With a fairy-tale home life and a powerhouse personal brand, E! personality and dynamo entrepreneur Giuliana Rancic strides into her 15th year with the network - happy, healthy, and loving her new life in Chicago.
What an epic five years it’s been for Giuliana Rancic. The longtime E! Fashion Police star was declared cancer-free after a double mastectomy in 2012, then welcomed her son, Duke, later that year. Since then, she has stepped back into the spotlight in a serious way, launching wildly popular HSN fashion collection G by Giuliana and wine line Xo, G; writing a New York Times best seller, Going Off Script; and partnering with husband Bill Rancic to debut Chicago dining hot spots RPM Italian and RPM Steak (plus the recently opened RPM Italian in DC), all while commuting between LA and her new home in Chicago.
With Rancic gracing a record third Michigan Avenue cover, it was clear that only her husband could do the interview justice—and the former Apprentice winner was happy to oblige. In a playful pre-awards-season chat for Michigan Avenue in a cozy corner booth at RPM Steak, Giuliana talked frankly and openly with Bill about her newfound peace, the life-changing lessons of the past five years, and what makes Chicago feel like home.
Dress, Pamella Roland ($2,990). Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900. D’orsay pump, Jimmy Choo ($750). 114 E. Oak St., 312-255-1170. 18k Copley Diamond bangle ($6,500), 18k platinum Copley bangle (price on request), Hearts on Fire. James and Sons, 1457 W. Halsted St., 773-327-8800. Gold choker and gold bracelets, her own
Bill Rancic: Giuliana, thank you for sitting down with me. I really appreciate you taking the time. It is an honor and a privilege.
Giuliana Rancic: My goodness! I wasn’t prepared for something so official.
BR: I try to be a professional in every way I can. We’re sitting here at RPM Steak, and I’m excited to let you know that you’re the first three-time cover star in the history of Michigan Avenue magazine.
GR: Wow—I honestly didn’t know that. Being a three-time cover person on any magazine is cool, but I think this one is especially important just because I love Chicago so much. I’ve embraced this city, and this city has embraced me.
BR: Last time you did the cover was five years ago, and you talked about battling breast cancer. Just recently, you celebrated five years of having your final surgery. Take us through the journey of the last five years.
GR: I remember that cover shoot like it was yesterday, because there was so much going on in my life. I was going into surgery in a few days, and I remember seeing the pictures when they came out, and I could see the fear in my eyes. We have that cover framed, and it’s sometimes hard to look at, because it represents a very hard time in my life. That’s why this [new cover] is so special to me. The five-year milestone is so important in breast cancer. I feel like I’ve come full circle. When I did that cover, there was just so much fear and uncertainty in my future. At five years, I’m much more calm, and I’m such a different person in a way, and really better because of it.
BR: Which leads me to my next question. When you look back at the five years, tell me the three biggest changes in Giuliana.
GR: There’s so many, but I think the main one is I appreciate life more. I mean, you just do. When you go through something like breast cancer, as you always say, Bill—I’m going to steal a line from you, and I’m giving you credit...
Dress, Pamella Roland ($2,990). Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900. Copley diamond bangle (price on request), 18k Copley bangle (price on request), Hearts on Fire. James and Sons, 1457 N. Halsted St., 773-327-8800. Gold choker, her own.
BR: ... which is very rarely.
GR: Normally, I steal lines from you but I don’t give you credit.
BR: That’s okay.
GR: Here I’m going to give you credit, since you’re here in front of me. You always say, “When you go through something big in life, you turn down the volume on the little things and the things that don’t matter, and you turn up the volume on the things that do matter.” That’s what I’ve done in the past five years, and I think you can see it through the decisions I’ve made, especially with work.
GR: And personally, as well. The biggest has been pulling back on the day-today work life so that I could move to Chicago and be able to take Duke to school every day. Going back to your question, I think I’m much stronger than I was before.
BR: I agree.
