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Interview: Selita Ebanks from ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

Interview: Selita Ebanks from ‘Celebrity Apprentice’


We had the pleasure of speaking with Selita Ebanks from Celebrity Apprentice. She spoke with us about her charity Shine on Sierra Leone, her surprise at being voted off, and who she thinks is going to win in the end.

I was wondering how did you choose the particular charity you had?

Selita Ebanks: Well in 2007 I went with Elle Magazine to Sierra Leone to learn more about – and so some sort of documentation of non-conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone, in the progress of the country because it’s a war torn country. They had a ten year civil war and I was there for ten days and woman named Tiffany Persons, she is the director of Shine On Sierra Leone, she just tagged along, it wasn’t anything intentional, her being there and we visited a village that she supports, her charity Shine On Sierra Leone.

And I was just so overwhelmed and so excited to learn so much about this country and unfortunately it’s – I’m sorry it’s unfortunate that Sierra Leone has the highest child mortality rate in all of the world. One in four children die at childbirth before the age of five. I’m sorry, one in four children die before the age of five and one in ten women die in childbirth.

You know and it was just something that was startling to me so I decided to go with that charity because I believed that they needed more support.

Did Mr. Trump give you any advice in particular you’re going to take with you?

Selita Ebanks: No, not really. He didn’t give me advice per se but his words definitely did stick with me, you know last night when he fired me he said that he thought Maria and Holly were strong business women. And he didn’t see the same quality in myself, but unfortunately you know I’ve been doing this for ten years and the longevity of a model’s career is not even close to ten years so I – you know I’m going to have to disagree with him.

But he doesn’t know my career so that’s fine. But actually what I did take from that comment was that I do tend to defend a stranger before I defend myself. And so perhaps my skin has gotten too thick because words don’t phase me anymore. So that’s something that you know I would take as advice is just to learn how to be more assertive when it comes to defending myself.

So based on what we saw in the episode, you really didn’t have anything to do with why your team lost. So why do you think that you were fired?

Selita Ebanks: You know what, it was pretty much down to – it was Summer, myself, Holly and Maria. Donald Trump took out Cyndi Lauper and took out Sharon Osborne. Even though Cyndi, you know she’s left different tasks before and you know she gets the pass, she’s Cyndi Lauper. Let’s you know favoritism, you know hey whatever it is. And then Sharon was sick, so I think previously on other tasks and being in the board room Donald trump had picked on me previously, I think it’s because I have such a – I’m an island girl, I’m so laid back. You know your words don’t really phase me per se so I think he was just trying to get something out of me that he said just was not going to be there.

So he gave me the opportunity to defend myself and to fight for being there and unfortunately you know I was so tired and just at that point so upset that Maria had thrown me under the bus and that there was so much negatively in there, it was just kind of unfair. So I didn’t really, unfortunately fight for myself, I was just kind of like the scapegoat. Hey you know what, let’s just fire Selita I think.

Now after the board room we saw you go over and hug Maria. It looked like you had some nice things to say to her. Then when they cut away to your exit interview when you were in the car, you kind of trashed her a little bit. So how do you really feel about Maria?

Selita Ebanks: Well you know what, at the end of the day you know my words aren’t to trash anybody. It’s just you know I’m – anything I say on camera I would clearly gladly say to someone in their face. I have a certain amount of respect for Maria because she’s a go-getter. Her method of go and getting it is a little too abrasive for me. I think that sometimes she tends to step on people’s toes. But you know I had to hug her because she won. You know she beat me, so enough respect to her, but at the end of the day I don’t necessarily believe in her method of her game plan which is fine because it is a game. You know it was a show and she’s more reality TV material than I was. But it’s funny you say that because I didn’t even watch the episode yet, I’m sitting here watching it right now.

So you two probably won’t be going out for drinks any time soon I imagine.

Selita Ebanks: No, I’m fine with going out and having drinks. I’m actually really surprised that it – you know it’s editing unfortunately but we were really cool and cordial you know while we were there. I think she’s a very strong lady as she should be, she’s a wrestler and so – and I’m a runway model. I don’t work out to have muscle mass or anything like that.

