How Giuliana Rancic Revamped Her Career After Controversy

Giuliana Rancic's career in journalism didn't start with the glam of the red carpet; instead, it blossomed from covering national news in the White House. However, it didn't take long for her to find her place amongst Hollywood's biggest celebrities. In 2002, Rancic landed a co-hosting position on "E! News" with Ryan Seacrest. A year later, she made it to the big screen in "Malibu's Most Wanted." While she made several other appearances in films and TV shows, Rancic's work stayed grounded in journalism, landing her the co-hosting position at "Fashion Police" with Joan Rivers in 2010. Rancic's fame became so palpable that her fans thirsted for the innermost details of her personal life. "Giuliana & Bill" was a reality series following the fan favorite and her husband, giving viewers a glimpse into their dazzling and fast-paced world.

As her reality show grew, so did the desire for Rancic. She co-hosted "Miss USA" four years running, "Miss Universe" in 2012, and even made a guest appearance on "Chelsea Lately." In 2014, Rancic received the seal of approval — a Daytime Emmy — with the unspoken promise things would only get better from there. But less than a year later, everything changed. The fast-paced trajectory of her career was thrown on a new course. What Rancic intended as another one of her light-hearted jabs would blow up into a controversy still discussed today.

It took but a few words to almost lose it all

We've all said things we wished we hadn't. Most are fortunate enough not to have it broadcasted for the world to critique for the next 10 years. Giuliana Rancic's not one of those people. As the co-host of "Fashion Police," her job entailed poking at celebrities, and by 2015 she'd earned a reputation for cutting words. But there's an art form to snark — a secret ingredient for turning criticism into humor. And a big part of that deals in what you mock. There's entertainment in pointing out a celebrity's cold personality or an atrocious design, but ridiculing a person's identity or body takes the bit from funny to problematic.

Upon seeing Zendaya's beautiful dreadlocks on the 2015 post-Oscars episode of "Fashion Police," the tenured co-host provided her typically catty take. Everything would've been fine if she'd focused on Zendaya's dress, like her co-hosts, but Rancic's attention was on Zendaya's hair (via YouTube).

She didn't think they worked, going as far as saying: "I feel like she smells like patchouli oil. Or weed" (via the Los Angeles Times). Chances are she didn't think much about the encounter or her comments until they were all over social media. People weren't laughing. A lot of responses saw the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes of Black women and weed instead of a biting take on Zendaya's fashion. What started as a typical day would change her career forever.

How it all came crumbling down

Zendaya didn't hear the comment on the red carpet, but eventually, Giuliana Rancic's words confronted the 18-year-old — and she wasn't amused. Zendaya recognized the history of the media stereotyping Black people with weed. The actor wore dreadlocks as a nod to Black women and to celebrate their identities, but Rancic's comment was an attack on Black women's hair.

Instead of immediately reacting, the young actor took a beat. This was a moment where Zendaya could use her celebrity status to highlight an ongoing issue not just in the media but in the daily lives of her community. Zendaya took to Instagram to discuss the "fine line between what is funny and disrespectful." She dissected the complex impact that a flippant comment like Rancic's has on the Black community. Zendaya concluded with a reminder to all people of color that their locs are powerful and "good enough," inviting others to think before speaking on the matter.

The post blew up, but before big syndicates picked the story up, Kelly Osbourne, one of Rancic's co-hosts on "Fashion Police," was already commenting on Twitter. She made it clear she wasn't the one who made the comment and contemplated leaving the show altogether. Soon after Osbourne's Tweet, Kathy Griffin, another co-host from "Fashion Police," and Kelly Osbourne left "Fashion Police" explicitly over the comment. 

Getting it wrong before doing it right

Before her words spiraled to the point of national coverage, Giuliana Rancic took to Twitter to get ahead of them. She tried to explain the situation as a giant misunderstanding. "Dear Zendaya, I'm sorry I offended you and others. I was referring to a bohemian chic look. Had NOTHING to do with race and NEVER would!!!" she Tweeted.

Rancic's knee-jerk response didn't go very well. People tweeted in response that it wasn't enough, too late, or altogether avoided accountability. Her Tweet framed the encounter as Zendaya's misunderstanding instead of addressing Rancic's own words. But the replies to her apology and coverage in mainstream media called Rancic out — as a press member, her words were her responsibility. 

