NEW YORK (Reuters) - Celebrity hotel heiress Paris Hilton has vowed to prove critics wrong and show she is a changed person after serving three weeks in jail for violating probation in a drunken-driving case.
"I'm a good person. I'm a compassionate person. I have a big heart. I'm sincere, and they'll see," Hilton told People magazine in her first comments since being released on Tuesday from a Los Angeles jail.
Hilton also spoke about why she was briefly released to home detention after just three days in jail -- a move swiftly overruled by a judge after a public uproar over whether she was given special treatment.
"I was basically in the fetal position, basically in hysterics ... and having severe anxiety and panic attacks," said the 26-year-old multimillionaire in excerpts of the People interview released on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca raised the issue of suicide -- although stopped short of saying Hilton had been in danger of harming herself -- when he explained to the county Board of Supervisors why he had placed Hilton under house detention.
Hilton, who spoke to People at her grandfather's Bel Air mansion after her blonde hair extensions had been replaced, said that she spent time in jail reading the Bible and praying to God for strength.
"There was a nun who works at the jail for all the ladies, and she would come every day and we would pray," said Hilton.
"All of the inmates were very supportive. There were girls next to me," she said. "We could talk through the vents and they were just really sweet."
During her first week in jail Hilton called television journalist Barbara Walters and pledged to change her party-going ways and give new meaning to her life by pursuing charity work, saying God has given her a new chance.
The incarceration of the young socialite and actress, who lampooned her own persona as a clueless child of privilege on the reality TV show "The Simple Life," ignited a worldwide media frenzy and debate about celebrity justice.
The saga hit a crescendo when Hilton was placed briefly under house detention, sparking an uproar over what many saw as preferential treatment. A Los Angeles Times analysis, however, found her sentence far exceeded those served by most inmates for similar offences.
Hilton is also due to appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday night, but -- wary of growing reader fatigue with the socialite -- People magazine's rival US Weekly has vowed to keep its next edition completely free of any Hilton stories.