Sian Gabbidon

EXCLUSIVE: The Apprentice winner Sian Gabbidon on Meghan Markle's inspiration

See inside Sian's gorgeous home

hellomagazine.com

In her first photo-shoot and interview in HELLO! magazine since becoming winner of The Apprentice, Sian Gabbidon heaps praise on Lord Sugar and explained how she is preparing to make a splash with her new Tropical Goddess swimwear collection as she introduces her partner Clint Gordon at the home they share in Leeds.

"As a role model, I have always put Lord Sugar very highly. I love how he is on the show, and I have come to love him even more since becoming his partner and working more closely with him on things," said Sian whose win marks his first investment in a fashion business in the show’s history.

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Sian also revealed how she believes the Duchess of Sussex is "massively inspiring" as a role model. Growing up in Leeds she told HELLO! how she remembers times when she was made to feel different. "I noticed I was often the only mixed race girl in the class, or one of very few. There were times I got racially abused but it never held me back. Now when I look at Meghan Markle, I think if there had been someone like her back in the day, doing what she is doing, it would have been massively inspiring.I like to think that hopefully there are girls like me who are looking at my story, and thinking I can achieve that, and that is something very close to my heart."

She credits her boyfriend, property entrepreneur 32-year-old Clint with first encouraging her business acumen. "I always loved fashion and wanted to have my own business. But I didn’t have much money to put into it, and I was starting from scratch at home." Then when she was 19 she met Clint, "and I saw what he was doing, I thought Wow. It is definitely Clint who inspired me to go down the business route."

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The couple met when she was 19, and Sian said: "We were introduced by friends and just clicked. I remember thinking: 'When am I going to find a fault with this guy?' I’m still trying to find one. "Even in business, we get each other because we both understand the pressures." They sound like a winning team, so are they ready to take the plunge? "No, not yet," Sian replied, laughing, while Clint added: "You’ve hit on a touchy subject – is it suddenly hot in here?" Wedding bells might not be ringing any time soon, but Clint could not be prouder of Sian. "We have the same interests, same ethos, same plans. We come from working class backgrounds in Leeds and we are on this journey together," he said. While that journey looks set to take Sian far, it won’t be away from her home city. "People have said: ;So you're going to get offices in London now?’ and I tell them: 'Everything I need to do I can do in Leeds,'" said Sian. "Leeds is massive to me. I was born here and grew up here. I love it." Sian’s joy at being hired by Lord Sugar has grown after discovering she has become a role model to the next generation of entrepreneurs. "I get messages every day from young girls or guys saying they’re inspired by me to achieve their dreams," she said. "If anything, that has been the most rewarding thing about going on the show."

The couple met when Sian was 19

She can still remember the times when she was made to feel different. "I noticed I was often the only mixed-race girl in the class, or one of very few. There were times I got racially abused, but it never held me back," she said. "Now, when I look at Meghan Markle, I think: 'If there'd been someone like her back in the day, doing what she's doing, it would've been massively inspiring.' I like to think that, hopefully, there are girls like me who are looking at my story and thinking: 'I can achieve that,' and that is something very close to my heart."

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Her parents and grandparents encouraged Sian "to believe in myself; to do what I want to do in life and not let other people set me back."That ethos came in useful during the weeks of boardroom grillings and backbiting among her fellow The Apprentice contestants. Sian rose above it to reach the final against Camilla Ainsworth and her gourmet nut milk concept. "Everyone is in there to win it, but we all got on really well," said Sian. "[Semi-finalist] Khadija Kalifa was a massive help to me in the final and Camilla is very much my target market. I only ever treat people how I would like to be treated," she added. "You have to be a bit cut-throat and you have to make decisions. But you don’t have to be aggressive." Her win marks Lord Sugar’s first investment in a fashion business in the show's history.

What is the best piece of advice he has given her? "That the brand needs to be distinctive, it needs to stand out as it is a crowded market. "He is very hands-on,” Sian continues. "We speak quite often and I've had good support from him and his team." Now preparing to make a big splash with her Tropical Goddess collection, featuring multiway and reversible styles for every body shape and the Athena two-piece she featured in The Apprentice, Sian said the last few weeks had been a "crazy" flurry of activity. "We've moved into our new office, I've had a general manager start with us and we've just had confirmation of an order from a big retailer, which is really exciting," she told us. But she isn't complaining. "I came out of the show with new friends and an investment," she said. "I couldn't really ask for more."

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The new collection launches on www.SianMarie.com on 4 March.