Before making another public comment on the matter, Rancic took time in what seemed like an effort to absorb what others were saying — time to consider the impact of her words and her role as a media representative. In a video posted to YouTube, Rancic finally got the matter right. She expressed sincere apologies, acknowledging that outcomes matter more than intentions. While Rancic never intended for anyone to make the kind of connotations Zendaya pointed out, they were genuine concerns. She admitted to her gaps in knowledge and her need to learn and grow.

Dimming the spotlight

Despite Zendaya accepting Giuliana Rancic's apology (via Twitter) and calling for others hurt by Rancic to find it in their hearts to forgive the "Fashion Police" co-host, the controversy didn't fade away. For the rest of the year, headlines recycled the story. The public maintained their barrage of insults, even going after her body, making baseless comments about how little Giuliana Rancic eats in a day. By the end of summer 2015, Rancic stepped away from her anchor position on "E! News."

Whether the two were connected or not, dimming her spotlight while the scandal still splashed across headlines may have saved her career. When a brand like Rancic's was hit with controversy, staying in the spotlight only highlights the issue. The more a brand steps away, giving audiences time to breathe and find new problems to focus on, the better chance the brand has of making its comeback. Those who can't escape end up stained by their mistakes for the rest of the time.

Rancic wouldn't end up like Nike, forever remembered for their decades-old labor scandal. She'd fight for her career another day instead of maintaining the bright spotlight amid controversy. In 2015, she left "E! News" but stayed around to host "E! Live From the Red Carpet" and "Fashion Police" — where her presence was at least partially overshadowed by the more prominent names interviewed.

Reflection was critical to her career

After the controversy, Guiliana Rancic said in her apology that she needed to take time for growth and learning. So she did. After 13 years as a household name, from co-hosting "E! News" to the numerous events she hosted and the movies and television series she cameoed in, Rancic stopped appearing in new jobs in the media.

Instead of allowing the scandal to set her back, Rancic used the time to pursue work that would become her passion project. And without that work, the transformation of Giuliana Rancic may never have happened. She'd spent years dedicating her time to a daily TV show's long hours and difficult call times. Leaving "E! News" opened her schedule for more hands-on work with her businesses and family. She used it as an opportunity to focus on the passions that drove her.

While it's easy to dismiss these sentiments as empty platitudes meant to spin another blow to her work, it may be what allowed Rancic to revamp her career after the controversy. A recent review of literature and studies in Frontiers in Psychology shows the potent connection between passion and success. The review focuses on the impacts of entrepreneurial passion, the exact type of passion Rancic found in the work that followed the controversy. If we look at all the big moves in her career following the scandal, it's clear, at least in the anecdotes of her story, passion was just what Rancic needed for great success.

Rancic revamped her career through rebranding

When a brand gets wrapped up in a scandal, the best thing to do is acknowledge failure and show the world meaningful change. Some rebranding happens swiftly, while others go slowly to cultivate authenticity in the new persona, as Wharton points out in their guide on rebranding. Giuliana Rancic's practically fatal comment required a slow rebuild. While the apology acknowledged the error, the death threats, and other negative responses showed the public wasn't ready to forgive her.

The time away would prove quintessential to Rancic's comeback. Until then, her work focused on media appearances and recognition. It was typically Rancic's words shaping her brand. But now she could take a new form. She showed the world there was so much more to know her by than her witty personality and cutting commentary. While Rancic's career in the entertainment industry was a list of success after success, she also had a roster of other accomplishments that deserved her focus. She was so much more than her TV personality. Rancic was a woman who built several thriving businesses from the ground up and a mother who battled cancer and beat it. She didn't need a camera crew for her success; Rancic had an entire empire to build and a whole world to reach out to and give back.

A time for giving back

Shortly after Giuliana Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she invited the public to join her on her journey. When she finally beat it and became a mother, the TV personality decided to give back for all the gifts and successes in her life. Rancic used her fame and prestige to create the nonprofit, Fab-U-Wish — an organization dedicated to making fashion, beauty, and celebrity wishes come true for cancer patients and survivors. It opened one year before Rancic's fall, but she wouldn't let controversy deter her from the project.

While she could've focused on racial-justice issues in reaction to the scandal, she stuck to something where her experience would help her understand the population she sought to serve. Instead of ending up a white celebrity speaking over the voices of people of color, she stayed the course with her nonprofit. She worked to make an impact on a community she was part of instead of trying to rebrand off the backs of those she hurt.

Fab-U-Wish wasn't a vanity project either. She continued investing in it, finding new ways to give back. She took advantage of her celebrity status and fashion know-how to create significant revenue and stir up attention for the nonprofit. In October 2022, the "Fashion Police" celebrity sold her most iconic red carpet outfits on ThreadUp, with all proceeds going toward Fab-U-Wish and all of the dreams the nonprofit makes come true.