But I don’t have any ill thoughts against or her or anything like that, I would love to have drinks with her, why not? I want to talk about her new album coming out. I think it did – I think it’s out.

So how did you get involved with Donald Trump and Celebrity Apprentice to begin with?

Selita Ebanks: Well they called my agency and they wanted some advice, they asked my agent if there was a girl that they thought would be a good player, I mean a good contestant. And my agency said of course, me, Selita and I went in and yeah, and then they – I decided to do the show.

Well what was it like doing that whole Wizarding World of Harry Potter task? I mean you won and then you had to spend so much time with the governor on the airplane.

Selita Ebanks: It was interesting. You know I was pretty much engulfed in my work on the plane, I didn’t really get a chance to just to talk with him on the plane and then he was napping on the way back.

So it was interesting. I mean the governor, he’s a politician to say the least, so he’s always – his whole life is politics. So when the cameras are on or whatever it is, he’s on his soapbox and he’s definitely campaigning non-stop. So that was interesting. But he’s a really nice guy I must say.

Well do you think this whole abrasive sort of personality we’re starting to see out of Maria, do you think that could hurt her later on in this competition?

Selita Ebanks: I don’t know. She’s very aggressive and she’s a woman that knows what she wants and knows how to get it I guess. I don’t know, you guys are just going to have to wait and see. You don’t know – just like Donald says, everyone’s friends in the beginning until those weeks start going by and then you start seeing the true people come out.

What was your proudest moment on the show? Was it winning the money for your charity?

Selita Ebanks: It was that and the first task when Joan Rivers chose my food over the chef Curtis Stone. And of course it was a technicality, he’s food was cold but as a chef I think you’re supposed to be aware of all of that at all times. So that was pretty proud for me because I really enjoy cooking, it’s kind of like my favorite thing to do and my past time.

Did you feel a bit picked on, put upon by the old man that – I don’t know his name but to the right of Donald and his daughter? I mean it seemed like they were all gunning for you.

Selita Ebanks: Yeah, you know what, previously in different – in the past episodes in the boardroom they all pretty much would just say, “So Selita, what do you do?” which is kind of like – kind of a ridiculous question considering we were about to win the task.

I think there was a lot of moments when they were picking on me, maybe because I am the model or maybe because I’m an island girl and I’m just that laid back by nature and I’m not the type of person to step on anyone’s toes or anything of that nature. And I guess that’s what they wanted, you know out of a contestant being on the show, so I think they were trying to push my buttons a little bit.

Between Sharon Osborne and Cyndi Lauper, who do you really feel is a nicer, kinder, more of a team player, an asset to the women?

Selita Ebanks: Well they’re both older women and they’re incredibly successful in their own rights. They’re two different personalities, eclectic and very special personalities. But I love Cyndi because she’s more the creative aspect, very original and she always thinks outside the box. And she has great stories to tell that reflect her originality. But then Sharon, she’s so business oriented and so strong and focused and she’s literally – I think the two of them need their own show together. I think that would be the greatest show ever.

There’s three men remaining, Bret Michaels, Goldberg and Curtis Stone. Who do you think is the strongest of those three?

Selita Ebanks: Wow. Well physically of course it’s going to be Goldberg. But I was surprised by Curtis’s win last night, although in watching the show it was actually Bret Michaels who spearheaded that, you know? I think Curtis needs to seriously thank Bret Michaels for that because Bret Michaels is so original, he’s so creative and you know he’s a little bit out there at times. But he’s a really smart business man and you know I think Curtis only speaks chef language. So I don’t know, I think you can expect a lot from Mr. Bret Michaels.

What was the most difficult thing about the Celebrity Apprentice?

Selita Ebanks: It was just I think scheduling which you don’t see on TV. Lack of sleep and the lack of food because we’re constantly going, it’s kind of like a non-stop heavy day filming type of atmosphere. And that, I think that was the most difficult and I think that’s why people started to get a little catty or people left or couldn’t handle it because you’re sleep deprived and you’re trying to execute things and stay strong for your charity. But it was really hard.

And about your charity, how did it feel getting to present that check to your charity?

