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Reality TV Interview

'The Apprentice': Gerri Blackwood

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'The Apprentice': Gerri Blackwood
This week Sir Alan Sugar handed each team £200 and challenged his proteges to make as much money as possible in 16 hours. While the boys' team managed to double his money as gardeners and singograms, the girls found it difficult to make a profit from children's facepainting while the little Alfies and Lilys of Richmond were locked away at school. Things got even worse for the girls in the evening, when they were forced to become kissograms to boost their earning power. Who was fired? Former Transport Development Manager Gerri Blackwood, who was accused of failing to find suitable locations for the girls' businesses. We caught up with Gerri to discuss what went wrong, Jadine's raw talent and why everyone becomes a "quivering lemming" in Sir Alan's presence.

Are you disappointed to have been voted off quite early on?
“Of course I am. You don’t go on this show just to spend a few weeks there. I'm gutted, but at the same time I remain upbeat and very positive about the future. It was actually a very positive experience in between all the backstabbing!”

Who do you blame for losing the task?
"Well, I do hold my hands up a little bit, but I’m not half as bad as I was made out to be! For example, there were three people looking at location, but there’s only one Gerri, so Gerri was brought into the boardroom. I’d been in the boardroom before so it was a classic move on Naomi’s part. You know, I think there were mistakes made in all different corners, but I don’t actually think I was the worst. I understand when Sir Alan says that it shouldn’t always be the project manager that gets fired, but I think in this case we had no leadership and direction from the project leader. It was really hard to get on with things."

Was Naomi as reluctant a leader as she appeared?
"She's a strong organiser – that’s her bag I think - but she definitely isn’t strong at leading. We effectively had no leadership. And then when things started going a bit wrong, people started the blame game and arse-covering. They started finger-pointing too. It sort of descended into bedlam and no one was in control. It wasn’t a pleasant working environment."

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What did you think of the decision to launch a kissogram business in the evening?
"Hideous is the word I’d use. In fairness it’s not something that any of us really wanted to do. We were given a list of 200 businesses that we were allowed to do – businesses approved by Richmond council – and the reason a kissogram business became a potential idea was because it didn’t require any spending. You didn’t have to hire any equipment – it was a quick win kind of thing – but everyone thought it was morally wrong. Even the people who agreed to do some kissing in the end, you know, it wasn’t their idea of a dream task. It’s just those people were more determined to win at whatever cost. I sold a kiss with Natalie and the guy started pinching her bum, but he wouldn’t even pay me! That’s when I got very disillusioned."

Do you think losing Katie affected your team?
"I think so. We all really enjoyed the previous task and people have said to me, ‘There’s no loyalty among the girls’. Well there was absolutely loads of loyalty among the girls, and I think that came from Katie being leader. She was a really strong leader and she really bonded us together, so when she was moved it was like having the rug pulled out from under our feet. We’d just found something that worked for us and Sir Alan went and removed it!"

What do you make of Jadine?
"I don’t think Jadine’s as bad as everyone’s made out. Maybe that’s because I know how to handle her and I know to take what she says with a pinch of salt. She’s got some really good ideas, and if she was just able to communicate them a bit more diplomatically, she'd be fine. I just don’t think the girls gave her enough of a chance. The first time I met her I thought, ‘Oh hello, you’re a bit a scary’. But I just said to her, ‘Jadine, don’t talk me to like that. You’re being aggressive.’ We sorted things out on day one."

She's an easy scapegoat, isn't she?
"Yeah, definitely. She was digging a hole for herself and the girls were happily piling the earth on top of her. People have said to me, ‘If only you’d gone in the boardroom and joined in the slating of Jadine, then Sir Alan wouldn’t have had much choice but to fire her,’ but I didn’t believe that Jadine was the reason we failed so I wasn't willing to stab her in the back. I didn’t want to do that."

That's very admirable...
"Yeah, it’s admirable but it didn’t get me very far. But I’d rather be admirable than ruthless and nasty."

Is Sir Alan as scary as he seems?
"He is. Absolutely. Before I met him I thought he was going to be a bit of a pussycat, but he's not at all! He doesn’t do niceties and nothing impresses him. What I found funny is that the TV crew are equally scared of him. The director was very much dancing to the sound of Sir Alan’s drum! When Sir Alan says ‘Cut!’, they have to cut. If Sir Alan wants to do something a different way, they’re all ‘Yes, Sir Alan'. When you’ve got everyone in the room all bowing down to him it just adds to his greatness. You find yourself becoming one of his quivering lemmings at the end of the line!"

How did you find Margaret and Nick, Sir Alan's assistants?
"I found them a bit creepy - they're almost like droids. The thing is, they’re not there to like you and they’re not there to look for good things in you. It’s very difficult to talk to a customer when you can hear their pencil scribbling down every mistake that you’ve made.”

Who do you think will go on to win?
"You know, I said to Jadine before she left, ‘I think you’ve got lots of talent, but you’re making yourself an easy target.’ You know, tact is a word that wouldn’t be in Jadine’s dictionary, but I really believe that if she can learn from what people are telling her, she'll go far. I think she’s got a lot of raw talent and I think she could be shaped into a slick businessperson by someone like Sir Alan. It’s just the sort of project he likes, isn’t it?"

The fourth episode of The Apprentice airs on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One.

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