Matt Jacobi: Matt in the Middle
We already know that behind every great woman is a fabulous gay man. As a bonus, sometimes he gets paid to be there. E! News host Giuliana Rancic's assistant for the past three years, 27-year-old Matt Jacobi now appears alongside her and her husband, The Apprentice winner Bill Rancic, on the reality series Giuliana & Bill, which airs Wednesday nights on the Style Network and was recently renewed for a second season. Minutes after dropping off Giuliana at work, Jacobi explains why gay hubbies like him will never go out of style — no matter what Chelsea Handler says.
Advocate.com: Let's start from the beginning. How did you become Giuliana's assistant?
Matt Jacobi: I was born in Philadelphia, but I went to high school in Arizona and studied communications at Arizona State University. I worked in hard news at the ABC affiliate in Phoenix right out of college. I'd go to work every day, knock on people's doors, and ask them about their house burning down or skyrocketing gas prices, but all I really cared about was Britney Spears, Madonna, and what was happening in the entertainment world. So I packed a U-Haul and moved to California with $500 to my name. In the meantime, I was sending my résumé to E! in crazy envelopes written with big, girly, fifth-grader bubble letters. I got in as the assistant to the executive producer of E! News, and Giuliana's office was right in front of my cubicle. We started talking, became friends, and — long story short — we made the jump. I worked my butt off to impress her, and the next thing I knew I was flying to Capri, Italy, to plan her wedding.
Have you pinpointed the root of your obsession with celebrity culture?
I'm from a big Italian family — I'm one of four kids — and my dad used to take us all to the movies every weekend. We'd also watch a lot of TV together. I've always loved celebrities.
Gay celebrity assistants have come into the spotlight recently with Brad Goreski on The Rachel Zoe Project and Paula Deen's assistant Brandon boozing it up on Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List. Are gay celebrity assistants the new black?
They are a must-have. Anyone out there looking for an assistant, whether you're in entertainment or in a law firm, get a gay one! We're the hardest workers, the most blunt, and the most fun. We're it. But I don't actually consider myself a gay assistant; I consider myself the gay husband.
What does that position entail?
Not only am I planning out Giuliana's and Bill's lives, I'm their everything, really — we're best friends, we give each other advice, and, in a way, I feel like they're my parents. We don't have a typical assistant relationship.
When Giuliana and Bill were guests on Chelsea Lately earlier this month, Chelsea Handler tried to make Bill admit that he didn't really enjoy being around you and your gayness, saying that "no straight guy could put up with that." Is there any truth there?
A lot of people have brought that up to me. I always get along with the butchest straight guys because they know there's no ulterior motive there. When it comes to Bill, there will never be drama because he's confident in who he is and I'm confident in who I am. It just works. Bill and I are never going to get into a fight because I want to take him to a gay bar and have a drink. Bill and Giuliana would come with me to a gay bar any time I wanted.
You and Bill get quizzed on Giuliana trivia in "Battle of the Husbands" videos on Style.com, but it's hard to imagine that competition being so friendly if you were straight. Would your relationship with Giuliana work so well if you weren't gay?
No, I don't think it would work if I were straight. My job is to be Giuliana's right hand 24/7, so that means I'm in the dressing room with her when she's naked. If I were a straight guy, there would always be the question of whether or not I was hitting on her or attracted to her or something. Part of what works about me being her assistant and being gay is that I don't want to kiss her [laughs].
Did you have any hesitations about being featured on the show? Because if anyone back home didn't know you were gay before, they certainly know now.
Exactly. No, I never gave it a second thought because I've been out for a very long time and I have an extremely supportive family. I never wanted to be that guy people watch on TV and say, "Oh, he's gay but just won't say it." Coming out on the cover of magazines is so 2006.
You communicate with fans through Twitter. What kind of feedback have you gotten from the gay community?
I've gotten a lot of messages from gay guys who are just happy to see another gay person on television, even if it's just a reality show. It just makes us more visible, and the more of us the better. They've thanked me for showing my relationship with Giuliana and with Bill, who is very straight. It just shows that my sexuality is really no big deal.
Do you feel a responsibility to represent the community respectfully and be a positive role model for younger gay viewers?
I'm just going to be who I am on the show and in life. I don't even think about the label of being gay because this is the life I've lived for so long. So what people see on TV is what they're going to get. But I'd never want to put down or disrespect the gay community by making fun of any gay situations.
Have you gotten any hot dates out of the show's exposure?
Well, I'm actually in a relationship. We did long distance for over a year, and he just moved to L.A. recently, but he doesn't really want to be on camera.
With sudden fame often comes the surprise surfacing of sex tapes and nude photos. Are you being careful to avoid scandal?
[Laughs] Well, I love being naked, but the only naked picture you'd ever see of me is posing on the cover of The Advocate.
Pitch me a potential spin-off show about your life without Giuliana and Bill.
It would be about my journey to having my own talk show one day. I'm obsessed with the Style Network, but I really love the Logo channel, so my dream and goal is to have a talk show on a network like that. My spin-off would also incorporate my family — we're all very close. My straight younger brother was in the Marines and we have a funny relationship. But between working at E! and then going out to have my social life, my life is just naturally crazy.
You must come in contact with a lot of celebrities. Have you had any particularly memorable encounters?
As a surprise on my birthday last year, Giuliana took me to the Madonna concert. I didn't get to meet her, but I'll never forget that experience. I was dancing and jumping to her slow songs. And I know everybody always talks about how beautiful Angelina Jolie is — I mean, are we sick of it yet? — but when I saw her on the red carpet, I completely froze. I skipped right over Brad Pitt because Angelina is that beautiful in person.
I read that you're also a big fan of your Twitter pal Perez Hilton.
Perez has brought a lot of topics to the table for people to talk about, from gay marriage to gays in Hollywood. Yes, he causes controversy, but sometimes controversy opens up important conversations. And he's very entertaining, so I can't look at him as a bad person. We're planning a hike together in Runyon Canyon in the near future.
Speaking of gay gossip, how do you think Giuliana's E! News cohost Ryan Seacrest feels about all the jokes and rumors about his sexuality in the media?
I've known Ryan for a while now, and I don't think he minds it at all. Sometimes being called gay is a huge compliment because gay guys are usually the best-looking and the most successful in whatever we do, so I think Ryan is A-OK with it [laughs].