Beyond her penchant for fedoras and baseball caps, Giuliana Rancic wears a multitude of hats. She is co-anchor of E! News, host of “Live From the Red Carpet,” co-host of “Fashion Police,” co-star of reality show “Giuliana and Bill” — moving to E! for its sixth season on Tuesday — co-founder of e-newsletter FabFitFun, and designer of the G by Giuliana Rancic clothing line for HSN. But there is one title that Rancic never imagined having next to her name: breast cancer survivor.
Two years ago, Rancic was on the Santa Monica Pier, working with Chicago-based nonprofit organization Bright Pink, co-founded by friend Lindsay Avner, to quiz women about breast cancer myths. The following month, she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself and ultimately underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in December 2011.
Although Rancic was floored by her diagnosis, it is all too common. According to 2013 statistics from the American Cancer Society, women have a 1-in-8 chance of developing breast cancer and there are currently more than 2.8 million female breast cancer survivors in the United States, but the good news is that death rates have declined since 1989, thanks to earlier detection.
Just two weeks after surgery, Rancic was back on camera. Within the month, she came up with the idea of Fab-U-Wish, a program she created with Bright Pink to help grant the “fabulous wishes” related to celebrity, fashion, fitness or beauty of women who are undergoing or have had treatment for breast or ovarian cancer in the last 12 months. While Bright Pink targets women ages 18-45, Fab-U-Wish is open to all ages.
“Some people said how brave I was to go back to work so soon, but it wasn’t about being brave,” says Rancic. “I wanted to stay busy, so I wasn’t focusing on it. I thought of the program, because when I went back to work, I felt so much better after getting hair and makeup done. I was able to look in the mirror and see the girl I knew before my surgery.”
Fab-U-Wish has granted about two dozen wishes to date, such as a makeover and shopping spree for a Marine stationed in Afghanistan, who lost all her hair during treatment and wanted to “feel like a woman again.” Another was a surprise baby shower and weekend of shopping and pampering for two 20-year-olds, both pregnant at the time of diagnosis, who had connected on Twitter for support, but wanted to meet in person after giving birth.
“Right after [giving birth], one of them had a double mastectomy,” Rancic says. “Can you imagine, just when you want to hold your baby and nurse it? And then having baby showers, that are supposed to be so happy, be sad?”
Rancic’s whirlwind of travel for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has included hosting more than 550 women at Bright Pink’s fourth annual “Fab Fest” in Chicago on Sept. 29, a day of fitness, health, wellness, fashion and beauty activities that raised $500,000 for the organization.
She was a guest model on the Oct. 1 airing of “The Price Is Right” with an audience of breast cancer survivors. Rancic is also appearing at Westfield Mall locations to support a $5 Bright Pink Book of October savings (WestfieldPinkBook.com), and it is her third year of participation in the General Mills’ program Save Lids to Save Lives, benefiting the Susan G. Komen foundation.
“I used to collect lids and send them in, never thinking that I could be one of the women that the program is trying to help,” Rancic says. “They donate 10 cents to the cause for each lid received, and the company has raised over $50 million for the cause now, so it’s one of those examples of how little things do make a difference.”
Last year, Rancic designed a limited-edition “Live in Pink” collection of apparel and accessories for Loft to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. A record $4 million was raised and fully funded 16 of the organization’s research projects. This year, she was named first global ambassador for the program, which is contributing 60% of each purchase of a crystal-embellished jewelry line ($39.50-$69.50) by New York-based designer Suzanna Dai to the research foundation.
Rancic’s husband and reality show co-star, Bill, is involved too. On Nov. 3, he plans to run the New York City Marathon for Giuliana; in a partnership with Timex, he will start in last place and receive a $1 donation to Bright Pink for every runner he passes.
A fashion arbiter in her on-camera role and a natural beauty off-camera, it’s no surprise that Rancic has some style advice for women going through treatment.
“I’ve learned from working with Lindsay [Avner], and she emphasizes planning in advance. If you know that you will be undergoing chemo, start looking for natural-looking wigs and cute hats and scarves right away, so you can find what works for you. After a mastectomy, you have these horrible tubes, so you need loose-fitting clothes and pieces that button up the front, so you don’t have to lift your arms. I found this site called curediva.com that has great products for every stage.”
Rancic’s experiences over the last couple of years have led to a relaxing in her own style.
“The people on set don’t even recognize me when I arrive at the office,” she says. “I like baggy boy trousers, baseball hats and dark glasses. All black. If you ran into me in a dark alley, I might scare you. Seriously. I think that when I am on camera, there is an expectation of heels and dresses, to some extent, but my style has evolved on set too. It’s more structured and not so frilly. “