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Zoe puts herself out there

October 14, 2008|Denise Martin | Times Staff Writer

She's not quite over having been called "a pox on humanity" by the New York Times, but Rachel Zoe, stylist to the stars and now a reality TV star herself, says her Bravo series has at least given her haters something to gnaw on.

"The Rachel Zoe Project" has, if nothing else, shown the waifish fashionista, notorious for her tiny frame and for formerly outfitting party girls from Nicole Richie to Lindsay Lohan, to be an ambitious, Starbucks-dependent student of fashion, driven by what seems to be genuine passion. (The season finale is at 10 tonight.) "I let my guard down a lot," Zoe says. "What you've seen on the show is exactly who I am. If you like me, great. If you don't, great, but at least you understand who I am now."

While being called "Raisin- face" by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is something she can let slide, Zoe can't help defending herself from the more stinging criticisms as she takes stock of the season that was. Last month, New York Times TV critic Ginia Bellafante blasted the stylist for being the very picture of "mad consumption," a "downright unseemly" way to be in today's economic climate. (During one episode, Zoe used 20 minutes of rare downtime to raid -- almost literally -- a vintage clothing store in New York; three racks of goodies later, she sighed to her assistant Brad, "I'm scared [of] what just happened.")

"It was the strangest thing in the world for someone who has never met me to accuse me of making our society superficial," Zoe says. "Judging the state of society based on me? A 'pox'? This show is not an effort to solve world issues. It's a bit of glamour, a bit of an escape."

Escape into Zoe's world has included VIP seats to New York's Fashion Week, lunches with top-flight designers like Marc Jacobs, impromptu shopping sprees, assistant head-butting and those now-signature Zoe-isms "I die, I die," "Getting witch vibes" and "Bananas!" (all of which sub for the more general "awesome"). "You never know how you actually sound until you see it on camera," she says. "Sometimes I'm working with clients that don't speak English and they'll ask, 'What is this bananas?' "

Before production starts on a second season -- "Nothing's official, but if Bravo asks, I'd love to. I can take it," she says -- Zoe will continue working on a line of branded merchandise and perhaps begin a second book. Her first, "Style A to Zoe," is perched at No. 13 on New York Times bestseller list.

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denise.martin@latimes.com

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