Perez Hilton has always made a living poking fun at (and drawing male sex organs on) celebrities. But he's also become one - powerful and wide-reaching.
"I don't consider myself a celebrity because for every two people that like me, there's probably 3 1/2 that don't," opined Hilton, who says he doesn't care if people don't like him, "I just care if you still read my Web site."
And Perez clearly loves to stir the pot.
As if being asked to judge the Miss USA pageant wasn't enough, Hilton went for a bigger splash, asking one of the finalists, Miss California Carrie Prejean, her opinion on the controversial subject of same-sex marriage.
Prejean's responses then and since - homosexual marriage is wrong, people choose to be gay, etc. - have become the hot topic on the talk-show circuit and only bolstered Perez's status as a celebrity and gay rights advocate.
LOVE HIM, HATE HIM: Either way, Perez's influence is undeniable.
Making his own media rounds, he defended the same-sex marriage question as fair and relevant. Prejean stands by her remarks; Hilton stands by his.
It's become an epic feud with the battle lines clearly drawn.
"I said she was a dumb b!tch," Hilton (a.k.a. Mario Lavandeira) said, not backing down in the slightest. "Well, you know what? What she said in that answer was that I am a second-class citizen that doesn't deserve full equality under the law."Hilton's blog has decried Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California, and has "outed" various gay celebrities in years past.
"I've always considered myself an activist. I believe in equality. If I'm gonna talk about a heterosexual celebrity having a secret relationship with someone else, I should do the same thing with a homosexual celebrity," he avowed.
The strategy has served his bottom line well, as his over-the-top alter ego and celebrity mockery have resulted in an explosion of traffic on his site.
"His blog captured the mood of the world - a little snarky, cynical, provocative, a little tongue-in-cheek," said Howard Bragman, Hollywood publicist.
Bragman said Hilton often nails the "right tone at the right time. And a lot of those things that people were feeling, he was able to put online."
Perez Hilton won't comment on his site's earnings, which are significant, but said that, "It all is a blessing because I didn't expect any of this. I started my blog for fun. I didn't think you could make money from it."
Hilton has aimed to expand his brand from the start, launching a syndicated radio show, appearing in numerous TV spots, amassing nearly 700,000 followers on Twitter and setting the simple goal of total media domination.
"I want to be like Oprah, only bigger," he said, without a trace of irony.
Does Hilton, who ranks No. 1 on Forbes' list of the 25 most famous Web celebs, worry about keeping his brand afloat — say, amid a crippling recession?
"It definitely is affecting me — but I don't care! I have a business manager," he said. "I let him handle all the finances and all that stuff. I'm too busy working to be worried about any of those things. Plus, I still don't do it for the money."