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Defending Rachel Zoe

Posted: 09/20/08 03:54 PM ET

Absurdity is a given with any reality television show and its respective stars. This I admit, and more so empathize with any fellow entertainment journalist when they set about covering the genre.

I am compelled, however, to separate from the pack and confront the carcass that lay before me: "The Rachel Zoe Project," as slaughtered by the New York Times.

On Tuesday the publication ran a scathing review of Bravo's new series, an hour-long fashion folly with celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe. The author attempts to disassemble Ms. Zoe's insanely popular aesthetic, disprove her nearly two decades of experience and accuses her of hypnotizing the masses into a state of prideful ambivalence.

And then it gets nasty. Zoe is literally labeled "a pox on humanity."

Granted, Zoe has always been a polarizing figure. Even on paper with celebrity styling, editorial and commercials shoots as well as runway and design consultation, Rachel's work has rarely surpassed her reputation.

The catalogue of whispers about the 37 year-old, who resides in the Hollywood Hills with husband Rodger Berman, includes accusations of inspiring anorexia in bright young starlets, pushing drugs on clients to maintain waifish figures and delusions of grandeur so severe she's called herself more influential than Anna Wintour.

So she's not winning Miss Congeniality at the CFDA's. Still -- a pox on humanity?

Hardly. The reality landscape has become a series of low-rent Houdini acts. Perceptions are edited to the point where a woman only fit to model clothes hosts fashion design competitions. SoCal princesses delete their dizzying fame from docudramas about their "real" lives. As Tina Brown once said, "Everyone is famous, and no one is interesting."

Zoe is the real deal. Say what you will about her vacant 70s glam shtick -- the oversized sunglasses, ropes and ropes of gold jewels and permanent Starbucks Venti drip. She isn't bagging a bachelor, making a band or flipping beachside bungalows.

Zoe is a seasoned stylist responsible for some of our most memorable red carpet moments. She's made It Girls out of dour ducklings, superstars out of burgeoning designers and soon will expand her own brand so you can own a slice of what she calls her "happy place."

That place, for Zoe, is fashion. And that place for me is her reality show. I'm not alone. Last week's second episode grew 41% in viewership from the premiere, clocking in at a three-quarters of a million viewers.

My guess is that the show and Zoe will continue to expand. Dramatizing, accessorizing and polarizing is what she does best. Not because a casting director willed it and not because of secret plots to devolve young women the world over. No matter how disingenuous you find her work or personality, she's always authentic Zoe, and was long before the cameras rolled in.

Call her a pox on humanity, but don't deny -- she's a beauty mark on the drab face of uninspired television.