Fact Check: Did Paris Hilton and Britney Spears Invent the Selfie?

Paris Hilton's love of posing for selfies is well documented, with her countless digital self-portraits dominating the social media landscape long before there was ever such thing as TikTok or Houseparty.

She is one of a number of stars, including her old pal Kim Kardashian, who had a hand in popularizing the form of photography as smartphones became commonplace.

The Claim

On Monday, Hilton marked National Selfie Day by taking to her Twitter and Instagram accounts to repost a pair of selfies of herself with Britney Spears.

The images included an old caption from November 19, 2017, in which Hilton wrote: "11 years ago today, me & Britney invented the selfie!"

Marking the occasion and noting the time that had passed since her post, Hilton captioned the screenshot: "15 years ago... #NationalSelfieDay."

15 years ago 📸💓📸 #NationalSelfieDaypic.twitter.com/N2pcFO0McZ

— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) June 21, 2021

According to her claim, she invented the selfie with pop star Spears in 2006.

This isn't the first time the heiress has made the claim. In a 2017 interview with W magazine, she named herself as the pioneer of the now-ubiquitous art form.

"If a beeper had a camera, I would have taken a selfie with it," said Hilton, whom the magazine stated "was truthfully the matriarch of the modern phenomenon."

"I think I have a selfie from when I was a little kid, like on a disposable camera," added the erstwhile reality star, seemingly reinforcing her purported innovation.

The writer of the article also noted that one of the features in Hilton's home was a collection of "framed cell phone mirror selfies."

The Facts

Given that she is 40, Hilton was born 142 years after the first known selfie was taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839, according to a 2017 New York Times probe into the genesis of the phenomenon.

But Philadelphia native Cornelius's photo didn't involve the point-and-click ease of a handheld smartphone, as he ran into the frame after setting up his camera.

Even from a handheld perspective, the BBC found the image of New York photographer Joseph Byron holding a box camera as he posed with a group of friends for a snap in 1920.

No, Paris Hilton. You did not invent the selfie. Actually, Anastasia Romanov took one long before you popped out. Circa 1914, actually. #fact pic.twitter.com/I2eGhnfJIQ

— Leah Callen (@LeahJCallen) November 19, 2017

According to the BBC, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the emperor's youngest daughter, posed for a mirror selfie in 1914 when she was 13.

In a letter to her father, she wrote: "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling."

Adding to that, the once-popular selfie stick also appears to have pre-dated the past decade, as a 1934 photo of Swedish couple Helmer and Naemi Larsson was dug up, showing up them using a stick to press the button on their camera.

Frank Sinatra selfie, 1938: #SinatraFamilyArchive pic.twitter.com/Z9URdz5oWL

— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) May 31, 2016

Tackling the point of whether Hilton could have meant that she invented the celebrity selfie, she was also beaten to the punch on that front—by Madonna, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.

Legendary singer Frank Sinatra even got in on the act as a 23-year-old, with the BBC unearthing a bathroom mirror snap of the star in 1938.

And on his travels to India in 1966, George Harrison famously posed for a selfie with a fish-eye lens, with the Taj Mahal providing a dramatic backdrop.

The Ruling


While it's likely impossible to deduce exactly who took the world's first selfie, it is by no means a Paris Hilton invention, as several selfies exist that pre-date her birth.

However, she can take some credit for helping to make the act of posing for a solo self-portrait a little less embarrassing.

Paris Hilton and Britney Spears
Paris Hilton (left) and Britney Spears at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards at Paramount Pictures Studios on September 7, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Hilton has claimed that she and Spears invented the selfie. Chris Polk/FilmMagic
False: The claim is demonstrably false. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be false.
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