* Perezitos.com has info from doctors and “mommy experts”
* Blogger says his kinder, gentler ways have paid off
* Sees website about families as “natural next step”
By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton is in a family way, sort of.
On Tuesday, Hilton is expanding his work of serving up the latest dish on Hollywood stars by launching a new website focused on celebrity families and kids called Perezitos.com.
He will offer parents advice from pediatricians and a wide variety of people he calls “mommy experts” to create original content. He sees the new website as a natural next step after toning down his rhetoric about the stars and broadening his blogging into other domains of health, fashion and fitness.
“It’s very exciting because it’s just another example of how celebrity news doesn’t need to be negative. People love babies and children and pregnancies. People love weddings; people love new couples. It’s not just about train wrecks and out-of-control celebrities,” Hilton told Reuters.
Hilton, 33, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, rose to fame after launching his celebrity blog, PerezHilton.com, in September 2004. It now averages 200 million page views a month, and Internet traffic monitoring site Alexa.com ranks it 310th out of all U.S.-based websites.
Initially, Hilton made his name by addressing celebrities in a vicious manner, drawing over their pictures and often giving them self-styled monikers such as the term “Maniston” for “Friends” actress Jennifer Aniston. He has also outed gay celebrities like actor Neil Patrick Harris.
But in October 2010, responding to a spate of gay teen suicides and bullying across the U.S., Hilton toned down his malicious style. The change has worked wonders, he said, not just on his site but on his own personality.
“I’ve had some people say they miss the old Perez but thankfully, the majority of the comments are people embracing this change and direction, and at the end of the day, the reason I made the shift was for myself,” he said. “I can still be critical, and I am, and I can still talk about celebrities, but I can do it in a way that’s not mean and hurtful and nasty. My new motto is ‘be sassy.’”
Perezitos.com joins Hilton’s growing list of specialized spin-offs such as CocoPerez.com, which focuses on fashion news and FitPerez.com, which looks at health and fitness. The sites are meant to be more positive, according to Hilton.
“This has just been the most amazing 12 months of my life, both professionally and personally. I’ve grown so much and learned so much in the last 12 months, and what I’ve done is, I’ve made very simple but important steps and changes on PerezHilton.com, and how I operate my business,” he said.
His focus on celebrity families and children comes as a “natural next step” to him, he said, because it is a topic that he considers himself “naturally curious about.”
Still, prying into the private lives of Hollywood stars and their kids raises questions of where to draw the line between a celebrity who seeks fame and a child or other family member who either does not or is not old enough to know the difference.
“I’m definitely mindful of respecting celebrities and their children and I’ve definitely, in the past when I was working on the main site, made mistakes in covering celebrities and their children,” confessed the blogger.
Hilton admits that he is now cooperative when celebrities such as Nicole Richie ask him not to use certain photos of their children.
“I don’t want to contribute to the paparazzi doing things they shouldn’t be but if they’re getting photos in public and no laws are being broken, I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” said Hilton. “People love looking at those photos of Halle Berry and her adorable little daughter.”
Hilton has written one children’s book, “The Boy with Pink Hair,” and he sees his independent spirit coupled with his changed manners of the past year as being perfect for publishing material aimed at families and kids.
“It’s a great message to show young people that just because you’re behaving in a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way,” said Hilton. “You have the ability to change your actions and change your future, and I’m so much happier now in the direction that I’m heading.” (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jill Serjeant)