They lost sleep, risked their reputations, cried on network television — all for a chance to work with him. But now that their dream boss has stepped onto the political stage, former stars of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” say they aren’t ready to vote for him.
“I’m a die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter,” says Omarosa Manigault, a three-time contestant on the show. After her caustic boardroom behavior in the first season made her a world-class reality TV villain, the former D.C. resident was the only original cast member invited back to participate in not one but two seasons of “Celebrity Apprentice.” (What made her a celebrity? Appearing on the regular “Apprentice.”)
Regarding Trump’s inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants: “I’m not going to touch that with a 100-foot pole,” Manigault says. “I wouldn’t even know how to respond to that — I mean, who would?”
Instead, Manigault, 41, deferred to her new spiritual role as the assistant pastor of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. “I am going to pray for Donald Trump,” she says. “I’m going to pray that God gives him clarity, that God gives him the ability to impact people’s lives positively.”
With his recent luck, the GOP presidential candidate could use some prayers. NBCUniversal, which severed ties with Trump over his derogatory statements, announced last week that the reality program that’s spanned seven regular seasons and seven celebrity seasons would be moving forward without its iconic host. Macy’s and the PGA of America are among the organizations that have severed ties with Trump-related businesses in recent days.
Given that his TV show has largely thrived on Trump’s self-aggrandizement, the decision is difficult for some ex-apprentices to stomach.
Season 6 winner Stefanie Schaeffer, 41, likened it to changing the recipe for Coca-Cola. “ ‘The Apprentice’ without Donald Trump fails,” she says. “He made it.”
Now an attorney and the host of a webcast devoted to autism, Schaeffer helped build Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas during the one-year contract garnered from her win. She credits her success on the show to her familial comfort around Trump. (He’s “exactly like my dad,” she said.)
So she didn’t mind when Trump yelled at people or called her ruthless. For the most part, she chalked it up to Trump’s sense of theatrics and a “healthy dose of bravado.” Except . . .
“I think you can be honest about how you feel,” Schaeffer says, “but it doesn’t give you license to hurt other people’s feelings, and certainly not a group of 30 million hard-working Americans.”
Mexican Americans aren’t the only ones whose feelings have been hurt by Trump’s incendiary tendencies. Randal Pinkett, 44, the first person of color to win the competition, was offended when Trump asked him if he wanted to share the crown title with runner-up Rebecca Jarvis during the Season 4 finale.
In the moment, broadcast live, Pinkett was taken aback. “There is one, and only one, Apprentice,” he replied, dumbfounded.
“Why did Donald Trump ask me the question in the first place?” the African American head of a consulting firm wonders in hindsight. “It’s all part of a broader conversation about privilege and how that can influence behavior, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. Trump would benefit from a heightened sensitivity to how the things he says affects other people.”
Kwame Jackson, 41, one of two African American contestants in Season 1, has been disillusioned with Trump’s attitudes toward racial minorities since 2011, when the mogul demanded to see President Obama’s birth certificate.
He had heard rumblings of “Trump’s nativism and supposed corporate racism,” Jackson says, but his fears weren’t confirmed until the birther incident. America has moved beyond the sentiments that Trump espouses, the D.C.-born professional speaker and strategic consultant says.
As for his relationship to the show? Jackson says, “I’ve washed my hands of the whole thing.”
But Trump, who’s vocal about how much he values loyalty, still has some pupils on his side. Katrina Campins, a Cuban American who competed in Season 1, merged her real estate company with Trump International Realty last year. Regardless of Trump’s views, Campins says, “He’s not afraid to say exactly what’s on his mind. One thing that I do respect is he definitely utilizes the freedom of speech we have in this country.”
Season 3 winner Kendra Todd, 37, went even further in her expression of appreciation. She recalls an episode in which Trump invited a group of contestants to breakfast at his penthouse condo. They sat around an ornate dining-room table so enormous they wondered how Trump had gotten it inside.
Well, simple: He had ordered cranes to lift it up through the windows.
“Trump really epitomizes the idea that even the impossible can be possible if you put your mind to it,” Todd says, adding that his habit of speaking his mind would serve him well in matters of national security: “Terrorist nations would probably be a lot more concerned when he says that he draws a red line in the sand because they’ll know that he means it. He may have an opportunity to be taken more seriously than our current president in a lot of areas.”
Still, even Todd was reluctant to endorse Trump’s campaign, pointing to “all of the worthy candidates that have declared.”