On "The Rachel Zoe Project" (Tues. at 9 p.m. on Bravo), Joey Maalouf and Jeremiah Brent are hardly the best of friends. Jeremiah, who was hired by Rachel despite a lack of experience simply because she liked his "vibe," was an unknown quantity, while her beloved longtime friend Joey is understandably skeptical of the new kid. But in a conference call with reporters, Jeremiah and Joey seem to have gotten past their rough start. "I don't think we were ever not friends," Maalouf says. "But being Rachel's friend for years, and I trust Mandana's [Zoe's assistant] judgment more than anybodys. I wanted to trust Jeremiah, but I took a couple steps back. There was never really a title [for Jeremiah], never a job description, so I had a million questions in my head. I tend to test people without realizing. It's a product of my personality that comes out. It takes me a minute to trust people."
For his part, Jeremiah took Joey's icy welcome in stride. "I think I was very aware coming in what I was getting myself into. The people around her are very protective and rightfully so. Joey has a good heart, and as the show progresses this season, you'll watch relationships evolve. I was the new guy. You've got to give the new guy some shit."
Both men agree about the other new guy on the scene -- Rachel's newborn son. "He brought a lot of love and a lot of energy and brought out a different side of Rachel," says Maalouf. "She became this amazing strong, confident, sexy woman. And he brought out a lot of patience in her. She's not usually patient, but now that she has him, she's become really patient."
"I started working for Rachel when she was pregnant," Jeremiah adds. "I never got the other version of Rachel. She was happy all the time, she didn't stress out a lot. Her ability to relinquish control is a lot different, so I've heard. Watching her with Skyler now, it's pretty amazing. He's number one."
Though both men come from backgrounds outside of the fashion industry (Maalouf was a hair and make-up artist while Jeremiah was an interior designer), they feel they've unraveled the secret to working with Zoe. The good news is, if you're confident, she won't micromanage. "I think it's all about getting acclimated. I want to get the job done quickly as possible, and I think that's the key to Rachel," Jeremiah says. "She wants strong, confident people who can get the job done quick. She's always been really great and given me free reign creatively and trusted my design aesthetic. She allows you to grow. It's new for me to have someone to actually learn from."
"She really trusts that you know what you're doing, so styling for me came naturally to work with her, because I'll say that's ugly or I don't think that's the right thing," Maalouf says. "If you're strong enough to say your opinion out loud to her, she has confidence in you. She likes it when people have lists in their head constantly."
On October 4, the show will air its Oscar episode, during which Zoe dresses host Anne Hathaway and an assortment of other stars for Hollywood's big night. Even for Zoe (who was still pregnant at the time), it was a daunting task. "It was pretty insane," Maalouf admits. "It was the most major Oscars. She's been doing this for 20 years, and it was an insane thing for her. She got run down, and it was hard for her... She's like a robotic woman. And in heels. I swear she's made of steel sometimes.
For Jeremiah, though, the Oscars were no more surprising than any other day at the office. "Everything's a surprise working with Rachel," he says with a laugh. "The biggest thing I learned is she has a public persona. One of the questions I get is, have you had any dragon lady moments? No. Really, it's like a big family, a lot of love and support." Aw, come on. Rachel Zoe, cuddly earth mother? What is the world coming to?