It’s been a long time since now-President Donald Trump was heading up NBC’s hit reality show The Apprentice. From 2004 to 2015, Trump handed out complex assignments to a boardroom full of aspiring business tycoons in the hopes of working alongside the real estate mogul.
One contestant almost earned the title, but instead went onto a successful career in journalism with a substantial post at ABC News.
Her big break, literally
In 2005, University of Chicago alumna and financial journalist Rebecca Jarvis was a leading contender for The Apprentice title in season four. She spoke to her alma mater’s independent student newspaper The Chicago Maroon about the experience. “I was 23 years old and on a lark I went to the audition for The Apprentice at NBC. In the back of my mind I really didn’t see it as something I would ultimately do,” she said. “Then after a couple rounds of auditioning I ended up getting on the show and had actually a lot of really serious conversations with my parents at the time about whether or not I should do it… When you go on reality TV, it’s up to the producers on reality TV who you are. You can control who you are to some extent because you are who you are, but the editing and the decisions that are made to make something dramatic can change… I ultimately decided to do it.”
Jarvis ended up with a challenge she never would’ve anticipated. “I broke my ankle three days into filming and was on crutches the entire time. It was not the most pleasant experience because of that in part but I made it through,” Jarvis said in the interview. “People say, ‘Well what did you learn from it?’ and I think, for me, I learned that the world is really big, and it’s interesting to see that audiences see the truth. You don’t have to tell people what’s happening; audiences can see what’s happening.”
Happy with runner-up status
Jarvis ended up as one of two finalists and walked away (she was off crutches by the finale) with the runner-up title. But she was fine with the outcome.
“Right after the show wrapped up, I did this interview with Larry King. It was Larry King and Donald Trump and the other person from the show,” Jarvis told the Chicago Maroon. “During the commercial break I was alone in the studio with Larry King and the other two were via satellite. He said, ‘This is the best thing that ever happened to you. Mark my words.’ And frankly, the show gave me a forum to be who I was, and for people to see that, and put me in touch and in contact with people who it would have taken much more heavy lifting probably and a lot longer time. I don’t regret doing it, but first of all, I didn’t ever think about it as a stepping stone. I thought, I’m doing this on a lark, it could be something fun. I could have some great stories as a result of this—that’s how I went into it.”
Thoughts on Trump
Jarvis’ interactions with Trump on the reality show were way before his political aspirations became his focus, and she said she did not have much communication with him during her time on The Apprentice. “We had limited interaction. But in my interactions with him he literally came across exactly on air when you would watch the show back as he came across in person. So with my experience, it was: what you see is what you get. For me, it was a positive experience. I didn’t have any negative interactions with him that I can recall. It was 11 years ago, but also, the biggest difference is that the content of our interactions was very different than the content that you now see of him.”
As a contestant, Jarvis said her conversations with Trump were about the tasks they were assigned. “I mean, never once did politics come up as far as I can remember. We didn’t talk about the Iraq War. We talked about whether or not you did what Microsoft wanted you to do on a task. Or whether or not the tagline you came up with was the right tagline, or whether or not you sold enough widgets or whatever it was we were selling on a particular task,” she said.
Jarvis has gone on to great success, blazing a trail in financial journalism where she is now the Chief Business, Technology, and Economics Correspondent for ABC News. She is also the Host and Managing Editor of the podcast “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis,” and the Host and Managing Editor of “Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis.”