Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe didn't expect one of the impacts of "The Rachel Zoe Project" to include hearing her own catchphrases repeated back to her, in her words, "pretty much every day for the last year." Regular viewers of the Bravo reality show are used to hearing Zoe exclaim "I Die!" or "That's Bananas!" in her response to an amazing outfit or seeing one of her celebrities dressed for the red carpets but Zoe has been hearing her own words come back at her "from complete strangers on the street to toll booth operators," she told our Jim Halterman. "It's pretty crazy and kind of embarrassing because I get in such a fit of excitement when I'm worked up about something and these silly things come out of my mouth that I really don't have control over and then I'm just 'Oh boy. Did I really say that? You know, did I really just use a fruit as a description of being excited?' So it's embarrassing but I've had to kind of deal with it for the last year."
As the series begins its second season, what did Zoe learn from the inaugural season? "I think it's like anything else in your life. You do something once and you sort of learn what works and what doesn't work and mistakes you made the first time around; you do everything in your power to not make them again. So I think it's just hopefully getting better through experience I guess."
A major part of the first season was the explosive working relationship between Zoe's seasoned assistant Taylor Jacobson and then-newbie assistant Brad Goreski. While they each threatened to quit last season, both are still with Zoe but with better results this time around. "I don't think it's as much a part [of the new season] as last season probably. I think Brad and Taylor both kind of grow as people. Of course they have their problems like they always do. But I think there's a lot more material and storylines in this season that happen just naturally. We didn't plan it. It just happened."
While Zoe had been in the public eye as a designer before the Bravo series, she sees the series as a way for people to be better able to form an accurate assessment of her. "It's a bit ironic," she explained, "because I think that when I decided to do the show one of my apprehensions was 'Oh, this is going to get people more fueled to say nasty things about me and whatever.' And, in fact, I think what happened is I really was just myself and then I think people actually made an accurate judgment about me. Whether they like me or not, I think that at least if they watch the show they can form a real opinion of who I am because it is who I am. I don't wear two hats from my personal life and my professional life or on the show."
While the cast of "The Rachel Zoe Project" remains intact this year (Zoe's husband Rodger Berman also appears regularly), it was not a coincidence that bigger fashion names pop up on the new episodes. "For me, and I've always said this from the beginning, the designers are my heroes. They're my celebrities. So, for me, standing there talking to Karl Lagerfeld or Christian Lacroix I'm like a 16-year-old teenager. Even though if I've met them several times before, it's just each time is like the first time. And it's really important for me to take the viewer into that world, into that fantasy world and have them kind of see them up close and personal."
Unlike the designers, celebrity clients are more often talked about than seen interacting with Zoe and her staff. Zoe contends that it's never been a part of her plan to pull her clients in front of the cameras when she's styling them. "At the end of the day if it happens organically and something is going on with a client and I'm like 'Can we film this?' and they say yes then great. But I don't run around and solicit my clients and beg them to be part of the show because the show isn't really about celebrities. It's not. It's really about business. It's about fashion. And I don't think it's my client's job to be on my [show]. They have enough going on."
Since some of her clients include A-list celebrities like Jennifer Garner, picking a favorite is not something Zoe could ever imagine doing. "It's really like picking your favorite child. I can't... I mean the women that I work with are just so extraordinary for so many different reasons. And I mean Kate Hudson, Eva Mendez, Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway, Liv Tyler, Demi [Moore]. They're all so fantastic and they all just have such their own personalities and their styles are so different." One thing Zoe could say was that she didn't necessarily have a wish list of celebrities she has yet to style. "I sort of stay focused on who I am working with and I kind of have tunnel vision when it comes to that. But I think whoever else I start working with at some point, I think it's something that happens organically and then you sort of figure it out from there. I don't really look at other actors and say 'Oh my God, I want to get my hands on them!' I don't really think like that. But I think it's just whatever works and whoever gets along and collaborates together, it's great."
No matter who she is styling, Zoe does have some advice for celebrities when trying to pick out the best look for the red carpet. "I would have to say that you should always, always, always take a million photographs of yourself with high flash, with low flash, with back light [and] make sure nothing is sheer. Make sure every angle is flattering. You know, that sort of thing. It's extremely important because sometimes what you look like in your bedroom mirror... that's very often not the real truth. So look at your makeup in natural light. Look at your hair from the front and back and all of that. So it's kind of like double and triple checking everything pretty much."
While her husband is often seen on the show trying - unsuccessfully - to get his busy wife to relax, has Zoe gotten better at turning off her drive to work at the end of the day? "Still a challenge. I really thought by now that I'd be better at it and it doesn't seem I'm much better. I mean, I declared in June that I was taking several weeks off this summer and here it's August and I haven't had any time off. I'm still trying though. I'm not giving up hope yet. Not giving up hope yet."
When the cameras turned off at the end of filming for the season, however, it is no surprise that Zoe did not put her feet up and relax. "In both seasons I literally just went right back to work the next day," she said. "The show for me... it's exhausting and it's challenging and it's mentally draining and I'm an executive producer on the show too so I'm very, very, very hands on with the show. And I think when it's over I just really want it to be something that I'm proud of and that really gives an accurate depiction of who I am and who my team is and what we do and is it saying enough? Is it saying too much? Is it giving the audience enough access? You know, that sort of thing."
"The Rachel Zoe Project" kicks off its second season tonight on Bravo at 10:00/9:00c.