Jail has been "horrible and really hard" for Paris Hilton, but she's ready to turn the page and begin a new chapter in her life as a changed woman.
In an exclusive phone conversation with E! News' Ryan Seacrest Thursday, the hotel heiress said she was "really proud" of herself for serving out her sentence and even admitted there was a positive aspect to life behind bars.
"In a way, I'm really glad this happened, because it changed my life forever," Hilton said in a nearly 10-minute collect call from Century Regional Correctional Facility. (Read excerpts from the conversation.)
According to the newly reformed party girl, her days of serving as a pop-culture punchline are over.
"I just realize that the media used me to make fun of and be mean about," she said. "Frankly, I'm sick of it. I want to use my fame in a good way."
She said her time on the inside has made her far more appreciative of life's little luxuries.
"I'm so much more grateful for everything that I have, even just to have a pillow at night or food or anything," Hilton said.
As someone accustomed to far more commodious digs, Hilton acknowledged that her initial days in jail were difficult, confirming, as first reported by E! Online, that she suffers from claustrophobia.
"I'm claustrophobic, and my cell is really small. It's hard. There's nothing to do but basically sit. A room with a bunk bed and a toilet and a desk," she said.
"I was going a little bit crazy in the beginning. I'm getting used to it now."
Now, with just days left on her sentence, Hilton said she's "really proud" of herself for making it through and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
"I feel like I can't wait to start a new chapter of my life. It feels really great even though I really don't like it here," she said.
As for what she plans to do when she gets out, Hilton has only simple pleasures on her mind.
"I will definitely get a good meal, because the food in here is absolutely inedible and horrible," she said. "But I just can't wait to see my family and actually just give my parents and my sister a hug, because they've been visiting me and I've been behind that bulletproof glass. So I haven't even been able to give my dad a hug for Father's Day.
"I just can't wait to see my family and have a nice meal and be in my own bed and appreciate all the things I took for granted and never really thought much about."
Hilton is expected to be set free on June 26, which will mark the 23rd day of her 45-day sentence for violating her probation on an alcohol-related driving charge.
It's possible that her time behind bars has made the Simple Life star even more popular.
Her manager, Jason Moore, confirmed to E! News that he was contacted by the Lynwood facility about picking up 20 crates of fan mail, adding up to thousands of letters for the jailbird heiress.
Hilton is making use of her free time to read and respond to some of her mail, as evidenced by a handwritten note to a fan that was obtained Tuesday by E! Online. (See the letter.)
She said she was amazed and moved by the sheer volume of mail she has received over the course of her jail sentence, and that reading the messages of support was the best part of her day.
"I'll reread the letters, and I literally cry. It fills my heart and my soul," she said. "So much love. I had no idea there were that many people who cared."
Though Hilton is undoubtedly counting down the seconds until her release, her neighbors are evidently less enthusiastic about her homecoming party.
A group of residents in the hotel namesake's Hollywood Hills enclave has been circulating a petition encouraging neighbors to call police and local officials if traffic and noise conditions become problematic due to the swarm of paparazzi that will no doubt converge on the area.
Meanwhile, the big broadcasters have already begun jockeying for a piece of the allegedly spiritually awakened socialite. The New York Post reported Thursday that NBC has agreed to pay as much as $1 million for the first postjail sit-down with Hilton, which will reportedly be conducted by Meredith Vieira. (Both the network and Hilton's rep have denied that any deal involving money changing hands exists.)
ABC was said to be put out by the decision, having expected Hilton to select her phone pal Barbara Walters for the interview. However, having already given the View den mother an earful via collect call, Hilton was apparently ready to discuss her time served with someone new.
As Hilton's jail sentence winds down, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, the official chiefly responsible for putting her behind bars, has come under fire for staying mum about a 2004 accident in which his wife, Michelle, crashed his city-issued vehicle while driving on a suspended license.
Earlier in the week, Delgadillo admitted he made a mistake and said he had written a check to reimburse the city for the $1,222 repair, saying that it was "the right thing to do."
"I mishandled the situation and I apologize," Delgadillo said at a news conference Monday.
However, he maintained that his wife's violation was not comparable to Hilton's crime.
"Paris Hilton was driving drunk, was on probation…She violated that probation more than once," he said. "My wife had a suspended license and then she received a ticket. She was never driving drunk."
Of course, as Hilton tells it, neither was she.
Immediately following the September traffic stop that marked the start of her troubles, Hilton placed a call to Seacrest on his morning radio show to explain that her DUI arrest was simply the result of driving on an empty stomach after downing a single margarita.
"I was just really hungry and wanted to have an In-N-Out Burger," she said at the time, admitting that she was maybe "speeding a little" as she drove to the nearest fast-food outlet but denying that she had been at all intoxicated.
"Everything I do is blown out of proportion," she complained. "It really hurts my feelings."
(View our photo gallery chronicling Paris' travails, from her original alcohol-related bust to her return trip to the pokey.)