied. But soon enough, the attention turned from her physique right back to The Simple Life.
27. They Made Amends
So what did that mean for the show? Was it over, or was their hope that her and Paris could get it together and bring it back? It took a while, but fans finally got their answer. In June of 2006, The Simple Life came back on the air, reuniting the once-besties. The format was a lot different, and Paris and Nicole mainly filmed in Los Angeles.
They had a little more freedom and the comforts of home. But could space save the friendship?
28. Things Were Happening Behind The Scenes
At first, it looked like having a little more space and time apart from each other was good for Paris and Nicole’s friendship. After all, they’d made three seasons of The Simple Life, and spent 24/7 together both on and off-screen. Their relationship had basically defined their lives and stardom to a public that had previously been unfamiliar with them.
To many, it looked like they’d completely reconciled—but the feud wasn’t over yet.
29. She Confronted Her
During the final moments of the season 4 finale of The Simple Life, Paris stirred things up once again. In the final scene, she looked at Nicole and said “We need to talk.” Nicole replied “So talk…” The cryptic exchange had fans wondering what the heck was going on. Everyone thought they’d reconciled, but there was clearly still a big problem brewing between them.
30. They Stopped Seeing Each Other
Normally, in between seasons of The Simple Life, Paris and Nicole could be spotted going to parties and posing for pictures together. Not so after the end of season 4. It appeared the feud was back on, and once again, the gossip mags were at a loss as to why. With neither speaking to the media about it this time around, everyone was waiting to see who’d break the silence first.
31. They Had A Surprise In Store
As it turns out, they were all in for a surprise. In October of 2006, paparazzi spotted Paris and Nicole dining together in L.A., laughing and talking like they’d never even had a fight. So, was it all for the cameras? Well, when the next season of The Simple Life began to air, it soon became clear just what had happened.
32. They Redid Their Reunion
Paris and Nicole had completely made up in between seasons of The Simple Life, but cameras had been there to catch the sentimental moment when they rekindled their friendship. What’s a reality TV show producer to do? Ask them to recreate it for the cameras, of course. With that, viewers got a glimpse into what their reconciliation had looked like.
That was filmed in March of 2007, after they buried the hatchet. But off-camera, things were seriously dramatic
33. They Couldn’t Keep It Together
There was six months between the time that Paris and Nicole made up IRL and the time that they started filming the fifth season of The Simple Life. Six months isn’t a lot—but in that short time, Paris and Nicole packed enough behind-the-scenes drama into their lives to fill five different reality shows. Let’s start with Nicole.
34. She Rebounded
Earlier that year, Nicole had been engaged to DJ AM, but the pair broke it off in May. At first, it looked like she’d get through it like any other starlet her age…with a healthy dose of partying and casual dating. But before too long, Nicole met another man—Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden. It seemed like just another party girl/bad boy musician pairing at first, but it soon became clear that these two were getting serious and settling down.
Paris, on the other hand…
35. She Still Wanted To Be Wild
Paris Hilton was going out more than ever—but she no longer had Nicole at her side. Photographers rarely, if ever, spotted the two partying together anymore. Instead, Paris was spending more and more time with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. The “Holy Trinity” of 2000s icons spent weeks dominating tabloid headlines—but there was a heartbreaking reason why Nicole wasn’t around.
36. She Was Unwell
For months, the media had speculated on the reasons behind Nicole Richie’s dramatic weight loss. She’d continuously denied that it was an eating disorder, but that couldn’t stop the whispers. Finally, Nicole sought treatment for her inability to put on weight. She worked with doctors and nutritionists and underwent multiple tests to try and figure out what was happening to her body.
Sadly, her health wasn’t the only thing that she was battling.
37. She Was In Big Trouble
In December of 2006 (that’s post-reconciliation, pre-season 5), law enforcement officers responded to a call for a vehicle traveling the wrong way down the freeway. When they pulled over the driver, they found that she was under the influence of both weed and Vicodin. You’ve probably already guessed it—that driver was Nicole.
She’d relapsed. Not only was she facing some serious charges, but there was also the threat of potential jail time looming over the filming of season 5 of the The Simple Life.
38. She Made It Off Easy
Ultimately, E! got season 5 of The Simple Life off the ground without a hitch. And in July of 2007, a judge sentenced Nicole to four days for her DUI. She ultimately only served 82 minutes of her sentencing due to overcrowding. It was a lucky break—and unfortunately for Paris, she did not get the same one.
39. People Got Tired Of Them
Paris and Nicole had been dominating not just tabloid headlines, but entertainment media and mainstream news for a period of years at this point. And as their antics—well, particularly Paris’s antics—continued throughout 2007, the focus on them reached a saturation point. Magazines and TV shows began promising “Paris-free” content.
The phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is notorious—but when it came to Paris, her relationship with the media was coming to a dark and cynical climax.
40. She Couldn’t Win
Right after The Simple Life aired its finale, Paris released her first single, “Stars Are Blind.” While it was a hit, critics lambasted it. But then, Paris made a grave mistake. In September of 2007, the LAPD detained Paris for driving under the influence. Her mugshot made the rounds—and made her even more of a target for mockery.
