An earlier version of this article misstated an Italian phrase as "Soy Italiana." The correct phrase is "Sono Italiana."
For E!'s veteran hostess, the occasional trainwreck is no setback
There is one very important thing to know about Giuliana Rancic. The woman cannot be humiliated.
Consider the moment from E!'s Golden Globes pre-show when cameras captured Rancic on the red carpet screaming like an unhinged, microphone-wielding stalker after an on-the-move George Clooney and his Italian girlfriend, Elisabetta Canalis. ("Elisabetta! Sono Italiana! George, come on!")
Surely the former Bethesda resident and holder of journalism degrees from the University of Maryland and American University didn't realize cameras were rolling as she flailed her Hollywood-skinny arms and yelled at one of the most admired movie stars on the planet . . . right?
Wrong. "I'm, like, screaming for George Clooney, knowing that people at home are either going to love the moment or hate the moment," Rancic says from her office at E! headquarters in L.A., where she's become a fixture during the network's exhaustive coverage of industry fetes such as the Globes and the Academy Awards. "And it was totally a polarized moment. You either loved it and thought it was the most insane, funny thing you've ever seen. Or you absolutely hated it and thought, 'Oh my God, how embarrassing for her.' But if you know me, you know that nothing embarrasses me."
"Anything could happen to me on live television," she says, "and I sincerely don't care."
Perhaps it's that lack of shame that has turned Rancic, 35, into a ubiquitous TV personality. She has two shows of her own -- "E! News Live," which she co-hosts with Ryan Seacrest, and the Style Network reality series "Giuliana and Bill," which peers into the life Rancic shares with her former-"Apprentice"-star husband -- and an unabashed eagerness to ask revered actors and filmmakers about diets, designers and dating situations. To use that word again, she can be polarizing; some of the less complimentary comments about her on blogs and message boards run the gamut from mean to plain befuddled. ("What is E! correspondent Giuliana Rancic's damage?" asked one recent item on Jezebel.)
Those critics might be surprised to learn that once upon a time, Rancic had no interest in tracking the trysts of Taylor Lautner. What she really wanted to do was cover hard news.
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Rancic says she was a quiet child, the sort of kid who often sat in the back of the classroom to doze or doodle in peace. Part of her early lack of interest in education, she says, was due to a language barrier. When she first moved with her family from Naples, Italy, to the Washington area when she was in elementary school, Rancic could speak only Italian and a little Spanish, but no English. By the time she got to Walt Whitman High School -- a place that flaunts its prestige -- she felt lost in a sea of students with at-home tutors and a full slate of SAT prep courses.
She started to find herself by obsessively tuning in to the local news.
"Other children watched the cartoons or whatever," remembers Rancic's father, Eduardo DePandi, owner of the Bruno Cipriani clothing store in North Bethesda's White Flint Mall. "She watched the news."
After their daughter earned her undergraduate journalism degree at U-Md., Rancic's parents expected her to marry her then-boyfriend and work at his family's business. But she wanted to get a master's. After secretly applying and getting accepted to the graduate-level broadcast journalism program at American University, Rancic began attending classes -- without telling her parents. She maintained the lie for a full month (Mom and Dad thought all those hours were spent hostessing at the Houston's restaurant in Bethesda), and then she finally confessed.