Selita Ebanks: Oh man, it felt so good. $20,000 can go so far. With $40,000 last year, I built another portion to our school that holds over 250 students and this building is going to sustain and stay around for hopefully decades you know ahead. So I was really proud you know at that moment.

And when you were in the board room, why did you choose Maria as the person who should be fired and not Holly when Trump asked you?

Selita Ebanks: Well Holly – Maria had thrown me under the bus. She thought that I was the weakest link or whatever but I actually haven’t seen the episode. But if I can remember it was Maria that said, “Well Selita, the only reason why I’m going to say Selita is because she called for my help and I didn’t come.” But being on a project, you’re giving a task, so everyone has their responsibility. I wasn’t there when she called out for help, they edited it to make it seem like I was there but I was actually on the phone dealing with casting and catering and everything else. And then Holly had put me and you know I was responsible for making sure Mr. Scottie Pippen was happy. I had to open a restaurant three hours early just so he could get what he wanted to eat. It was a little diva moment for him. But Holly, she’s project manager, she said Selita this is what I need you to do, make sure that we’re on schedule and everything is done.

So, and that plus at the end of the day I’m not really that strong to tell you the truth. You know Maria’s picking up cast iron sinks and stuff. I couldn’t even – I’d have to put that on a trolley and pull it or something. So if anything I would probably have gotten more in the way than being assistant to her. But it’s okay.

Now why didn’t you go after Holly since she was the project manager? I mean she seemed to be the one that carried all the weight.

Selita Ebanks: You know what, I think it was a little bit of Holly hadn’t won for her charity yet and I think that she worked so hard and she believes so much in her charity because it’s dear to her heart because her son has autism. And I didn’t think that it was the right strategy to go after her when myself and Maria and Summer had already won for our charities. So I just wanted kind of to give Holly a second chance of winning for her charity, because it means so much to her.

And I just thought it was fair. Unfortunately you know I guess that’s not the way the game is played but you know it was kind of a sensitive moment for me.

What do you make of all the absentee celebrities and the ones that just walked away?

Selita Ebanks: Yeah, you know what, I think that’s – first of all, understand life does not stop just because we’re filming a reality show. I understand that, but at the end of the day I was there to bring my charity- to make people aware of what’s happening in Sierra Leone.

Holly was there for that, Maria was there for that, we were all there for the same reason. And so it was just kind of disheartening to see people just give up like that. It was really sad.

What was the best part about competing with Rod last week?

Selita Ebanks: Oh my gosh, him falling asleep. I felt so awful because the cameras were there and I wanted to literally kick him under the – just tell him to wake up, like, “Dude, what are you doing?” But then I didn’t want to startle him and it would be like another weird moment. It was pretty funny.

Could you talk a little bit about last night when Cyndi came back? It seemed like tensions were high, especially between her and Holly. It seemed Holly felt like her toes were getting stepped on and Cyndi seemed unaware that there was this tension. Is that typical or was that just yesterday?

Selita Ebanks: Well last episode there was a little tension that had started between Cyndi and Holly, so I think that was just kind of boiled over at that point, just spilled over into this episode. And it was just kind of upsetting for Holly because she had worked so hard. We all really worked hard on this commercial, it’s not like making commercials is what any of us do.

And then to have Cyndi go and – you know which is an amazing cause, which was such a historic day, you know I was so proud of and happy for Cyndi that she was able to experience that.

But coming back you know she was a little aggressive in her ideas and not knowing – no one recapped her on what actually the progress we had made. So think for Holly, I can’t speak for her, but probably she just kind of felt like, “Cyndi relax, we got this.” You know, you were not here and you’re kind of being repetitive at the moment which is a little frustrating when you’re in a time crunch.

Was Cyndi just kind of a take charge gal?

Selita Ebanks: No, she’s definitely a woman with an opinion which usually 95% of the time it’s an opinion that 95% of the time make sense and is crucial to the actual task. But the fact she wasn’t there I think and like I said there was tension previously. I think Holly was a little over it.

And you said that you think Bret Michaels is really strong for the guys? Who’s strong in the ladies still?

