On January third, E! News Anchor Giuliana Rancic was an hour late for our interview. Not because tardiness is something of which she makes a practice. Giuliana is known in industry circles as being a meticulous professional. January third was the day that the news of Britney Spears’s infamous child custody stand off, emotional breakdown and subsequent ambulance ride to Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center broke; the equivalent of a presidential primary caucus, in the entertainment world. Giuliana Rancic, understandably, had to be on camera to cover it.
While on that day, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC were all focused solely on Barak Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton in Iowa, the world of “soft” news was reporting on the downward spiral and tragic times of Britney Spears. Surely there is a clean divide in what these two different worlds see as relevant news. Yeah! If this were the eighties or even the nineties, the above statement might have sounded plausible and even reasonable. In the year 2008… not the case.
Celebrity tabloid fare is trickling into the mainstream news these days much to the amusement of both Giuliana Rancic and me. When Giuliana apologizes for being late due to breaking news, I take humorous delight in telling her that just that morning some of the serious news channels had interrupted coverage of the presidential primary race to announce late breaking Britney Spears news. One reporter even stated that she got word from democratic hopeful John Edwards’s campaign that upon landing at their next destination in New Hampshire, the whole lot of them immediately turned on their Blackberrys to see what was happening with Ms. Spears. Hardly relevant intel for procuring votes in New Hampshire.
During my chat with Giuliana Rancic, I picked up on her own disbelief at some of the stories she brings E! News fans each night at 7pm. We also managed to squeeze in how she met and fell in love with TV’s very first Apprentice winner, Bill Rancic.
Giuliana Rancic: Sorry. Did Matt (Giuliana’s assistant) tell you we had some issues?
Well we had some breaking stuff, so…
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Oh, Britney (laughs)?
Giuliana Rancic: Yes, exactly. We had to go back and re-shoot at the studios, so sorry about that.
PR.com: I was thinking about you this morning. I’m watching the coverage on the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and they were like, “John Edwards and his camp, they just got off the plane in New Hampshire and as soon as they landed, they all whipped out their BlackBerrys to see what’s going on with Britney Spears!
Giuliana Rancic: Oh, that’s hilarious!
PR.com: I’m like, “What is the world coming to?!”
Giuliana Rancic: Isn’t that scary? It is crazy. Last night I was watching the [Iowa] results and Shepard Smith... you could tell it just came up in his prompter, he’s in Iowa and he’s like, “Oh... and… uh… there’s some breaking Britney news. Ambulances are at her house. Ok, we’ll be following that…” It was just awful that out of nowhere he had to say that (laughs).
PR.com: What’s going through your mind when you’re reporting on Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and all these girls?
Giuliana Rancic: You mean some of the sad stuff?
PR.com: Yeah, I mean the habitual DUIs, the in and out of rehab…
Giuliana Rancic: I just think that these girls grow up faster than everyone else. What happens is they get money at such a young age and I think money is really the root of all evil with these girls. What happens is they get this money and they get this fame and they’re able, with that money, to buy the big house and cars and all the fancy things. So it’s not normal. When they start dating a guy… it’s not like when we start dating someone and we go, “Ok, I’ve got to get my life in place. I need a career. I need to make some money. I need a home…” With them, they already live in the mansion. They already have the cars. They’ve already done it all, so it’s kind of like, “Hey! Wanna get married?” That’s why we see them do these quickie weddings and everything is just so… they’ve seen it all! So it takes a lot to impress them or to shock them anymore. That’s why I think they just go further and further every time. They get in more and more trouble and it’s just a downward spiral. I think the root of it is that they have so much so soon, and so they need more stimulation then regular people.
PR.com: It’s not healthy then.
Giuliana Rancic: Not at all. And that’s why I think they drive faster. They’re sloppier when they drive. You know, they’ll drive drunk. They’ll do things just because they’re bored and they have nothing else to do. And I also do think that they think that the money and the fame will get them out of any situation.
PR.com: By the way, I don’t think many people know this, but you’re Managing Editor of E! News in addition to being anchor on the show. Why is your title “editor” as opposed to “producer,” since it’s on air and not in print?
Giuliana Rancic: They give it that title on these TV shows because you’re approving and editing the actual scripts and the content of the show, which is basically written. In the morning meetings at 6 am it’s myself, the line producer, the executive producer and the two girls from the assignment desk. We go through the day book and go through everything out there and we decide the content of the show. Then once the producers get assigned their stories at about 7:30 am and start writing, at that point I go into the scripts and I tweak things to give it my voice. I make changes, whether it’s to the scripts as well as the intros, the outros… everything. So, the actual writing is what I edit throughout the morning.
