October 15, 2013

TV Stars Talk Close to Home

A new twist on fundraising: Giuliana Rancic, talking about breast cancer. . .in a casino.

Sunday’s appearance at Maryland Live! was a sell-out because the entertainment reporter/reality star/breast cancer survivor has shrewdly managed to leverage her celebrity into a higher calling: sharing her life story to help others.

“Maryland! It’s my hometown, Bethesda!” she greeted the audience of about 200 adoring female fans. “Bill’s not from Maryland — but he loves casinos!”

That would be husband Bill Rancic, winner of the first season of “The Apprentice” and her surprise “special guest” at the hour-long lovefest. Fans already know their story: The two met cute when she interviewed him on the red carpet, which led to love, marriage, a reality show, infertility, breast cancer, parenthood and a fashion line — so far.

The spotlight Sunday was on 39-year-old Giuliana: Born in Italy, she moved to Bethesda as a little girl, went to Walt Whitman High School and the University of Maryland, then made her way to Hollywood to fulfill a dream of becoming an entertainment reporter. (NBC’s Barbara Harrison was her role model.) Eleven years later, she’s an anchor on E!, a host on “Fashion Police,” and a growing brand in her own right.

Her breast cancer three years ago was diagnosed during fertility treatments — both chronicled on the reality show — and she underwent a double mastectomy. The casino, as part of a month-long breast cancer awareness promotion, paid her an undisclosed amount for her appearance (Bill was apparently a bonus); the $25 entrance fee for the appearance raised $5,000 for Susan G. Komen’s Maryland chapter.

The Rancics have perfected the art of “keeping it real” (as real as millionaire celebrities do real), sharing playful banter as they hit the high and low lights of their well-documented lives. They explained that they only agreed to the reality show because they wanted to share what a happy marriage looks like. “We wanted to use the show for good and not evil,” explained Bill. After all the unexpected struggles, came the happy ending: Last year, son Duke was born via a surrogate.

More babies to come? All will be revealed when the new season of “Giuliana & Bill” debuts next year.

“I never understand when a celebrity holds back a lot,” said Giuliana. “I feel like you have this unbelievable platform to do good and to talk about your experiences to help other people. I honestly feel that it’s selfish not to give that back to your fans.”

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