Selita Ebanks: Well I think as it – because the whole objective of this show is to communicate and be a project manager and know how to delegate, I think Holly at this moment is probably the strongest But also Sharon. She is a really strong contender. She’s a really amazing business woman and she makes things happen. Maria because she’s so creative. She’s really creative and she knows how to think outside the box and when she has a vision she knows how to execute it. So it’s really hard to say. I don’t know, I think as a team we were really strong, but going forward I don’t – you know just never know.

Were you surprised that you were fired?

Selita Ebanks: Yeah, I was definitely surprised. I thought you know because how they edit it is pretty much how they’re going to play it out. You know it seemed like I was not doing anything or if I looked bored in whatever situation, you know they have the power, it’s called producing, it’s called editing. I get it, but in the reality of it I worked my ass off non-stop. I have burns and I still have scars from being on that show.

And it seems it just that at the beginning of that task before the actual directors and they set up the props and everything, my assignment was casting, catering and production. So I had already executed what Holly had asked me to do so I was pretty much tying up loose ends and most of that was – involved using the phone. It wasn’t physical which was definitely important to the execution of the task. But you know they made it look like I was just sitting around. It was horrible.

Is it a perception that we have out here or does this seem like the older Sharon and Cyndi, the older women versus the younger women? Because that’s what a lot of people had the perception of here. That there are two camps. Is it like that there?

Selita Ebanks: You know what, there was moments of that, especially in the boardroom when Donald was so defensive of them and you know literally they could do not wrong and it was just a little upsetting. Because you know Sharon was sick, which is 100% excusable. But you know Cyndi, she will leave and do her own thing and she was like – and here we are busting our ass nonstop and I’m just like – it was kind of – you know and then maybe Donald’s right.

He kind of feels like you know the older women, they’ve earned their keep already, they’re extremely successful. They’ve been doing this for decades and you know here we are.

But at the end of the day I don’t think that we deserve – the younger contestants deserve to be picked on like that or at least me.

Do you have any predictions on who you think will finally come up on top?

Selita Ebanks: I don’t know, it’s really hard to say. I’m just excited because you never know. Like I never thought I would have been fired so soon.

I’m so happy I got to raise money – win money for my charity and I actually got to tell the world about it.

So you mentioned earlier that you’re pretty laid back, you know words don’t tend to phase you a whole lot. So I guess I’m kind of wondering what does it feel like when Donald Trump actually fires you, like those two little words, ‘you’re fired’, how does that feel?

Selita Ebanks: Well you know what they didn’t show before, because the cameras were off, but I almost had a nervous breakdown. Like I had a crying moment where literally you know I had to walk away and my eyes were probably all puffy at that point. Because I really worked really hard to be on that show and I really wanted to at least you know at least three, four more episodes so I can get another opportunity to play for my charity. But at that moment when I found out that I was going to come back in the boardroom, it was already kind of – I already kind of knew that Donald was going to fire me. And it was – so when he said it, you know I was emotionally prepared for it. That’s why I just thanked him for the opportunity and once he says, “You’re fired,” you’re fired. So what are you going to do after that?

It stung. It definitely stung to my core because I wasn’t ready to go.

And then the other celebrities we’ve been talking to each week, they always mention the schedule of the show is so grueling and super stressful. I’m wondering if your experience as a model helped you kind of cope with the go-go-go pace of the show?

Selita Ebanks: It definitely did I hope. I’m used to being jet lagged or having a lack of sleep, but I think being on the show it was a little bit more stressful only because I’m having direct contact with people and there’s a camera in my face.

When you’re doing a runway show, there’s not a camera in your face 24/7. You can be in hair and makeup dozing off and someone will hold your face and you can take a catnap. I’ve seen it – so many girls do it back stage at shows and whatnot. But being on this reality show is just kind of like dang, you just cannot forget, you can’t take a moment to just – you know for yourself or to breathe.

You know I was going on maybe four hours of sleep every night and then food was scarce because of filming. You’re just kind of shoving anything you can get in your mouth and just trying to push through. So that was really stressful and it – I know that’s why the claws started coming out and people started getting catty because they were sleep deprived.

Do you think that it got cattier on the set of this show than it gets you know in a runway show or something like that?