PR.com: Are you the first anchor for E! News who is also an editor?
Giuliana Rancic: I think so, yeah. That was unheard of before. Ted Harbert who’s the CEO of E! Entertainment, he had just started and I went up to meet him and I was just a reporter at the time. He said, “Why aren’t you anchoring?” At that point the news was the lowest rated show on the network. I said, “Well that’s a great question.” (Laughs) He said, “Would you like to do it?” and I said, “Yeah. I’d love to.” But, I really think that as important as the anchor is to the success of the show, it’s also the content.” Content is number one. If you’re not reporting on things that people care about, nobody’s watching. So I said, “Can I be the Managing Editor?” and he said, “What is that?” (Laughs). I told him I’d like to be able to decide what we lead with and change scripts. I felt the only way to compete with the other shows is, while they’re all leading with Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford, we need to target young Hollywood. I said, “We need to make it a younger, hipper channel and really target Paris and Britney and Lindsay.” And this was at a time when Paris Hilton was nobody. I mean, she was a socialite basically. So, I said, “Let’s lead with these people and people will care eventually about these girls, and we’ll get a younger demographic.” Within a year our rating shot up seventy-five percent. It became the number one show on the network.
PR.com: Do you think that you and Ryan Seacrest and the guys that do The Daily 10… do you think that you’re responsible for putting these girls into the spotlight and helping to create the hysteria around them?
Giuliana Rancic: I think that it’s a vicious circle. I think that everyone is responsible. If The Daily 10 and E! News went off the air tomorrow would people still care about Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears? Yes. There’s still all the tabloids and the weeklies and even Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, they’re on all the shows now. I think we’re just giving viewers what they want. We get minute by minute ratings and we can see what people are responding to. People love a Britney Spears story, anything about Britney Spears. Anything about Anna Nicole [Smith], that was a really big one. There are certain people that rate so well and that people just can’t get enough of! We test it out a lot. We’ll even do Britney Spears at the top of the show and then tease down to a second Britney story, and you just see those numbers staying consistent if not shooting up. Whereas Lindsay Lohan, for some reason, people don’t respond to as much.
PR.com: What is it about an Anna Nicole Smith or Britney Spears story that has people so captivated?
Giuliana Rancic: I think they’re more relatable to American women. Before Britney Spears went dark or bald she was, like, blonde and just bubble gum. She was American Pie. That’s kind of like Anna Nicole Smith. It’s the way they look, that blonde all American girl. I think that [seeing] what we always thought was the perfect type of girl going in a downward spiral and just become a complete train wreck, it’s captivating. Lindsay Lohan was always kind of rough (laughs) from the start. She’s just a little rougher. She’s got that voice and she just looks a little tougher than those girls. To see what’s happened to Britney Spears is shocking and people just can’t get enough.
PR.com: You got your masters degree from American University in journalism. One would think from that, that you would be interested in covering harder, more serious news. Did you actively pursue a career in entertainment journalism?
Giuliana Rancic: I always loved entertainment and I’m fascinated with movies and celebrities. I was that person growing up, that you could say, “What was that movie with that guy?” and I could tell you everything about it. I don’t know where that came from. Maybe because I came to this country from Italy and when I go back to Italy all my cousins are always like, “Oh My God! Hollywood!” They love it! I love giving people news so I thought, ok, this is what I want to do for a living. I thought, how do you make a living off of entertainment news? Back then there were VJs on MTV and a couple of entertainment hosts here and there, but it wasn’t such a big [field] at the time. There weren’t that many of those jobs.
PR.com: Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight is the only one that comes to mind from back then.
Giuliana Rancic: Yeah. So, I thought I would be a local anchorwoman because they get to do a lot of feature stuff and lighter stories, but they also obviously do the hard news. So, I went to AU because they have this amazing journalism program. Everyday I was either at The State Department or The Pentagon or The White House or Capitol Hill or The Supreme Court. So, yeah, my focus was definitely on hard news. I thought that was the direction I was taking. Then my professor pointed it out. He said, “Your stories are too light. You make your stories too feature-y.” What was happening was I was going in and interviewing, like, Senator Ted Kennedy and I would ask him the real questions and then I would say, “By the way Senator, what do you do to have a good time? What do you do on a Friday night? What good movies have you seen lately?” And everyone would just roll their eyes at me.
