By Erick Johnson
Surprisingly enough, the comfort of having a net worth that surpasses that of several small countries is simply not enough for some who find themselves faced with the reality. Many of today's uber-rich kids not only want to enjoy their fortune, they want fame to go with it as well. After all, isn't cake always better with ice cream? Take the ever growing in popularity Hilton sisters -- 23-year-old Paris
and her 20-year-old sister Nicky
for example. These "extremely social" socialites, heirs to the Hilton Hotel fortune estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $550 million, are each currently estimated to be worth around $30 million, and yet this doesn't keep them from seeking more.
Outside of making their presence known by often times dancing on the tables of nightclubs, restaurants and posh house parties on both coasts, they also seem dead set on becoming famous. Not only are there paparazzi photos galore of the sisters flooding internet sites and tabloids alike, Nicky's done some high fashion modeling here and there, and recently she launched her own line of handbags -- named after herself, of course -- to moderate success.
However, it seems to be Paris who is making the most headway in the fame game. Having already appeared in the gritty drama "Wonderland," which stars Val Kilmer as John Holmes, she'll be seen in DreamWorks' romantic comedy "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" starring Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel and Topher Grace, coming to theaters in the spring. But it looks as if her small screen debut with Fox' reality show "The Simple Life" beginning December 3, just might make her a household name.
As co-star of the much buzzed about series, Paris and her quite wealthy best friend Nicole Richie (as in Lionel Richie?s daughter) have been taped while adjusting to the simple life on a farm in the booming sub-metropolis of Altus, Arkansas, population 817.
While the Hilton sisters seem to be using their wealth to gain access into Hollywood and the fashion world, Ally Hilfiger and Jamie Gleicher are simply satisfied with using their wealth as an excuse for fame. Ally, who is the daughter of fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger, and Jamie -- whose father made "her" fortune with luggage -- are the stars of the MTV reality series "Rich Girls," which follows around the limo-riding high school seniors on dates, shopping sprees and spa weekends.
Both Hilfiger and Gleicher seem quite content to make light of their wealth. They even revel in it in sort of a "Are you jealous much?" sort of way that is almost sure to insight envy among most middle class women their age who watch MTV by the time the series ends its run. That is, unless Hilfiger accomplishes her goal of showing "Just because we're rich, doesn?t mean we?re not good people," which she said was one of her main reasons for wanting to do the series in the first place.
A more serious side of the issue came to light on the recent HBO documentary "Born Rich," directed by 24-year-old Jamie Johnson -- as in the heir the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. The documentary follows ten young adults who were born rich, just as the films title suggests.
The interviews with "trust-fundians" from the Vanderbilt, Trump, Newhouse and Bloomberg households are interesting and revealing about how having too much money at such an early age can sometimes be quite damaging to one's emotional well-being and growth. But perhaps the most interesting perspective surrounding the film comes from looking at its producer/director -- who talks at length about there being no classes that teach one to become a productive rich person and it's something that the very privileged must navigate for themselves.
So perhaps instead of browbeating those uber-rich who seemed dead set on bargaining a little fame to go with their fortune, we should encourage them in their pursuits. After all, they could just be sitting around doing, nothing, and we certainly wouldn't want that.