Interview blues. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice
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“My CV’s probably under-exaggerated”: The Apprentice blog series 10, episode 11

The final five candidates are interviewed by people even more obnoxious than they are.

WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!

Read the episode 10 blog here.
 

We’ve reached the interviews stage, and all our favourite interrogators – plus a new angry face – have been laid on by Lord Sugar to pretend they’re qualified to level cruel put-downs and personal attacks at the perpetually embattled final five candidates.

There’s good old Bald Man Frothing with Malice (special skill: looking things up on Companies House using his computer), the trusty Haughty Media MD with Glass Orb (special skill: looking simultaneously smug and slightly concerned about her desk ornaments), old favourite That Guy Who Owns Shortlist (special skill: “reading between the lines”, apparently. Probably not of Shortlist though), and surprise newcomer Stunned Former Apprentice Winner (special skill: being allowed on telly during his lunchbreak).

A double-edged Claude. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

But before they face this high-altitude, low-quality recruitment process at the top of the Leadenhall Building (that’s the Cheesegrater to Londoners. And giants.), the contestants must put the finishing touches on their business plans.

This process involves each of the final five sitting separately looking perplexed over a lap of bumpf in a variety of showrooms in their Highgate mansion. Here’s Daniel, squelching over some projections beside a tropical plant and ostentatiously posing fruitbowl. There’s Roisin, her documents illuminated by a willowy statement lamp. Solomon pores over a page of figures on some ergonomic garden furniture. It’s a bit like a Habitat advert specifically targeting young professionals on the brink of redundancy.

The resident cameraman roams the house, asking each candidate how they feel about making it this far. In an emotional clip, Roisin weeps openly to camera about leaving her accountancy job “to do this”. It’s difficult to tell if she’s crying over how much the process means to her, or the stability, money and dignity she threw away by resigning.

Eventually, the five of them – Roisin, Solomon, Daniel, Mark and Bianca – gather in the twinkling Cheesegrater for a pep talk from his Sugary Lordship. Gesturing to their surroundings, he tells them, “like you, it’s not open for business yet,” in a rather obscene-sounding simile.

Roisin won't be choosing Pret's Classic Tomato soup for lunch. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

The candidates are told they will receive a grilling from Sugar's pack of aggressive advisers. “Sounds easy – NOT,” says Daniel, evoking the Nineties, as he swaggers off to his first interview. “Daniel’s the best to go first,” smirks Mark. “If you go after him, you look good, don’t you?”

What proceeds is a succession of people saying tragic things about CVs in uncomfortably-lit rooms. “I look at CVs day-in, day-out,” says Ricky Martin, a former Apprentice winner who sounds like he’s really living the business partnership dream. Living la vida loca, even. “My CV’s probably under-exaggerated,” says Daniel, modestly, having written that he won the Salesperson of the Year award – which he didn't. Sorry, I mean, "NOT".

Daniel won Salesperson of the Year. Not. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Roisin doesn’t do any better in her interview with the Shortlist boss, as she is faced with a pot noodle of shattered dreams on his desk and discovers her “unique” healthy ready meals are already on the market. Or perhaps she’s just really distressed because she’s wearing all white – a bad time to negotiate a noodle dish.

“Ideas generation” advocate Solomon is asked to read out some ideas from his phone. He must have been Googling bed-and-breakfasts, because he suggests both a delivery service of food to one’s house for breakfast in bed, and a place where you can pay to go to sleep.

But his toughest challenge is when he ascends to the sky-high office of infamous long-eared Claude Littner, whose already notably long ears extend even further in fury at the 23-year-old’s eight-page business plan. “It’s a bloody disgrace,” spits Claude, as Solomon crumples like a puppy being kicked. “You can leave. Pictures of sail boats! Pictures of sail boats!” he yells, like a crazed ClipArt user. “You’re taking the piss. Please leave.”

Bianca's lament. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

And if emotions are running high in Claude’s cloud box, they’re even higher when Bianca faces Ricky Martin. It seems to be an executive decision going forward ­– probably via a group Outlook conversation in which the interviewers reach out to one another – that Bianca is “hiding behind a mask” and repressing her personality.

This consensus leads to her on-screen psychological disintegration: “Oh my God, am I hiding something? I don’t know.” She then weeps to Martin as they debate what should be included in the price of paying for a recruitment consultant. A sad lone piano tinkles in the background as she wipes her eyes, and it all goes a bit X Factor.

“I’m more confident than ever,” says Mark, who doesn’t seem to receive as comprehensive a rollicking as his competitors.

Back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar’s advisers decide Solomon is a bit immature, Roisin and Daniel’s business plans are fundamentally flawed, and that there’s a lucrative place in the market for Bianca’s idea for different skin tones of hosiery (“I did some research, which I found quite pleasant,” grunts Claude, his ears lengthening lasciviously).