GR: I used to think I was strong, but I didn’t realize how strong I could be. I remember a great quote that I used to always look at; something along the lines of, “You realize your true strength when you have no other choice but to be strong.”
Beaded dress, Pamella Roland ($3,630). Neiman Marcus, 737 N. Michigan Ave., 312-642-5900. 18k Lorelei Dia Criss Cross ring ($4,490) and 18k Dia Beloved Cluster diamond earrings (price on request), Hearts on Fire. James and Sons, 1457 N. Halsted St., 773-327-8800
BR: You’re out of options.
GR: I had no choice, and I realized, “Wow, I’m a strong chick.” That was one of the positives of breast cancer, that realization, because it has helped me go through other things these past five years. The third thing is... Let me think… You know, I’ve always been empathetic, but that got turned up a lot, especially with women and the issues women go through.
BR: Speaking of that, one of the things I’m extremely proud of you for doing is creating Fab-U-Wish. Tell me what that has meant to you.
GR: Fab-U-Wish I created not long after I had my surgery. You and I were driving in the car one night, and we came up with the name Fab-U-Wish.
BR: We did.
GR: You like to think you came up with the name, right?
BR: Are you kidding me?
GR: I think I came up with it.
BR: Wow, this is unbelievable.
GR: Okay, you’re right. Maybe you did.
Midi dress, Saloni ($650). Intermix, 40 E. Delaware Pl., 312-640-2922. Ashville leather jacket, Iro ($1,200). Intermix, 40 E. Delaware Pl., 312-640-2922. D’orsay pump, Christian Louboutin ($875). Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-6500. Platinum, tsavorite, round and baguette diamond earrings (price on request), Lester Lampert Jewelers, 7 E. Huron St., 312-944-6888
BR: I have to have a trademark attorney on retainer in the house. [Laughs]
GR: Fab-U-Wish was a way to give back to other women going through breast cancer, but really tied to my own experience. I remember going back to work for the first time after my double mastectomy. I got my hair and makeup done, and I put on a pretty dress, and I looked in the mirror, and it was the first time in a very long time I recognized the person looking back at me.
BR: The old you.
GR: The old me. The girl before the breast cancer, and that’s what I wanted to go back to. Seeing that really helped me say, “You know what? I don’t have to be a different person. I can be myself. I can still have the life I had before. I’m going to get through this, and I’m going to stay the same woman that I am.” That was very helpful, and I thought, I wish I could do this for other women and just let them feel fabulous for the day. That’s how Fab-U-Wish came about. We’re almost five years in, and since then we’ve partnered with the Pink Agenda out of New York City, which is under the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Together with the Pink Agenda, we fulfill wishes and also raise money for breast cancer research. It’s been incredible.
BR: Speaking of Fab-U-Wish, this is Michigan Avenue’s Spring Fashion issue. What excites you about fashion?
GR: Everything. I love fashion. I grew up in a fashion-centric household. My father is still, at 79, a master tailor from Naples, Italy. Still, every day, he makes these beautiful custom Italian suits for some of the best-dressed men in Washington, DC. I’m very proud of my father.
BR: It’s in your DNA.
GR: Just growing up in that household, my mom loves fashion, my sister used to work for Versace when she first started her career.
BR: You have quite an eye for it, so much so that you’ve created the G by Giuliana line of clothing for HSN. What can we expect in the spring collection? Are you wearing it now? I know you are.
GR: I’m always wearing G by Giuliana. I hear other designers say, “I don’t necessarily design for myself. I design for all women.” But first and foremost, I think you should design what you love, and then take it from there. Because you need to love it and you need to want to wear it. One of the things I love most about the line is that every size is available, whether you’re petite or a plus-sized woman. Fashion should be available to women of all sizes, and all ages. And affordable. Fashion has become very expensive, and it shouldn’t have to be.
Dress, Dior ($4,490). Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan Ave., 312-944-6500. 18k white gold and two row diamond coil bracelet and 18k rose gold and 88 round white and brown diamond flexible bracelet, (price on request). Lester Lampert Jewelers, 7 E. Hurnon St., 312-944-6888
BR: You’ve created an incredible personal brand. Describe the Giuliana brand in six adjectives or less.