They say love goes through the stomach

While charity helped Guiliana Rancic revamp her career, not all her future successes would rely on philanthropy. She was a savvy businesswoman, ready to see her ventures continue to thrive. Inspired by responses to her reality show, Giuliana Rancic and her husband opened their first restaurant in 2012. The goal was to create an authentic small Italian restaurant serving the kind of fares fans drooled over while watching the couple's show. Rancic wanted to share the food from her home country in a small intimate setting, but things quickly changed when Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise joined the team.

The cozy Naples-inspired restaurant morphed into RPM Italian, a 10,000-square-foot contemporary restaurant in a hip Chicago neighborhood. Their partnership with the famous siblings of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise and their stardom drummed up so much fanfare that they eventually got a call from the Secret Service about then-President Obama visiting the restaurant. Similar to Rancic's career going from politics to entertainment, RPM Italian went from hosting President Obama to Lady Gaga adorning the hit venue with her presence.

RPM Italian was so successful — and the steaks on the menu moved so fast — the Rancic's soon opened RPM Steak. Over the years, RPM Italian's popularity brought the restaurant to Washington D.C., West Palm Beach, and the decadent eatery capital, Las Vegas. Altogether, the Rancics opened six bustling restaurants, including RPM Seafood, the latest addition to the RPM line.

Helping moms everywhere enjoy a glass of wine ... or two

Giuliana Rancic was inspired to help every mom enjoy a glass of wine, or two, after a long day working in the many roles they perform. It's wine for the working mom, the stay-at-home mom, and every other type of mom out there.

Rancic created XO G in close succession with her and her husband's first restaurant and Rancic's clothing line. It was a busy time in her career when she likely needed the exact product she was creating. The intention behind a genuinely incredible innovation was to allow moms (and everyone else) enjoy just one glass of wine without ruining the entire bottle. These clever bottles aren't bottles at all. Instead, they're stacked glasses, each with a lid. So you can enjoy a single drink or however many glasses of wine you'd like without stressing over when you'll finish the bottle.

Just over a year after the scandal, Rancic's wine received rave reviews. In 2020, XO G was covered by People and expanded to several vendors. Then came the Giuliana Prosecco line, her home line August & Leo, and her skincare line. Rancic made affordability a forefront of her clothing, home goods, wine, and prosecco lines. To this day, she takes customer feedback seriously, using their perspectives to enhance her products, and works tirelessly to keep her brands accessible for all. Now that's giving the kind of giving back we can all enjoy.

Rancic's big comeback to E! News

After a three-year hiatus, Giuliana Rancic returned to co-host "E! News" in 2018. It was an exciting move in her career and proof that she had made it back to her previous status. But there was more to Giuliana Rancic now. During the time away from her breakout show, she'd invested in several other businesses that she was devoted to continuing. Her passion grew beyond the red carpet, the dazzling spotlight, and modeling her fierce fashion collection. But that didn't mean she wasn't excited to be back on the show.

It was a celebration complete with champagne and the squeals of delight you'd expect from old friends. "Returning to host 'E! News' is every bit as thrilling to me today as it was 16 years ago," Rancic gushed to People calling her co-host Jason Kennedy one of her best friends. It seemed he was just as excited telling the interviewers how long he'd waited for this moment. Sadly the excitement would be short-lived.

Building her career her way

Before the 2015 incident, Giuliana Rancic returned to work just days after breast cancer surgery — dedication to her work that cannot be denied. At the time, it probably was the best move for her career. But with so many years in the business, Rancic was ready for more flexibility in her work. When "E! News" announced its plans to move to the East Coast in 2019, a year after she returned, Rancic decided not to join the team, as she explained on Instagram. Saying "No" may not seem like success or career building, but it is and so much more. "Nos" maintains boundaries and gives control over where your work takes you. Her decision to leave "E! News" testified to the success we all should cultivate in our lives. In the end, what really happened to Giuliana Rancic was untold growth.

Accomplishments will always be impressive, but success in work and your personal life is the "all" most moms (women, adults in general) don't get to achieve. Rancic recognized the time she'd lose for her many business ventures, and it was more than she was willing to give up. By staying behind as "E! News" moved forward, she made one of the most significant career moves anyone can make — she took complete control. She made herself available for better opportunities and took the reins to her career that she now steadily steers herself.