Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Celebrity Sips - Giuliana DePandi

Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful

Giuliana DePandi is one of those women who has it all… brains, beauty, charm
and a killer career! She hosts E! News, covering all the latest celebrity headlines, interviews A-List hotties (such as Clive Owen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law and the “that’s hot” girl herself, Paris Hilton), produces documentaries ("Nicole Richie: Her Simple Life") and released her first book in June of this year called 'Think Like a Guy: How to Get a Guy by Thinking Like One.’ She was also voted one of Maxim Magazine's Hot 100 of 2003, and featured in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful of 2006 issue.

After spending an afternoon with Giuliana recently in Los Angeles (to write the December cover story of Washington’s Finest), I found that she is totally down-to-earth. With every justification to have a ‘tude, she doesn’t. That kind of class is how I define “cool.”

Born in Naples, Italy in 1975, Giuliana was six when her family moved to Washington, DC. It is rumored that, as a
youngster, she taught herself English by watching TV, which spurred her love of Entertainment. Later, while working on her Master’s degree in Journalism at American University, DePandi covered happenings at the Pentagon, Supreme Court, State Department, Capitol Hill and White House. Recounting a defining moment in her scholastic career, Giuliana says, “I was interviewing Ted Kennedy and told him that his fans want to know what was his idea of a good time. When I played the tape for the class, my teacher just looked at me and said, ‘You need to go into Entertainment.’”

Depandi’s first Hollywood job was in the mailroom of power agent Mike Ovitz. Today, she makes her living chatting with celebs at glamorous events, for a show aired in 120 countries. Her wardrobe consultant, Jose Camilo makes a full time job out of choosing outfits for the hostess, who can’t wear the same ensemble twice. When asked if she gets to keep the clothes, she jokes, “Well… I try to steal stuff!”

Giuliana shares that her most memorable interview is with longtime crush, George Clooney, during which she was so nervous, that she blurted out “Will you marry me?!” to which he sillily replied “No.” But, DePandi says that turned out to be a good
ice-breaker because it got him talking about his views on marriage. She reveals, “Every time I interview him, its still nerve wracking! I remind myself to stay cool. Even my producer, finally said, ‘This fawning over George Clooney has to end!’ But, he was my biggest crush!” Laughing, DePandi confides, “Later, I even replayed the part of the interview where he kissed me on the cheek.”

Her assistant, Matthew Allard, says that he loves working with Giuliana because every day is different. Sometimes they come up with ideas for the show together. Commenting on her high energy and work ethic he sighs, “If there were more hours in the day, she’d have her own radio show, too!”

E! News Executive Producer Peggy Abraham sums up the equation for DePandi’s popularity this way, “She is a combination of enthusiastic, intelligent and pretty – she’s the whole package. Celebrities respect her because she is prepared.” She explains that Giuliana’s “mass appeal” is non-threatening to women so they appreciate her, while she also appeals to men.

Of course, DePandi's Number One male fan is first-season “The Apprentice” winner, Bill Rancic, the first candidate hired on national television by The Trump Organization, and Giuliana's beau since earlier this year. In addition to running a Chicago-based Trump enterprise, Bill also fills in on the TV show to judge new contestants when George (Donald’s usual right-hand man) is away on business. When her honey's name came up during our chat, Giuliana gushed (through a big smile), “He’s so cute!”

And, (inquiring minds want to know) what was it like meeting “The Donald?” Giuliana says he is very warm and admits she was more nervous to meet Mrs. Trump, the stunning European model, Melania. Says DePandi, “Oh my God! I was so scared of Melania. But she is really nice. She told me that she gets all her entertainment news from my show. She’ll know lots of things we talk about on E! News, especially when we mention her!”

With her own fame on the rise, DePandi is a target of “celebrity gossip” to which she declares, “It’s weird! On a recent flight to New York, I was at the ticket counter trying to upgrade. A couple of days later, Gawker.com had a piece about me being at the airport 'freshly-botoxed.'” Considering she doesn’t do botox, Giuliana found it both humorous and
flattering. She comments, “I thought, Really? Thank you!”

Having dreamed of a career in journalism since age six, Giuliana’s role models include Katie Couric, Oprah and DC news anchor, Barbara Harrison, who was the first person to inspire her. Giuliana says, “I grew up thinking that she had the greatest life. I saw her once at White Flint Mall, in the middle of the day, and I thought, 'So, that’s what she does during the day!’ She had kids and an amazing job!”

Giuliana continues to dream of following in Ms. Harrison’s footsteps explaining, “My ultimate goal is to be an anchor
on local DC news. That’s my dream, to come full circle.” DePandi clarifies, “My family is there.”

And, though that left me mildly baffled (I'd call her current one the dream job...), if delivering hard-news headlines in Washington is her idea of a Hollywood ending, who am I to judge? It is safe to assume that with her many talents, her career options are limitless. The coast she calls home and the aspect of journalism around which she
throws up her white picket fence will surely be hers to choose.

Favorite watering holes? In DC, she frequents Cafe Milano. In LA,she likes Cut, Katana and Giorgio’s. Giuliana also loves Koi‘s great food but doesn’t want people to think she’s just there for the scene. She simply must have their crab roll!

Favorite cocktail: "I love a martini, straight up, with an olive."

Photos of Giuliana on the set of E! News, courtesy of Claire Barrett Photography

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