Selita Ebanks: Absolutely. Yeah, no absolutely. I think you know in modeling there’s a level of professionalism and respect that you have for one another. It’s not like the stereotypical “I’m going to push you don’t the stairs or break your set of shoes.” Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore. Like now there’s dressers to make sure that your clothes and your shoes are where they’re supposed to be.

So yeah, this show was way too catty. And I have seven brothers, I’m not used to interacting with so many women and their cattiness. So that was a little hard for me. I just wanted to tell them at moments, “Just go, relax.”

What’s it like in the condo when both teams are there just hanging out?

Selita Ebanks: Well you know what’s so funny, we hardly ever saw the guys except for in the boardroom and except for after boardroom when they would come in – we would go into each other’s rooms and have some drinks. So it was kind of like meeting them all over for the first time every single day. But it was really cool. Actually it was nice to interact with another group of people. It kind of freed us for a little bit. It just calmed us down a little bit and gave us that moment of relaxation. You know you come back to earth and you’re like, “Okay, we’re normal people again.”

And what did you expect going in? Did anything suprise you?

Selita Ebanks: Well you know what, I literally wrote down all the pros and cons and all of my expectations and the only thing that surprised me was – I mean everyone said the boardroom was going to be scary. But what surprised me is just the aggressiveness in the room. I watched last season but I didn’t think it was going to be that – like the bright lights are on you, you’re sweating, you know people you know are – there’s tension, they’re cutting each other off. That was a little scary. I don’t know if I was ready for all that.

With the last couple of seasons the celebrities got to use their star power more; they could call on people they knew. How was it that you didn’t get to call on the angels to help you out in a challenge?

Selita Ebanks: Well unfortunately we – well as long as I was on the show we didn’t have a task that required or needed any of my girls. But they were definitely on speed dial. You know I had a few – actually in the Kodak challenge a friend of mine, Cecily Lopez, who is a really amazing model, you know she’d fly in.

And I thought that they might have needed a little Latin flavor in the Kodak task. She came down and that was really sweet. But I was hoping for a fashion challenge like – that I could be a part of a fashion challenge to coordinate a fashion show or something like that. I was really looking forward to something like that but unfortunately I won’t be there if there is one.

Since technically Cyndi did participate in the challenge, do you think she would have been brought back to the boardroom if Holly was given the chance? And if so do you think you would have been brought back?

Selita Ebanks: Yeah, no I don’t think – I think if Donald would have allowed Cyndi to be put on the chopping block I don’t think I would have been on the chopping block, unless Donald would have volunteered me in there, which would have surprised me. But I mean, she called in a few times at the end, she sang and I guess that’s participating. But you know at the end of the day the whole project is time consuming.

And just – I think that was a little upsetting for me. But you never know, you know you can’t cry over spilled milk, it’s done already.

Did you make any lasting friendships do you think? Is there anyone you’d like to keep in touch with as far as the ladies go?

Selita Ebanks: Absolutely. Well of course Holly, you know I’m so amazed at her, she’s done so well for her charity, she’s an amazing fund raiser. I love her spirit and the fact that she’s so true to her cause.

And of course Summer Saunders, she works with war torn countries bringing sports to war torn countries and hopefully our charities are similar so hopefully we can unite and do something great for the nation of Sierra Leone.

And I follow Maria on Twitter and I encourage people to go buy her album. And Sinbad, I just saw Sinbad in Cleveland and yes, you know what, I think I created a really good group of friends that I can probably call on in the future, definitely.

What’s next for you? Would you like to be on another reality show do you think?

Selita Ebanks: No way. I’ve done all the reality I need out of my system. It was a great experience, great cause, great people, everything but I know now that I am not made for reality television. I’ll just do TV though.

And a more personal question, what is Scottie Pippen really like to work with?

Selita Ebanks: He’s really laid back really easy, cool. He was actually really helpful with Holly and I because in the beginning when we first got there we were short handed. So he physically helped us which was really nice because he definitely did not have to do that. It says a lot about his character that he was a team player.

Official Shine on Sierra Leone Site: www.shineonsierraleone.org/

Official Celebrity Apprentice Site: www.nbc.com/the-apprentice/


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