Daniel does his final signature clench-pout, before he’s booted off because no one wants to use his weird online wedding planning service; Solomon goes because his “fulfilment” business doesn’t fulfil Sugar’s criteria; Roisin is fired because she doesn’t seem to understand the basic fact that, “to fight for the space in the chillers in the supermarket, it’s like golddust, like Mayfair real estate”. Think of that next time you reach wearily for a treat from Dr Oetker.

Mark and Bianca survive for the final, as the dawn rises in gold-tinged hope over the Shard: God smiling upon us in the knowledge that there’s only one bloody episode left.

Two's company. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

 

Candidates to watch

Mark

Because he’s in the final.

Bianca

Because she’s in the final.

All the rest

Because they come back for the final.
 

I'll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here to follow it. Read my blog on the previous episode here. The show will air weekly on Wednesday evenings at 9pm on BBC One. Check back for the next instalment every Thursday morning.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Ben Whishaw as Hamlet by Derry Moore, 2004 © Derry Moore
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The art of coming out: how the National Portrait Gallery depicts the big reveal

Portraits of gay celebrities, politicians and sports stars line the walls in a new exhibition called Speak Its Name!, marking 50 years of advances in gay rights.

I have a million questions for the doctor friend I’ve brought with me to the National Portrait Gallery. A million questions that, if I really think about it, boil down to: “Why were the Tudors so godforsakenly ugly?”

Inbreeding? Lead makeup? An all-peacock diet?

I don’t know why I assume she’ll know. She’s a neonatologist, not a historian. But I’m desperate for some of the science behind why these 500-year-old royals look, if these imposing paintings of them are anything to go by, like the sorts of creatures that – having spent millennia in pitch black caves – have evolved into off-white, scrotal blobs.

My friend talks about the importance of clean drinking water and the invention of hygiene. We move onto an extremely highbrow game I’ve invented, where – in rooms lined with paintings of bug-eyed, raw sausage-skinned men – we have to choose which one we’d bang. The fact we’re both gay women lends us a certain amount of objectivity, I think.


Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow by David LaChapelle, 1996 © David LaChapelle Courtesy Fred Torres Collaborations

Our gayness, weirdly, is also the reason we’re at the gallery in the first place. We’re here to see the NPG’s Speak its Name! display; photographic portraits of a selection of out-and-proud celebrities, accompanied by inspirational quotes about coming out as gay or bi. The kind of thing irritating people share on Facebook as a substitute for having an opinion.

Managing to tear ourselves away from walls and walls of TILFs (Tudors I’d… you know the rest), we arrive at the recently more Angela Eagle-ish part of the gallery. Eagle, the second ever British MP to come out as lesbian, occupies a wall in the NPG, along with Will Young, Tom Daley, Jackie Kay, Ben Whishaw, Saffron Burrows and Alexander McQueen.

Speak its Name!, referring to what was described by Oscar Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred Douglas as “the love that dare not speak its name”, commemorates 50 years (in 2017) since the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

“Exhibition” is maybe a grandiose term for a little queer wall in an old building full, for the most part, of paintings of probably bigoted straight white guys who are turning like skeletal rotisserie chickens in their graves at the thought of their portraits inhabiting the same space as known homosexual diver Tom Daley.


Tom Daley By Bettina von Zwehl, 2010 © Bettina von Zwehl

When you’re gay, or LBTQ, you make little pilgrimages to “exhibitions” like this. You probably don’t expect anything mind-blowing or world-changing, but you appreciate the effort. Unless you’re one of those “fuck The Establishment and literally everything to do with it” queers. In which case, fair. Don’t come to this exhibition. You’ll hate it. But you probably know that already.

But I think I like having Tudors and known homosexuals in the same hallowed space. Of course, Angela Eagle et al aren’t the NPG’s first queer inhabitants. Being non-hetero, you see, isn’t a modern invention. From David Hockney to Radclyffe Hall, the NPG’s collection is not entirely devoid of Gay. But sometimes context is important. Albeit one rather tiny wall dedicated to the bravery of coming out is – I hate to say it – sort of heart-warming.


Angela Eagle by Victoria Carew Hunt, 1998 © Victoria Carew Hunt / National Portrait Gallery, London

Plus, look at Eagle up there on the “yay for gay” wall. All smiley like that whole “running for Labour leader and getting called a treacherous dyke by zealots” thing never happened.

I can’t say I feel particularly inspired. The quotes are mostly the usual “coming out was scary”-type fare, which people like me have read, lived and continue to live almost every day. This is all quite mundane to queers, but you can pretty much guarantee that some straight visitors to the NPG will be scandalised by Speak its Name! And I guess that’s the whole point.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.