TV personality Giuliana Rancic at the 18th Annual Screen Actors… (Frazer Harrison, Getty…)
Growing up in Bethesda, Giuliana Rancic thought there was nothing more glamorous than the news women she saw on TV. First at the University of Maryland, College Park, then at graduate school in Washington, she trained to join their ranks, heading with mike and camera to the White House, Pentagon and Capitol Hill.
But there was a problem.
"I couldn't bring myself to report the news straight," Rancic remembers. "I liked asking senators not just, what do you think of a policy, but what do you do for fun, what's your favorite movie."
A day after getting her master's degree at American University, she traded the marble hallways of Washington for the red carpets of Hollywood, a much more natural habitat for the lighthearted Rancic. Now 37, she is one of the most recognizable correspondents in the ever-growing world of celebrity news, anchoring E! network programs and nabbing celebrities as they swan into awards shows, quizzing them about their designers, diets and dates.
And somewhere along the way, Rancic herself has become as famous as some of the stars she interviews, covering celebrities but also getting covered herself. Nowhere have her dual roles been more in the forefront than this past year, as she publicly battled breast cancer.
"There's still a temptation to stay home and not face the world. But it's just not my personality," she says of her much-chronicled treatment, double mastectomy and continuing recovery.
"Sure, I did it to help people," she says of her public advocacy on the disease. "But I also did it for myself. I couldn't have kept it a secret. I'm not that person. I'm a very open person."
Indeed, a big part of what makes her so watchable is the blunt and plain-spoken approach she takes whether she is interviewing celebrities or talking about her illness. She has been quoted saying she doesn't give "two [bleeps]" about losing her breasts, for example, and refuses to sugar coat "the hell" of recovering from surgery.
But she leavens it with good-natured humor, tweeting about how her husband Bill, or rather, #HotMaleNurse as she hashtagged him, helped her through the misery.
By now, she is entirely comfortable living out loud, online and on air. She is almost as ubiquitous as her frequent co-host, Ryan Seacrest, popping up not just on seemingly every red carpet, but also on the ultimate guilty TV pleasure, the E! show "Fashion Police," where she joins Joan Rivers and others picking apart celebrities' stylistic triumphs and pratfalls.
You'll also see her on regular segments on NBC's "Today" show, and on the Style Network series "Giuliana & Bill," now entering a fifth season of showcasing a match that truly was made in reality heaven.
The couple met when the then-Giuliana DePandi interviewed him after he won the first season, 2004, of Donald Trump's "Apprentice." As duly reported on People magazine's website, she asked him during another interview a couple years later if he was dating anyone. No, he said, proceeding to ask her out.
They married in a lavish ceremony on Capri in 2007 — filmed, of course, for a Style Network special. She wore Monique Lhiullier; he wore Eduardo DePandi. His new father-in-law is a master tailor with a shop at White Flint Mall, where the TV is often tuned to E! to catch her broadcasts and the commercials feature Giuliana, Bill and her older siblings, Pasquale and Monica.
That the couple would be pitched a reality show of their own was all but inevitable, even if they initially hesitated. More than most, they knew about "the reality show curse," as Giuliana calls it, that very 21st-century malady in which the supposedly loving couples on screen end up in Splitsville off it.
Besides, the relentlessly cheery Rancic noted, she and Bill were never wanted to do a typical reality show, with all the contrived hysteria and petty backbiting.
"The only way we would do it is if we could make it a real reality show," she says. "There are so many fake reality shows, all this drama, people having affairs. We're not flipping over tables. There's no scandal in this show."
Now entering its fifth season, "Giuliana and Bill" indeed began as a largely sunny depiction of the apparently happy commuter marriage of the entertainment correspondent in L.A. and the rising entrepreneur in Chicago. (Bill has since moved to L.A.) But then, real-life plot twists emerged.
"We're going to buy this house and have kids, and it will be perfect," Giuliana says. "But lo and behold, reality set in, no pun intended."
The couple had trouble conceiving, which led to in vitro fertilization treatments and, sadly, a miscarriage after the second round. It was tempting to shut the cameras off on that part of their lives, she says.
"But we always made a deal, we would be truthful," she says. "We could have made up a story, 'Bill and I just don't want kids at this time.' "