The Apprentice winner Yasmina uncovers the sweet side of Sugar
Yasmina is excited. Very excited. “It just feels amazing”, she says of her victory. “Phenomenal. Amazing. Great. Ecstatic. You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m in the Apprentice bubble. I’m loving it.”
She’s obviously delighted by her win, but not surprised. “Before I met the other candidates in the house I was petrified. I thought: ‘Oh no, they’re all really good and I’m going to be screwed over and fired in the first week’. Then I met everyone and thought: ‘Hang on, I think I’m in with a really good chance.’”
It’s the sort of line that, when delivered on the show, makes you want to throw something heavy at the screen but, remarkably, when Yasmina says it face to face, it doesn’t sound conceited. She’s very gracious about the other Apprentice hopefuls. “They’re all really, really nice people, and they all had something to bring to the table. Even to go on The Apprentice you had to go through a gruelling application process, so there was a respect you had for each other straight away”.
It might sound like mere platitudes, especially given her run-ins with Debra, but it meant something to Yasmina that her fellow candidates were likeable; it was one of the reasons that made her apply in the first place. “It was when I watched the ‘Final Five’ programme last year, when they talked to the candidates’ friends and showed their baby pictures that made me want to try for The Apprentice. It made me see that these people were really nice and I thought ‘Oh, normal people can apply. Nice people!’”
Perhaps because her business experience comes from running a restaurant with her family, she feared the cut and thrust of the business world. She certainly found the boardroom tough going though, to her credit, she only appeared in the firing line once.
“To be there in front of Sir Alan to fight your corner is a terrifying experience, it really is. You have to take a lot of criticism and do a lot of soul searching and articulate your strengths and weaknesses. It’s a really hard thing to do, especially if you’re not from a commercial background. ‘I’ve never had to evaluate my character before. I just get on with what I do”.
Still, Yasmina makes it clear that her restaurant was no hobby or mom and pop operation. “I very much did it from a business perspective. I wrote the business plan and went to the bank and dealt with the financial side, HR and payroll and all that.”
She’s the first to admit though that the show was a steep learning curve, and she relished the crash course in business it gave her. Her best moment wasn’t walking into the luxury penthouse or her brief moment of fame on the shopping channel but delivering the presentation in the final episode.
“I’d never done a presentation before and I was so terrified, especially as I’d heard about Kate’s presenting skills from the word go, but I nailed it. Sir Alan told me it was really very good– it was such a personal achievement, I really didn’t think I could do it.”
She talks of Sir Alan’s kind words and encouragement and, having rarely experienced the sharp side of Sir Alan’s tongue, I suspect she’s got a different view of him than most. She’s almost offended when I ask whether he’s as belligerent as his on-screen persona suggests. “He’s not like that at all”, she insists. “He’s not belligerent or angry and doesn’t walk around firing people.” So who is the real Sir Alan? “Well, he’s a big character”, she remarks. “He’s been in business for 40 years, he’s been in different sectors, he’s seen the highs and lows”. Before I can press her on those notorious lows, she continues.
“He’s involved in the apprenticeship schemes, he’s involved with the government, he’s become a Lord”, she continues. “Sir Alan is genuinely interested in the youth of today. He wants to spark a debate on business, on profit, on marketing. He wants teenagers to talk about it. Combine all that together and you’ve got a very interesting, diverse guy.” Finishing the hagiography, it’s clear she’s been very well briefed by the BBC.
As she lists his interests, it underlines that what Sir Alan is least known for these days is his business. Still, it’s Sir Alan of Amstrad, rather than Lord Sugar of Labour that Yasmina will be working for, heading a team in the Amscreen Healthcare division.
I wonder how long the bolshie businesswoman will be happy flogging TVs to the NHS. Previous winners tend to only spend a year or two with Sugar. Still, there’s no pretence that a job with Sir Alan is a job for life; it is an apprenticeship after all.