PR.com: Hey Ted, what’s your favorite brand of vodka (laughs)?
Giuliana Rancic: Exactly. “Do you get wasted every Friday night?” (laughs) No, but I would always have fun and then I would cut out all the hard news stuff and make these fun feature stories with all the juicy information. My professor was like, “You know, you can’t be on Capitol Hill doing this sort of thing.” I was heartbroken. And he said, “Why don’t you go out to Hollywood and try to do an entertainment show.” Not even a week after graduating from AU, I went to Hollywood and just worked my way up, in mailrooms and I was a hostess in a restaurant… you know, you do all those jobs…
PR.com: Well, you’ve said that you didn’t really know how to go about it…
Giuliana Rancic: I really didn’t. It’s amazing what eight years does. One of the first places I interviewed at was Access Hollywood. Someone told me about a listing there to work in the tape library. I remember going there and the guy called me out. Looking at my resume he goes, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a reporter?” And I said, “I would do that. Are you hiring??”
Giuliana Rancic: He said “This is not for you. I know what you really want to do. Don’t get stuck in the tape library if what you really want to do is report.” He said to do smaller jobs on that path. So, that’s what I did. That guy was actually Rob Silverstein, who’s the executive producer of Access Hollywood and who I now see at events, and we’re basically colleagues.
PR.com: Does he remember that, that was you?
Giuliana Rancic: You know, I’ve been dying to say something to him. Actually, we were both covering the “TomKat” wedding in Italy and I was walking through the hotel. He was there with Billy Bush and they were having drinks at the bar and Billy saw me and said, “Come join us!” So we all hung out and had drinks and I was like, should I say something to Rob Silverstein (laughs)?
PR.com: I would be dying to! I’d be like, “Check me out!”
Giuliana Rancic: I know. Totally! I’ll mention it next time I see him.
PR.com: Do you want to stay in the realm that you’re in now, or do you ever want to go back to interviewing politicians and doing harder news?
Giuliana Rancic: I love the morning show model; when you look at Matt Lauer or Meredith Vieira, that’s kind of the perfect job that I’m gearing towards doing one day. It gives you the ability to do the harder news but also to do cooking segments and to interview the celebrities and have fun. It involves more personality and you’ve really got to be able to think quickly on your feet. I’d love to do that but I’m not in any rush to do that. What I’d love to do after E! is maybe a daytime talk show.
PR.com: Do you think a journalist gets into dangerous territory when they, themselves, become a celebrity?
Giuliana Rancic: They do if they approach it the wrong way and I’ve seen journalists approach it the wrong way. Here’s the deal. I talk about my personal life and I embrace people wanting to know about my life, whether it’s an interview or there’s paparazzi pictures of me in a bathing suit or whatever. I can’t get that mad, because that’s how I make a living. I think you’re a hypocrite if you do it any other way. If your job is to interview celebrities and get personal information out of them, but yet when the tables are turned and you say, “No, no, no. I don’t like to answer questions about my personal life,” that’s ridiculous and you’re in the wrong line of work. Don’t dish it unless you can take it.
(As we’re talking Giuliana notices a television promo for “Larry King Live.”)
Giuliana Rancic: I’m laughing right now. There’s an ad on CNN for Larry King Live, “Britney Spears Hospitalized.” See… Larry King is doing it (pointing out CNN’s coverage of Britney Spears). Everyone’s doing it. It’s funny because I remember when people thought we were ridiculous for leading with Britney Spears.
PR.com: Do you prefer reporting on the news or the interaction from doing an interview? Which is more fun for you?
Giuliana Rancic: I have a lot of fun doing the actual interviews. I like doing the red carpets and sitting across from celebs. It’s fun to sit their with the celebrity and see what you can learn about them that no one else has ever asked them. Or they’ve never revealed certain things to other people and suddenly they reveal it to you. I do try to have a lot of fun with the interviews and don’t take it too seriously. It’s entertainment news. Unless, like today, we took a much more serious tone. We’re reading intros about [Britney Spears] holding her kid hostage and going to the hospital. Those are serious issues.
PR.com: When you look at somebody like that you can’t help but say to yourself, “Isn’t this person aware that they need help and they’re not well?” Why does everyone else seem to notice it except for them?
