Week 1: I came, I saw, I contoured.
Day 1 6am: Going into this, my entire goal was simply to avoid being the first person fired. This was a huge opportunity for me, but I know where I am on the celebrity Totem Pole and, all else being equal, I assume they fire the least famous one.
I won’t lie, my heart was racing on this one entering Schwarzenegger, Inc.
I’ve hosted American Ninja Warrior for close to a decade but, this time, I’m the one competing. I’m the one who can trip and fall.
It’s exhilarating to feel like you’ve got some skin in the game but I really don’t want to fall on my face in front of millions and Arnold Schwarzenegger because, as I mention, I’m a bit of a fan.
Aaaaand the first advisor is Tyra Banks. She’s also the task. A Tyra Beautytainer party to sell makeup. And it’s men vs women. Hell of a way to start the show. But, honestly, I liked it because I felt like it put us in a good spot: we were the underdog. So, we decided to turn our weakness into our strength and have those of us with the least experience with makeup (in other words, those of us who weren’t Boy George) applying the makeup.
This was my view of Tyra and the Governor just before I went on stage. My heart was pounding.
But, as soon as I hit the stage, I knew we’d nailed it.
The crowd got it. Our message was solid. More importantly, we took the time to learn about the products and the brilliant but simple tag lines Tyra created.
THIS is how you contour, bitches!
Here was the other thing that’s hard to appreciate when you watch the show: the teams are separated and you really don’t have any idea what your opponents are doing. We caught a brief glimpse of their room just before we all started and realized it changed nothing about what we were doing. In a way, it was liberating because you could only focus on your project, your design, implementing it and making it as solid as possible. The time frames are so short that you’re paddling furiously just to keep your head above water and the peach Bellinis flowing.
In fact, even in the boardroom, you rarely see the other team’s full presentation, if you see any of it. It’s hard to know if you’re about to cruise to victory or be beheaded. It’s an uneasy feeling where you always have your head on a swivel.
When Schwarzenegger first comes into the conference room, The first thing he says is “I came, I saw, I contoured.” He quotes me to me. Talk about coming full circle.
But it felt like a great way to make a first impression. I survived. That was my goal. But I also made a mark. Which is also critical.
Most importantly… We won.
So we get sent back to the war room well the women have to figure out who’s going home. That was an awesome feeling to watch them on TV as we popped a bottle of champagne.
But, in the back of my mind, I realize tomorrow morning it starts all over again. And I get a sense that the show really is going to be a grind. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. But I’m starting to get excited.
So Team Arete has our first victory. We wake up the next day at 7 AM we have to show up at the back lobby of the hotel to get in the vans. We have no idea where they’re taking us, We have no idea what our task will be. But I won’t lie, as the men, we were feeling confident. We felt like we came in as the underdogs and we dominated that first task: we came, we saw, we contoured.
And we saw the women start to fracture. Momentum can be so important. We worked well together and we all delivered.
But we also talked about the women turning on each other in the boardroom but being unwilling to throw someone under the bus. Part of this game is assigning blame and dragging it out only makes it worse. But, it’s easy to say that when you’re not the one in the firing line. I hope I don’t get there.
Ricky said he learned from football that you don’t have to like someone to work with them. He said it while looking at me… I hope he’s not sending a message.
So, we’re driving through Marina del Rey, And with every turn we’re trying to figure out is this our location? Does this have something to do with the task were about to face? The drive drags on, we start heading down La Brea. We actually drive-by my house. Finally we had Hollywood Boulevard. The vans stop can We get out defined our location the El Capitan theater. This is right across from the Dolby theatre where they hold the Oscars. This is ground zero for the movies, The place where many Disney movies premiere. I even saw frozen here. Given its Arnold Schwarzenegger and were in one of Hollywood’s biggest theaters I’m thinking it’s time for an action movie. But, with celebrity apprentice, you never know what to expect.
Our new task? Trident gum.
Arnold sends us a clear message, though: DO NOT BE QUIET. If you want to stay, show STRENGTH. VALOR. DETERMINATION. VISION. I like this. He doesn’t want us to lay low and coast… stand up and fight!
And here’s our task: create a video and write a new song celebrating Trident’s newest flavor of gum cinnamon.
I will tell you from a strategic point of view as you hear a task, you try to figure out how it’s going to be done. But just as importantly, you figure out who is going to be project manager. Really, you wonder should I be project manager? Even though it’s just the 2nd second task, I’m already getting a sense that you have to pick the moment went to make your stand. Fortunately, as soon as I hear that writing a song is involved everyone on team Arete looks immediately at Boy George and Vince Neil. Of course, boy George was just project manager for the last task, Tyra beauty. So, I’m thinking Vince Neil is a slam dunk. But then, John Lovitz volunteers. It actually makes sense. He has far more experience both in front of and behind the camera than anyone else and the video was really going to hold it all together. So he rationalizes that Vincent and Boy can focus on the song while he’s the project manager putting the video together.
Now during the first task, I realize that I have very strong organizational abilities. I’m great at logistics I’m great at processing paperwork and creating a manageable to do list. Immediately I try to figure out how I can be a value add here, I’m not a musician but I can help keep John Lovitz organized. But before I can volunteer he asks me to be his right-hand man, the production manager if you will. Perfect. Tell me what you need, Lovitz, and I’ll make it happen. First thing Jon said to me is, “You be my first AD. I need you to keep on me because I’m very ADD.” So I am trying to keep him on task.
But you start to see the logistical challenges of the show like this. We have to write a song and shoot a video edited altogether and essentially do this in a little less than the day. New while they tell us about the task in Hollywood the recording studio is in Santa Monica in Los Angeles terms with traffic that’s pretty much halfway around the world. So our team has to split up I go with love it’s along with boy George and Vince Neil in the van because they’re going to start writing a song.
This was one of those moments that I will never forget. I’m sitting in the van with two guys whose music I listen to since the 80s. Two musical geniuses and I’m listening to them create a song. It’s Pretty fucking awesome. Meanwhile*Saturday Night Live is coming up with funny video ideas I mean it’s All-Stars being All-Stars. And I’m taking notes. Perfect
So we go to the recording studio, which is where Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumors. Again, this is some awesome Hollywood stuff.
So we come up with a rough idea for a song in the video what makes you smile? Great idea so boy George and Vince are get a stand record the song or the rest of us go out to Venice beach to shoot the video now trying to corral a mind like John Lovitz’s is a big task. I really felt like Jerry Maguire, “help me help you!” You realize there are a lot of chefs in this kitchen everybody successful in their own right in their own career everyone was strong opinions. That’s what you really need to have a clear hierarchy. And the problem is it shifts every task. You really need to know how to handle your ego and those of your teammates.
And then I get to step into the recording booth Vince Neil and boy George are outside coaching me as I’m singing and I give it my all. I’m singing to two legends. Honestly, this is the kind of stuff I’ve always dreamed about doing and Celebrity Apprentice is shows making it a reality.
The LESSON I learned was how to work with other personalities. Lovitz put his ass on the line and I had a clear idea how to help, but I needed to learn how HE works, what he needs to succeed. It frustrated me, but I realized, it wasn’t about me, it was about the team and making us win. Best way to stay safe is to win. Meet in the middle. As Jon Lovitz said, “I don’t know how to explain this to you… WE JUST WON AGAIN.”