Chatting it up with stars of film and TV comes all in a day’s work for Giuliana Rancic, a celebrity in her own right who doesn’t take the diva route.
In an appearance at LSU on Sunday, Rancic, the anchorwoman of “E! News,” came across more as a big sister/good friend, sharing insights from her own experiences in her career and with infertility and breast cancer.
She and her husband, Bill Rancic, are also the proud parents of an 8-month-old son, Edward Duke, born through a surrogate.
Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, the “darkest day” in her life, she said.
Less than a year later, “I had the most beautiful day in my life, when I held my baby in my arms for the first time,” she said.
Rancic’s talk was presented by LSU’s Gamma Zeta Chapter of Delta Gamma, a women’s fraternity.
Together with the national Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values & Ethics, established with challenge grants in 1992, the LSU chapter presents its free lectureship biennially.
In addition to anchoring “E! News” for the E! Network, Rancic, along with her husband, who’s the original “Apprentice” winner, star in the reality series “Giuliana and Bill” on Style Network and are hosts of NBC’s recently pulled dating show, “Ready for Love.”
Viewers of “Giuliana and Bill” followed the couple’s struggles with infertility. It was through the couple’s third attempt with in vitro fertilization, with a new doctor, that they learned of Rancic’s breast cancer.
Having a mammogram was one of the doctor’s requirements for his patients, Rancic said.
At first, Rancic didn’t plan to tell anyone outside her family about the cancer diagnosis.
But, then, her husband talked with her about the public platform she had through television to touch the lives of other young women, she said.
After going public with her condition, she got “overwhelming support,” Rancic said.
It was the beginning of her dedicating herself to “turning a negative thing in my life into a positive.”
She told the audience that people don’t “need a microphone” to make a difference in someone’s life.
“All you need is the courage to share what you’re going through with someone else,” Rancic said.
In a news conference prior to the program, Rancic said, “There’s nothing like someone coming up to you and saying, ‘Because of you, I had a mammogram,’ or ‘Because of you, I discovered my breast cancer.’ ”
Rancic came with her family from Italy to the United States when she was about 7 years old. The family at first lived in the basement of her uncle’s house in Washington, D.C., she said.
Today, Rancic’s father has a high-end men’s clothing store in North Bethesda, Md.
As a young child, Rancic didn’t speak English. In school, the teacher would uselessly speak Spanish to her, Rancic said.
“I would daydream all day. I would doodle all day,” Rancic said. “I was just lost.”
After school, Rancic would go home and watch TV — it became the way she learned English.
She was particularly intrigued by the newswoman who anchored the local news show, she said.
A turning point for Rancic came with a class assignment at school. The children were asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Rancic drew a picture of a TV anchorwoman.
When it was her turn to present her picture to the class, Rancic said, “I want to be an American anchorwoman” — and the class laughed, Rancic recalled. “The worst part of it was the teacher was laughing” too.
Rancic walked back to her desk and a burning desire to accomplish her dream was born.
She went on to graduate with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., then earned a master’s in journalism from the American University in Washington, D.C.
Her professor was the one who told graduate student Rancic that her true genius was for the entertainment world instead of hard news, she said.
His clue? As a student reporter, Rancic was covering a news conference with Sen. Ted Kennedy, alongside reporters from national print and TV media. Unexpectedly called on by Kennedy, Rancic asked him the question that came naturally to her: “What do you do for fun?”
After bantering back and forth with Kennedy, Rancic said she actually got quite an open, refreshing answer.
But, she decided to take her professor’s advice, and she headed for Los Angeles after graduation.
“Yes, do what you love to do but, also, what comes naturally to you,” was one of the nuggets of career advice she gave the packed crowd of mostly LSU students at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Rancic wasn’t above telling funny stories about herself.
Like the time she worked in the mail room for a talent agency in Los Angeles and got sent out to deliver a package to a “Mr. Marty Weinstein,” after — and this is important — grabbing a hot dog with relish to eat in the car.
“Mr. Weinstein” turned out to be the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who answered the door himself.
The moment is seared in Rancic’s mind when, back in her car, starstruck, she discovered she had a bit of relish on her front tooth.
The crowd at the PMAC groaned with her. Rancic and DiCaprio since have become friends through her red-carpet interviews.
When she was still working at the talent agency, Rancic, with the help of an agent who sent out her news reels from college, was invited to a one-week audition for “E! News.”
The audition seemed to end in ignominy for Rancic, but instead turned into triumph.
She was let go from the one-week tryout, she said, after the producers decided her red-carpet interview at a movie premiere was a bit too informal, a bit irreverent.
Six months later, “E! News” called her back and hired her; her spot had gotten more positive feedback than those of any of the other candidates.
“I’ll never forget that feeling, that extreme pride I had,” Rancic said.
“The best part of it was, I was myself,” said Rancic, who is also on the panel of “Fashion Police,” another program on E!.
Rancic and her husband have been married for seven years, and she said it was about a year into her marriage when they decided to start their family.
Instead, they embarked on a difficult journey of several years of coping with infertility.
Then came the day when Rancic, sitting in a doctor’s office for what she thought was a routine stop, learned at the age of 37 that she had breast cancer.
She later underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
In a news conference before the LSU program, Rancic said the weeks of recovery were difficult and painful.
“I wanted to go back to work again, because I wanted to feel like myself. ... I wanted to get back to my life,” she said.
Rancic was able to return to work two weeks after her surgeries, she said.
On her first day back, she went to hair and makeup and wardrobe, the latter going a little differently than usual, because she couldn’t yet lift her arms, she said.
It helped, she said, to “look like myself” again for a little while — at night, she’d go home and “be a wreck.”
But that glitzing up did help.
In partnership with the Bright Pink organization, which focuses on risk reduction and early detection of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in young women, Rancic has begun the Fab-U-Wish program.
It’s an opportunity for women facing those cancers to receive the full Hollywood treatment and “feel like a princess,” Rancic said.
Rancic said she used to wonder why she was chosen to anchor “E! News” over others.
She decided, she said, that “God believes this loudmouthed Italian girl will use her job to do good.”
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