But for Paris, the worst was yet to come.
41. She Had A Problem
Paris got off with probation and a suspended license—only for the authorities to catch her driving a month later. But she didn’t stop there. A month after that, they caught her driving two times the speed limit, and without her headlights on, at night. Her reckless driving habit was out of control—and now, she had to go in front of a judge for violating her probation.
42. Everyone Hated Her
Paris’s careless behavior regarding her probation and driving not only teed off the media, it seriously infuriated the judge that she had to face for her probation violation. He sentenced her to 45 days behind bars. At first, she planned to appeal, but then eventually found a new lawyer and changed her mind. On June 5, 2007, Paris went in to start her sentence—but she expected that she’d get out of there quickly, like Nicole.
She was so, so wrong.
43. He Went Against The Judge’s Orders
Two days after Paris entered the Century Regional Detention Facility, a sherriff signed an order changing her sentence to 40 days of home confinement with an electronic monitoring device. It was apparently because of an unspecified medical condition. When the judge who gave the original sentence found out, he was furious.
He called her in for a hearing, and sent her straight back to the detention facility.
44. He Wouldn’t Let Her Get Away With It
Paris thought her punishment was over, so when the judge made his decision, she shouted “It’s not right!” and began crying. The whole ordeal and her reaction just turned the media further against her. Ultimately, she only served 13 more days at the detention facility—but that wasn’t the only consequence. Both Paris and Nicole’s DUIs had put the production of The Simple Life in jeopardy at different points, and the network declined to make another season with them.
Still, at least they had their friendship…right?
45. They Dated Twins
Without The Simple Life, it became harder and harder to figure out exactly what was going on between Paris and Nicole. At first, it looked like they still had to be friends, at least on the surface. After all, Paris began dating Nicole’s boyfriend’s twin brother, Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden, in February of 2008.
But despite that close connection, Paris was sending clues that not all was well with Nicole.
46. She Sent A Message
Whether or not they were friends, the title of Paris’s new show really sent a signal about the relationship. It was called Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, and it was a reality show where a group of 16 contestants competed to win the coveted position of Paris’s new best friend. Sure, it was more staged than reality, but the title and premise really leaned on the idea that Paris and Nicole were done for good…
47. She Skipped The Big Day
Paris’s reality show wasn’t the only thing making it seem like their friendship was done. In 2010, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden tied the knot after four years of dating—but there was a conspicuous absence at the wedding. Nicole had invited Paris, and apparently Paris had backed out due to “prior commitments.” Prior commitments or not, that’s your lifelong best friend.
People definitely took the snub as a sign that the feud was back in full swing. Yet when it comes to Paris and Nicole, there’s always a “but…”
48. Everyone Thought It Was A Lie
In the next few years, both fell out of the spotlight, as Paris concentrated on DJing and Nicole worked on her fashion career and started a family. In 2015, Paris posted a throwback picture of her and Nicole, perhaps in an attempt to quash rumors that they weren’t friends anymore. Still, it didn’t have many convinced.
But when it comes to these two, it seems like you can never quite count their friendship out.
49. She Needed Her More Than Ever
In 2018, Paris invited Nicole to her upcoming wedding to Chris Zylka—only to call it all off soon after. Well, there was a surprising twist to Paris’s sad breakup. Her ordeal brought her close to Nicole again. Soon after, they were pictured together at a party in L.A. for the first time in years. People began to notice that their long feud just might be over…
50. She Spilled The Tea
Both Paris and Nicole appeared on different episodes of Watch What Happens Live, and each girl confirmed that they’re friends and still love each other. However, when it comes to other friends, Paris didn’t exactly have the same glowing praise. On the same episode where she talked about how much she loves Nicole, she called Lindsay Lohan “lame” and “beyond.”
51. She Took It Back
Paris seems to mellow out as she gets older, and she later corrected herself and said that she and Lindsay Lohan are on good terms. She said that she was thrilled to find out about Lindsay’s engagement to Bader Shammas and made it a point to text her and congratulate her. It’s too bad there couldn’t be a reunion at Paris’s wedding—but her reunion with Nicole was already stealing the show.
52. They’re Back Together
Paris and Nicole finally made their reunion official-official when Paris tied the knot in late 2021. Paris may have been marrying Carter Reum, but people seemed to care a lot more about her and Nicole’s interactions during the celebrations. Videos circulated of them joking around and even repeating one of their Simple Life catchphrases, “Sanasa!”
But all the attention brought back questions about what had happened to them in the first place.
53. 1 Night Drove Them Apart
The feud between Paris and Nicole all stems back to their first falling out, back in early 2005—the night that Paris hosted SNL. Instead of congratulations from Nicole, Paris got a humiliating surprise. Nicole hosted friends to watch the show, but when the episode of SNL was over, the party didn’t stop. That was when Nicole put on Paris’s infamous sex tape, 1 Night in Paris.
Many think that’s what caused Paris to say “Nicole knows what she did,” and that it was the driving force behind their decade-long on-and-off feud.