The Hollywood Reporter Unveils 2013 Reality Heat List
This story first appeared in the April 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
From her breast cancer battle to coping with infertility to the birth of her son, Duke, via surrogate, Rancic has emerged as reality's most likable -- and relatable -- everywoman. But sharing her most private struggles wasn't her first instinct. "It took some soul searching," says Rancic, sitting in her brightly lighted office at E!'s headquarters in Los Angeles. "But Bill said, 'You could reach so many young women like you who think they are invincible.' That changed my mind."
Her risks have paid off: Giuliana and Bill, the series starring Rancic and her husband, is Style's longest-running and highest-rated program -- season five averaged 508,000 total viewers, up 15 percent from the previous cycle. Rancic, 37, also landed on the New York Times best-seller list with two books, one of which, I Do, Now What?, ranks among Amazon's top 100 self-help titles. But it's when young women say Rancic inspired them to get mammograms -- which, in some cases, saved their lives -- that her connection with fans is most meaningful. Says Style Media president Salaam Coleman Smith, "She's been very resilient in overcoming adversity with grace, humor and style."
Even during their struggles, the Rancics -- who also are executive producers -- have never once asked that a shot or scene removed from their show. "If anything, there were things that made me cringe and are really hard to watch, especially when we were going through all the infertility and breast cancer challenges," she says. "But I know we're doing something really good." She also is proud of the fact that the show remains "clean-cut and wholesome" yet still draws viewers. "We made a conscious decision when we first started the show to use it for good and not for evil," agrees Bill. "There aren't a lot of shows that showcase a good family life."
Coming up, viewers will get to see even more of the Rancics' son. The baby not only shares screen time with his mother but sometimes accompanies her to work: Rancic has a playpen in her office and says E! has been extremely accommodating. "I'm not entirely sure how she juggles it all, but she does," E! president Suzanne Kolb says. "She is a unique, wonderful person who is achieving every dream she has put in front of herself."
Born in an impoverished neighborhood in Naples, Italy, Rancic moved to the U.S. with her family when she was little (she taught herself English by watching TV). She started her career in Washington before joining E! News in 2002 as a correspondent. She has anchored the show -- which reaches 8.5 million viewers a week -- for eight years, six of which were alongside Ryan Seacrest (earlier in her career, Rancic auditioned to be his "female sidekick" for another show, but the two didn't meet until later). Seacrest says he thinks of her like a sister. "She has tremendous work ethic and is extremely professional, which I appreciate," he adds. "I also greatly respect her for the way she keeps a grounded perspective on life and her priorities in check."
Since joining E!, Rancic's become a major presence on the network: She also co-hosts Fashion Police, which posted its most-watched month in March (averaging 807,000 total viewers) since moving to an hourlong format a year ago, and says most celebrities she encounters are able to laugh at themselves after being mocked on the show. (Rancic herself recently landed on US Weekly's own "Fashion Police" pages, and she says she promptly went out and bought herself a copy of the magazine.) In addition to juggling her E! and Style duties, Rancic and husband Bill are co-hosting NBC's new dating show Ready for Love, which is exec produced by Eva Longoria (it debuts April 9). But the multihyphenate, who also oversees FabFitFun, a website/daily newsletter for women, insists she hasn't gotten where she is today by playing office politics. Case in point: Even after 11 years at E!, she still isn't quite sure where the president's office is. "I strongly believe that if you do the best work you can, the right people will notice," she says.
The Rancics also own a restaurant, RPM Italian, in Chicago -- Michelle Obama recently dined there -- and say their dream job is to host a daytime show in the Windy City (though Giuliana is quick to point out that her contract with E! keeps her in L.A. through 2015). "Family is my priority," she says. "I truly believe you can find a way to do it all."