The Anti Jon and Kate
Rachel Zoe's husband, Rodger Berman, isn't like other reality-TV spouses—he's happy. He tells The Daily Beast about adoring his wife, having his own career, and his style mantras.
Reality TV has seen its fair share of put-upon husbands—Steady Eddies anchoring erratic celebrity spouses. And most of the time, we end up wondering if they’re being punished for past-life sins (remember Kathy Griffin’s man setting her hair in hot rollers?)
But Rodger Berman, husband of Rachel Zoe and co-star of The Rachel Zoe Project—the Bravo show chronicling the celebrity stylist’s hectic life, now in its second season—may be the first reality spouse who doesn’t inspire pity.
Zoe and Berman, who met in college at George Washington University in the early 1990s, still seem to be googly-eyed after 17 years. They hold hands, call each other “baby” and talk openly about being in love. They’re the anti-Jon and Kate Gosselin—there’s very little petty bickering in this Fendi Casa-laden love nest.
Still, the couple’s minor scraps make for riveting television. Zoe has a tendency to go big—she works too hard, spends too much, and famously over-accessorizes. So Berman’s forever reeling her back in.
When Zoe wanted to throw a 200-person anniversary party, he pushed for an intimate dinner, positing, “I don’t understand why we can’t just be normal people?” When she went on a designer vintage shopping spree during New York Fashion Week (then white-lied, saying the clothes were only “there to look at”), Berman quickly sized up his pixie wife and asserted calmly, “You’re a liar… like we don’t have enough clothes to look at.”
“I couldn’t even imagine Rachel without Rodger. They’re a unit. They’re like lettuce and tomato.”
So far this season, Berman’s only darted in and out of the drama. Surprising, considering how inseparable the couple is, according to Taylor Jacobson, Zoe’s first assistant and co-star of The Rachel Zoe Project. “I couldn’t even imagine Rachel without Rodger,” she said “They’re a unit. They’re like lettuce and tomato.”
Despite their bond, Berman—a handsome, heavy-jawed 40-year-old who’s part hyper-coiffed Hollywood dude, part tri-state guy’s-guy— also seemed to be pretty busy with his own life during the first season.
Not that it was ever made clear what he actually does.
Berman’s profession has been widely reported as “investment banking,” though he hasn’t worked in the industry since the late '90s. “People say ‘investment banking’ because it’s what I used to do,” said Berman, who now refers to himself as a “new-media entrepreneur.”
The floppy-haired New York native is president of Recognition Media, a company he co-founded in 2003 that owns and produces advertising and media awards shows, including the Telly and Webby Awards. But as Zoe’s star has soared over the past few years (she hit it big by turning celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie into slick style savants), Berman has progressively trimmed back his day-to-day involvement in the company, while amping up his role in the Zoe empire.
“I am very involved in all decisions with Rachel, because I’m her spouse and because I understand business to some extent…or at least I act like I do,” said Berman, who’s fond of poking fun at himself. “I guess you could say I’ve been handling her business affairs since the beginning of time. We used to sit on the floor and tape receipts together before she even had a staff.”
The pair met at a restaurant job in D.C. when Berman was working on his M.B.A. and Zoe was finishing her undergrad degree in sociology and psychology. “I was a waiter and she was the hostess with the mostest,” said Berman. “My first impression? Drop-dead gorgeous.”
Zoe was equally smitten. “I just thought he was the cutest thing,” she told The Daily Beast. “I had come off a series of relationships with the ‘bad guys.’ He was so kind and so respectful. I would watch him and be like, ‘God, that’s what I need.’”
Berman said they are “definitely planning on having a family,” (and that Zoe is known as "the baby whisperer" in their social circle), but that for now, he’s busy upping her “visual presence” through social networking. Berman was the brains behind RachelZoe.com and its new offshoot newsletter, The Zoe Report (which he wryly describes as “glamour in your inbox.”)
His résumé renders him particularly well-suited for the job of managing Zoe’s digital life. After earning his M.B.A., Berman—the son of a housewife and retired pharmacist who “of course live in Florida”—went directly into the corporate-finance branch of investment banking at a small firm in D.C.
“When I first started working, I was with a lot of actors and rock stars and models... and I was asked on dates a lot,” Zoe said.
When the pair moved to New York (where Zoe landed a low-rung editorial job at now-defunct teen magazine YM), Berman eventually started an Internet marketing company that he ended up selling to a larger company at a profit.
His business savvy may account for why being known as “Rachel Zoe’s husband” doesn’t peeve him in the slightest. If he helps plot her ascent wisely, Zoe’s earning potential—in the form of future fashion collections, collaborations, and lifestyle offshoots—is incalculable.
And there’s also the small fact the Berman “ loooves Rachel,” according to Jacobson, who added, “The furthest thing from his mind is being recognized or getting recognition. He so doesn’t care about that.”
And over the years, he’s even taken a shine to fashion. “It’s not like I went into it kicking and screaming,” said Berman, who’s usually clad in T-shirts, jeans, blazers, and “nicer” boots. “I love going to fashion shows, especially couture. It’s theater and it’s only five minutes long. What could be better?”
For women, Berman favors “more conservative dress. I don’t like anything trying too hard to be sexy. I think mystery is way sexier.” More specifically, “My favorite look is probably equestrian—white fitted oxford, jodhpurs, and riding boots.”
Zoe, who’s tickled by her husband’s penchant for girls in equestrian garb, credits Berman’s success as a businessman—and all-around super-husband—to an easy-going confidence he’s possessed since she’s known him.
“When I first started working, I was with a lot of actors and rock stars and models... and I was asked on dates a lot,” Zoe said of her early styling life. “And his friends would be like, ‘I don’t know how you deal with that.’ But his mantra has always been, ‘If they can get her, they can have her.’ And never once has it even occurred to me to stray.”
Los Angeles-based style writer Emili Vesilind has done stints as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and Women's Wear Daily, and has contributed to W magazine, Wonderwall.com and Los Angeles magazine, among others. She is the co-founder of StyleSectionLA.com, a new fashion and culture website covering Los Angeles.