Giuliana Rancic: We don’t know. She could have a chemical imbalance. There are reports that she is bi-polar. There are reports that she’s on a lot of medication, there are reports that she’s on drugs. We don’t really know. I don’t think her mother even really knows the extent of what’s going on, but when you’re under the influence of something whether you have a chemical imbalance or are on drugs, you don’t realize how sick you are.
PR.com: Doesn’t it almost mirror the downfall of Michael Jackson when he continued to rapidly lose touch with reality? The money almost acted like a buffer to keep the people who cared most, or who were in a position to help, further and further away.
Giuliana Rancic: What happens to celebrities is the more famous they get the more they lose touch with reality. And I mean literally, not figuratively. They can’t talk to quote-unquote “regular” people anymore. Imagine Britney Spears is going to a mall or going to a grocery store or to get her mail, she is constantly annoyed by people. Everyone comes up to her and annoys the hell out of her. In all fairness to her, whether it’s paparazzi or some chick from Kansas who comes up to her on Robertson Blvd. (a popular shopping strip in Beverly Hills) and says, “Oh My God Britney, you’re fatter in real life then I thought! That’s so funny!” You can’t imagine the tact that some people don’t have. She can’t sit on an airplane without the flight attendant bugging the hell out of her for a picture or being afraid that someone’s going to take her picture while she’s asleep on the airplane. It’s a constant state of paranoia. When she was first getting famous maybe she was annoyed one hour out of the day, then two, then five. So what happens is they start completely alienating themselves from real people. They’ll get their cousin or their assistant or whoever to do everything for them so that they don’t have to talk to people. And then you lose touch. Then what happens is one day they’re not normal anymore. They’re not on this earth with everyone else. They’re operating on a different level and that’s when you start losing your freakin’ mind.
PR.com: Watching E! News, and E! News is great, I watch it all the time. But it’s almost like “Theatre of the Absurd.” It’s strange to watch you deliver some of these headlines with a straight face, so it’s refreshing to hear what you’re thinking about this stuff.
Giuliana Rancic: I don’t know if people love this stuff because it makes them feel better about themselves. I think that is definitely the case to an extent. As long as there are those viewers and as long as they want to see this… it’s just supply and demand. People want it, we’re going to give it to them.
PR.com: Absolutely. I don’t blame you.
Giuliana Rancic: My husband (first season “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic) and I were just vacationing on our honeymoon. We’re sitting on the beach. I couldn’t have looked uglier. You don’t realize what you look like until you see a picture of yourself (laughs). It doesn’t matter how gorgeous you are. But even if you’re a gorgeous model and you’re sitting on a lounge chair on the beach and your lunch comes and you’re straddling your chair, biting into a burger, you don’t have any makeup on, your eyes are squinting, and you’ve got this awful pony tail on the top of your head, you’re gonna be ugly in a picture.
PR.com: Anyone photographed from an unflattering angle is not going to look good.
Giuliana Rancic: Exactly. That guy taking the pictures takes fifty pictures and the ugliest one gets printed. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is and it’s enough to drive celebrities crazy. They open up the magazine and they had no idea they were being shot in their bikini eating like a pig and just being a regular person. But regular people go back to work on Monday and their whole office doesn’t see them in that picture. A celebrity goes to the newsstand and opens it up and sees that picture and its like, “Oh My God! Is that what I look like?” After so many unflattering pictures and lies about them, it drives them crazy. Even me, I walk down the street and I can’t believe what people say to me. It’s comical. They will say the rudest thing without realizing they’re rude.
PR.com: Because they just want to say something. They want your attention.
Giuliana Rancic: It’s not even that. It’s just that a lot of people don’t have tact. It’s not like they’re trying to be mean. They’re really not. But, they’ll just say things like, “Oh My God! Are you the girl from E!? It’s so funny seeing you in real life. It doesn’t even look like you. You’re so glamorous on TV.”
PR.com: I guess somewhere along the line there’s a disconnection that you’re a human being with feelings.
Giuliana Rancic: I think so, yeah. You’re right. Now imagine Angelina Jolie. Everywhere she goes in this world people know her face. It’s not normal. That’s why they’re freaks.
PR.com: I wouldn’t know how to navigate my way around the world like that. I happen to like going food shopping and going to the movies or going bowling. I wouldn’t want that taken away from me.
Giuliana Rancic: I was picking up a salad the other day at a carry out place. Then this lady walks up and says to the girl behind the counter, “Can I have what she’s having?” She didn’t even hear me do my order. The girl behind the counter said she didn’t remember the details of my order. Then the woman turned to me and said “Can you tell her what you just ordered?” It was so weird to me. And I’m just an anchor on a news show.