GR: Six? That’s hard... Authentic. I think authenticity is the first word that comes to mind. Attainable. Relatable.
BR: And affordable luxury. It’s like the restaurant. You come in and you can spend $15 and have a meal, or you can spend much more. It’s the same with the clothing line, and the wine, and some of the other things that we do.
GR: Two more. I would say stylish. Honest. And everything I do, I’m transparent, if I can add a seventh.
BR: Let’s shift gears. What about Chicago makes you feel at home?
BR: Well, thank you.
GR: First and foremost, you, Bill. I love that I’m your wife in Chicago. I think that’s cool. When I met you, you showed me Chicago for the first time. You took me to a Cubs game, then driving around the city on the motorcycle, to going to all the hot restaurants and bars. We just had the greatest time, and I fell in love with the city.
BR: We danced the night away at the Wild Hare. We were making out on the dance floor, drinking rum runners.
GR: You’re right. I think that’s the one thing that makes me, obviously, feel at home. We just have the greatest time here. I feel very fulfilled and happy here. I owe that to you, my love.
BR: Wow, thank you.
GR: I would never have known Chicago if you hadn’t introduced me to it.
BR: What’s it like being a mother?
GR: It’s a life-changer, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me—you and Duke are the best things that have ever happened to me. He’s just the best. Every day, it’s something new and adorable. It’s a type of joy you just don’t get anywhere else. I love to laugh, as you know, and I laugh my whole life. Italian family, lots of laughter. But the kind of laugh that I experience when my son makes me laugh is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. When I look at him I see you, and you’re an amazing dad, the best dad I could have dreamed of. I just feel like my life’s complete. Things change, but right now life is beautiful.
BR: Now, I like to wrap up every Michigan Avenue magazine [interview] that I do—
GR: I thought this was your first one.
BR: Well, it is, but maybe I’ll be doing more, if they think I did a good enough job. What advice would you give young women out there who are reading this article?
GR: One thing is identifying who you really are. Are you more serious? Are you funny? Are you adventurous?
BR: Do you have to just be one?
GR: No, but identify who you are and work with that. I think so many of us, when we’re going after a job, or anything really in life, we look at the people in that position and say, “Oh, maybe I should be more like her.” I disagree. You should be more like you, and bring something unique to the table.
BR: I like that.
GR: Work ethic is incredibly important. When I first started out in my professional career, I was the first to get to work every day and the last to leave. “No” was not in my vocabulary. You could ask me to make you coffee, answer your phone, run errands. No matter what my job title was, I did it, and I did it with a smile. I think that’s very important, and a lot of people don’t want to do that.
BR: Last one.
GR: Reputation. Your reputation precedes you. It’s very simple. Before you walk in the room, people know about you, so you want to make sure you have a great reputation. But one other thing I think is important, too: You always hear people say, “Do what you love.” I take it one step further. I say, “Yeah, but also do what you’re good at and comes naturally.” It just makes life easier. Find out how can you incorporate that into your professional life and maybe make a living off of those qualities that you already have. That’s my last piece of advice.
BR: I think that’s wonderful. Giuliana, on behalf of Michigan Avenue magazine, thank you.
GR: My goodness. I feel like I’m on the Today Show and you’re Matt Lauer.
BR: I appreciate your candor, and I think our readers are really going to enjoy this.
GR: Thank you, Matt. I mean Bill. You had me fooled for a minute there!
photography by ERIC LEVIN. Styling by Kate Loscalzo. Hair by Morgan Leek. Makeup by Ofelia Suar Feher for Mario Tricoci. Shot on location at InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312- 944-4100. The InterContinental was built in 1929 and remains a true Chicago icon. Situated on the city’s Magnificent Mile, the hotel offers guests easy access to Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, ENO Wine Bar, the I-Club and Historic Indoor Pool, high-end shopping, and all the attractions Chicago has to offer.