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'The Apprentice' winner Yasmina Siadatan talks contestants she loves to hate and what the boardroom is really like

15 MAY 2013

This year's series of The Apprentice is proving to be as explosive as ever, as the big-talking business candidates, including Luisa Zussman, Alex Mills and Leah Totton, battle it out to earn a business investment from Lord Sugar.

So who better to provide their expert opinion on proceedings than Yasmina Siadatan, who was crowned winner of the BAFTA-winning show in 2009.

The former Apprentice star tells HELLO! Online which contestant she loves to hate, what the boardroom is really like and what she thinks of claims that the show has been "sexed up".

The mother of two is "still such a fan of the programme" but busy a new job working for Dragons' Den star James Caan's at his business Start Up Loans.

 



What do you think of this year's series of The Apprentice?
I love it. I just get so excited when I watch it, it brings back such amazing memories for me. It's such a well-made show, even now I get sucked in.

Who are the early favourites?
I really like the eyebrow guy, Alex Mills. I think he's going to be a bit of a dark horse.

His eyebrows have caused such a stir that they have their own Twitter account…
Really? Good on him! Well, he's an outsider. Realistically, who's Lord Sugar going to pick? It's hard to say because it's only week two, but at the moment my money is on the girl everyone is tipping up, Leah Totton, the doctor. I wouldn't want to bet against her. She's clearly intelligent, she's drop dead gorgeous and she seems very calm and relaxed.

Is there anyone you love to hate?
At the moment I’m sorry, but I love to hate Rebecca. She's got an air of arrogance about her. But I hate casting these aspersions because when I was on it and heard people like me commenting about me, I'd think: "You don’t know anything about me". What a hypocrite I am! I was always accused of being quite harsh but I'm not – it's just the way I came across on screen. So I do empathise with them!

A lot has been said in the press about how the show has been 'sexed up' this year…
I know, well – with our series, we didn't have anyone doing our makeup. Maybe that's changed? Or it might just be the case that they all love a bit of makeup – and fair play. They all look great. But under all the glitz and the glamour it's a serious show and there's a serious prize that goes with it. It has integrity.

Is the boardroom as terrifying as it seems?
Yep. And it takes a very long time to film those scenes. It can take all day, actually. There's boardroom one, when you go over what both teams have been up to. They keep both teams separate back at the house, so you don't find out what the other team have been up to until you go in there. The production team are very good at making sure that happens. Then boardroom two is when the losing team are battling it out between themselves to try and make sure you’re not in the final three. Boardroom three is when someone gets fired. So if you're in the firing line, you could have spent your whole day fighting for your life in there. And yes – it's as terrifying as it looks.

What's it like living in that house?
Well, each task is either a one day, two day or three day task, like you see on TV. Once you're part of the show you don't leave the house – you stay in there, without a mobile phone, without any money or credit cards, no identity – you're part of it until you're fired. Obviously I wasn't fired so for me it was from the moment I entered until I left. There are 300 hours of filming for every one hour of show.

 



There's a fair amount of bragging going on this year. Jason says he'll get by on his "effortless superiority", Luisa says she has "the energy of a Duracell bunny, the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein"…
I love all that! It's so funny. I didn't say anything like that, I don't think. I don't watch reruns of it and I didn't watch it at the time either, I just can't. I remember standing behind the sofa watching it between my fingers. It's so cringeworthy!

Do you still get recognized?
I do. People just love that show. Even now they're like: "Oh wow, you’re Yasmina from the Apprentice!" It always takes me by surprise - I can't believe it.

You don't shy away from working for high-profile bosses – you had a job with Lord Sugar and now you work for Dragon's Den star James Caan…
It looks like I just try and find the guys who’ve been on TV to work for, doesn't it! But it was a complete coincidence, and happened when I was on maternity leave after having my second child.

What did Lord Sugar think?
I let him know pretty much straight away. I didn't want him to find out through a Google alert, I wanted him to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. And we’re still on great terms.

What did you make of his recent court case, when he was sued for constructive dismissal by former Apprentice winner Stella English?
I was so pleased for him when he won. It was horrible – a really worrying time actually. I know Lord Sugar really well and it was devastating to think that there was a possibility that she could have really dragged his name through the mud. I’ve got an affinity towards the guy, I really like him personally, and to think that someone else has been given an opportunity – and that's all the Apprentice is, an opportunity for you to make of it what you will – to not grasp it with both hands is a real shame. But had it not gone in his favour, I'd have been so shocked.

So what's your current job with James Caan?
I'm head of media for Start Up Loans. I've got a team of eight and our role is to make sure that Start Up Loans is a household name. We've got £117m from the government to give to young people to start up a business. Basically, it's a government-funded initiative aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs. We lend them money to start up their own company across all sectors from fashion, to food, to travel.

So it's kind of like a mini Dragons Den?
Exactly! They come to us, and if we like their idea, we'll give them the funds. Along with the loan we also provide them with their very own mentor. It's a great scheme and something that the country really needs at the moment.

You also have two small children – how do you juggle such a successful career with being a mum?
Yes, I have Rupert, who's two, and Roman, who's one. They're so beautiful! I've been back at work for five months now. I work full-time, I commute in and out of London and it's a big job. And I think being able to do it comes down to the fact we have great childcare, my partner Andrew is fantastically supportive, he doesn't make me feel guilty, which I think is a real plus – that can have a big affect on your psyche, I think. At the moment, everything – touch wood – is perfect. Being a mum and having a career are things that I'm going to try and make work, and hopefully they can go hand-in-hand.

Yasmina is Head of Media for Government-backed initiative The Start-Up Loans Company.

See www.startuploans.co.uk for further details.

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