PR.com: So, one too many strange encounters is enough to make you stay in your house. Let’s talk about married life since you got married in September. You’re in Chicago with Bill now?
Giuliana Rancic: Yeah, I’m in Chicago right now and we just go back and forth. Bill is one of the hosts on this new show called In The Loop with iVillage on NBC and he’s doing great with that. The show is doing really well right now so he’s here and he got that gig just a few weeks before the wedding. We thought we’d have more flexibility but it’s fine. He’s here [in Chicago] during the week and I’m in L.A. during the week where I shoot. I’m under contract. I’m still doing my thing which I love, and I love E!. It’s an amazing job.
PR.com: And sometimes you shoot in Chicago?
Giuliana Rancic: My bosses have been really cool and allowed me to spend more time here with Bill so they let me shoot from Chicago which has been so helpful.
PR.com: Will there come a point in the near future where you guys will collectively pick a city?
Giulina Rancic: Ideally yes, but our careers are really important to us and right now it’s such a great time in both of our careers. We love each other enough that we know it’s not going to hurt us. Eventually, and especially for when we want to have kids, and that sort of thing. Right now we’re just gonna make the most out of our careers and focus on that, and save the kids and that stuff for a little later down the road.
PR.com: What’s your interaction with Ryan Seacrest like on the show? Is he involved in any of the editorial in putting the news together or does he just show up to report the news?
Giuliana Rancic: Well, the thing with Ryan is he has his radio show in the morning so he starts early on the radio. His radio show is in the E! building, so that has helped him a lot. He’s basically on the air from 6 am to about 10:30 am and our meetings are at 6, so he can’t really be a part of it. But he’s awesome. He’ll shoot emails from downstairs from the radio station like, “I just heard that Lauren Conrad broke up with Brody…” or whatever. So, it helps that he’s on the radio because he’s hearing all that stuff and doing all that news. He’ll shoot me emails and I’ll shoot him emails, and so we’re in touch during the morning.
PR.com: And your book, “Think Like A Guy,” when did that come out?
Giuliana Rancic: That was last July (of 2006). It was a lot of fun and then I actually sold the book rights to Touchstone to do a TV show. One of the executives over at Touchstone has it now and we’ll see what happens. It would be a cute TV show.
PR.com: Was that a compilation of your single life before you met Bill?
Giuliana Rancic: Absolutely. And sometimes people write these relationship books and the book is based, not so much on their lives and their relationships, as it is more based on research and gathering information. Mine was very little research and gathering information (laughs). It was more on just the way I am, my life and the way I’ve done it and just watching my friends date. I wrote it before I met Bill, but it came out the summer I started dating Bill, which was really an awkward thing. That was a really fun conversation on the second date when Bill looked at me and said, “You know, I heard something. I don’t know if it’s true, but do you have a book coming out where you tell girls to… date like a guy and how to land a guy??” I’m choking on my sushi like “Um, uh… yes. But it was before you!”
(Giuliana turns to ask Bill what he thinks of her dating book, to which he agrees that it’s good advice.)
PR.com: How did you and Bill meet? How’d you cross paths?
Giuliana Rancic: We met a long time ago at an NBC upfront party (where networks showcase their TV show lineups for the new season to advertisers) about four years ago, but I was with my ex-boyfriend at the time. I used to watch The Apprentice all the time. It was right after Bill won The Apprentice and my ex was an actor on NBC, so he was like, “Do you want me to introduce you?” And I always thought Bill was sooo cute, so when I met him… I just thought he was a cutie pie, but then that was that. Then I interviewed Bill a year later and we were both in relationships. Then a couple years ago I interviewed him again and that’s when we hit it off. We were both single and he was like, “Want to go out some time?” That was it. That was my last date ever, right sweetheart (calling out to husband Bill)?
PR.com: Your last first date!
Giuliana Rancic: Yes! Bill just said that he never kissed another woman after that… and me too. Oh, well actually I’ve never kissed another woman in my life (laughs). I meant man! See now you can tell why my professor told me not to do hard news. You can’t say things like that on CNN!
Giuliana Rancic is the anchor of E! News which airs weeknights at 7 PM ET/PT on the E! Entertainment Network. Giuliana’s dating book, “Think Like A Guy” is available through Amazon.com or GiulianaRancic.com.