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The notorious celebrity blogger has mellowed over the past few years, embracing social issues and retiring the penis doodles that first made him famous. Now the father of two, gossip hound Perez Hilton (a.k.a. Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr.) says being a dad keeps his inner mean girl in check. Hilton was in Toronto recently to announce his upcoming role – as Danny Tanner – in the satirical Full House musical which will premier at the Randolph Theatre in August before moving to New York. Here, the man Hollywood loves to hate shares some of the secrets to his success, including how Jennifer Aniston turned him into less of a jerk

The wisdom of Maya Angelou

A few years ago I began the journey to being a happier, healthier person and just growing up. I stopped hiding behind this character I had created on the blog and also started to realize that the people who I wrote about weren't characters either. I ran into Jennifer Aniston [who Hilton bestowed with the nickname "Maniston"], and she basically said to me, "You know, I'm a real person." That was one moment of realization among many. I embrace change. It's not always easy, but it's inevitable. I'm a father of two now, I live in New York City. My reality is totally different from that 26-year-old who was living in L.A. One quote that really resonates with me is Maya Angelou: when you know better, you do better. Unless you do not. And then you're really a d-bag.

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Salt is the spice of life

I don't try to provoke people as much as I once did, but I still have that philosophy that if people want to talk negatively about me, that's better than not being talked about at all. People are a lot nicer in real life than they are on the Internet. There is something about the Internet that fosters snakiness and negativity, even in the nicest people. I don't think that someone who is posting something catty about what Kim Kardashian wore is a mean person – that's just what you do, it's the nature of the beast. I definitely try to remember that when I read negative things about myself. I take what is said on the Internet with a grain of salt. I do read it though. I think salt is an important part of my diet.

Privacy is overrated

There are certain things that one should be very sensitive about. Let's say a family member is going through a medical issue – you don't have to share that with the world. But generally, I try to live my life openly. My mom is the opposite. I grew up hearing "Don't tell anybody about your business, don't share anything." I have found that sharing my struggles, what I'm going through with my readers can be helpful and therapeutic. Earlier this year, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. It was scary and frustrating and a huge distraction. I felt like I could barely function for three months, but I talked about it online, I vlogged about it. Sharing makes me feel like I'm not alone. The Internet can be a damaging thing, but it can also be very healing, hopeful place.

To stay in the game, you have to say yes

After Joan Rivers died, I watched the documentary about her and I really studied her career, which was just so amazing. I realized that what I wanted was to have longevity and that has really changed the way I look at my career. In the past, if I thought something was not cool, I wouldn't do it. The new Perez says yes to a lot more because you never know where an opportunity might lead. This year I appeared on the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker. I had been asked to do it before, but I said no because I thought it was cheesy and fake. Now my goal is to do a wide variety of things and not [be] so quick to judge the work.

This interview has been condensed and edited by Courtney Shea.

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