If Giuliana Rancic could dole out any words of wisdom to her younger self, it would be these: “You’ll never use geometry. So don’t sweat that D, girl.” She laughs, reflecting on her academic career. “I wasn’t the best student. Instead, I was being social, having fun, developing a sense of humor,” she says. “And these are all skills that help me every day.”
Of course, teenaged, geometry-challenged Rancic couldn’t have known she’d grow up to ply those social skills in front of millions as a TV star. But today, Rancic has become nearly ubiquitous, with a dizzying list of projects: She’s the charismatic co-anchor of “E! News,” host of E!’s “Fashion Police” and star of reality show “Giuliana & Bill,” which follows her as she navigates her career, marriage to entrepreneur Bill Rancic and motherhood (the sixth season premieres in June). In 2011, she co-founded a beauty and wellness website, FabFitFun, and last year, she opened River North restaurant RPM Italian alongside husband Bill and restaurateurs RJ, Molly and Jerrod Melman and Doug Psaltis. As if that weren’t enough, she’s gearing up for the April 9 premiere of her latest show, NBC’s “Ready for Love,” which she’ll co-host with Bill.
Like her other projects, the new show will largely feature Rancic’s outsized personality. “It’s unlike anything that’s ever been on TV,” she says of the series, which pairs three men with three expert matchmakers who help them screen potential partners.
Asked whether she thinks it’s possible to find love on TV, Rancic puts it bluntly: “Not on ‘The Bachelor.’ ” The difference with her show, she claims, is that the female cast members know exactly who they’ll be dating — before accepting applications, Executive Producer Eva Longoria introduced the bachelors to the world on “The Today Show” last spring. “Women applied if they saw something about a certain guy and thought, ‘I want to get to know him.’ That initial connection is so important,” Rancic says. “It’s like when I met Bill. It was love at first sight. I knew there was something about him the second I laid eyes on him.”
Seven years later, the Rancics’ connection only runs deeper. In fact, the famously frank Rancic recently received flack for telling Us Weekly that she puts her marriage before motherhood — but she stands by her statement. “Your marriage is the first example of a relationship that your child is exposed to,” she says. “Bill and I are always kissing and holding hands and loving on each other in front of our child, and I think that’s so important for [Duke] to see. I want him to respect women.”
Respect is what Rancic says their relationship is built on, along with the ability to stay grounded on and off-camera. “We never want to lose our marriage or ourselves. We made a vow, and we plan on keeping it.” To that end, Rancic says that she and Bill work hard to “make each other’s lives easier” while raising 7-month-old Duke. “Bill doesn’t even drink coffee, but every day he insists on making my coffee,” she says. “And you know why? Because his dad made his mom coffee every day, and he thought that was so romantic.”
Rancic says that fans can expect similar “little, romantic things” from Bill in the upcoming season of their hit Style Network show, as well as a house-hunt in Chicago and “a ton of baby Duke.” But they’ll also see the mishaps that come with being both a mom and a media powerhouse. “A couple of weeks ago, I was at a shoot that was running late, and I was supposed to take Duke to a mommy-and-me class,” she laughs. “Let’s just say I didn’t quite make it on time, and a certain someone had to fill in for me. And if you know my husband, that is not his cup of tea.”
Historically, Rancic hasn’t shied away from broadcasting both the good and the bad in her life, and says there’s nothing she regrets sharing with the public. “I’m an open book,” she says. “I don’t draw the line anywhere.” In 2011, she received an outpouring of support after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and opted to undergo a double mastectomy. Through it all — the surgery, the recovery and the emotional aftermath — the cameras kept rolling. Now cancer-free, Rancic looks back on the experience only when she has to. “I can’t watch my surgery episode,” she says. “It makes me cry. It was pretty horrible.”
Since overcoming her illness, Rancic has rushed to the aid of other cancer-stricken women. In March, she launched a new philanthropic initiative with Chicago nonprofit Bright Pink called FabUWish, which grants young women battling breast and ovarian cancer the opportunity to spend a day living out one of their wildest wishes or dreams. It’s an idea that Rancic came up with in typically selfless fashion — she brought it to Bright Pink founder Lindsay Avner while still recovering from her own surgery. “Lindsay said, ‘We’ll help other people, but you need to help yourself first,’ ” she says.
A year later, the project is fully underway, and Rancic is finding the process of sifting through the hundreds of submissions incredibly moving. “I was reading some and crying right before a taping. The makeup girl was like, ‘Why are your eyes red?’ I couldn’t help it,” she says. One story in particular struck a chord: “One woman wrote in telling me that she found out she had breast cancer while pregnant. She found a girl on Twitter who’s also pregnant and going through chemo. I can’t even imagine how scary that is,” says Rancic. “We want to bring them together and plan an exciting surprise for them.”
After everything she pours into her philanthropic efforts, her family and her audience, Rancic is rarely able to take time for herself. So she admits that in a few years, she’d like to slow things down. “I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever wanted to,” she says. “I’d love to ride that wave for awhile, then eventually pull back, spend more time with the baby and Bill in Chicago.”
The pair wants to plant their roots downtown — currently, they shuttle back and forth between Chicago and Los Angeles, but “Bill’s made no secret of not liking LA,” she says. “And I’m not a big fan, either. There’s something about Chicago we love. I have great friendships here, the people are wonderful and it’s where we want Duke to go to school.” And they’re considering adding to their brood: “We’d only be so lucky.” But even then, Rancic won’t hide from the cameras. “Our long-term goal is to host a daytime relationship show together in Chicago,” she says.
In the meantime, she’s content with her crazy schedule, and says that the sense of humor she developed back in high school is what helps her manage it all — even when the spotlight gets harsh. “Someone will tweet at me, ‘You looked so ugly at that event,’ and I’m like, “I know!’ ” she laughs. “Humor gets me through everything. The fun times, the hard times, in my career, in overcoming my cancer.”
She pauses, thinking back to her teenaged years again. “But I’ll tell you what hasn’t helped me with any of that,” she says. “Geometry.”
What’s next for Giuliana
“Ready for Love”: “NBC brought us in and told us the idea and we were sold in five minutes. I think it’s gonna be a phenomenon. Bill and I consider ourselves very happily married, and we learned so much from the matchmakers. People will be at home, taking notes.”
Her HSN spring collection: “They’re fashionable, wearable pieces for spring. I love a good pop of color, which is why I chose bright pinks and vibrant blues. And I really wanted it to be accessible for everyone, so the sizing ranges from XS-XXL. I’m definitely going to be wearing it all around Chicago — there are great blazers that would be perfect for dinner at RPM and flowy maxi skirts that are perfect for a casual walk down Michigan Avenue.”
RPM Steak: “We’re so excited about the opening of RPM Steak [60 W. Kinzie, opening in the fall]. We’re bringing all of the wonderful flavors from RPM Italian but will have more of an emphasis on meat dishes. We are actually going to be doing some tastings for RPM Steak on our next few weekend trips to Chicago and we can’t wait.”
Story by Rachel Handler