On Sunday’s episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Dayana Mendoza once again found herself in the final boardroom meeting, but this time she was unable to escape termination. As project manager for her team (which included Clay Aiken and Lisa Lampanelli), it was inevitable that she would be on the chopping block after losing a jingle-writing challenge. At the end, Donald Trump told Mendoza, “You’re fired,” and she was sent home. We had a chance to talk with the 25-year-old beauty about her time on the show, who she wants to win, and what she’d do differently the next time around. Here’s what she had to say (after the photos).
Related: Dayana Mendoza Gallery
Mandatory: First of all, are you aware that you set a “The Apprentice” record for most times brought back to the final boardroom? Why do you think that was?
Dayana Mendoza: (laughs) Yeah, they should have just had my name on a chair in there permanently. From my point of view, I think it was my technique. I realized when I said my final goodbye that most everyone on the show was there to just try to take someone else out and had their own self-interests. I approached it as just trying to raise money for my charity. But I know that I am only 25, I am not a writer or an actor, so I was maybe looked down on. I think I was an easy target, so I was brought back to the final boardroom by my teammates as many times as possible.
Mandatory: Do you feel like you were disrespected or underestimated on the show?
DM: I would say underestimated. The young girl who does not speak English perfectly, I would say for those I competed with I was viewed as someone with no experience who got lucky enough to win a pageant to get on the show. But I feel like I held my own. I didn’t always have the right answer but I tried my best and was just thankful for the opportunity.
Mandatory: How did you feel when Trump told you you were fired?
DM: You are so tired and emotionally drained by then, I guess I felt some relief. I thought about how I wouldn’t have to face the pressure of getting fired the next week. But mostly I felt happy, because I was able to raise money for my charity (the Latino Commission on AIDS) and help other charities as well. I didn’t win, but I did what I came to do.
Mandatory: Now that you are off the show, in hindsight what would you have done differently?
DM: I think I actually did too well (laughs). I watch it and still can’t believe what I hear the others saying, the things they said to me. I can’t believe I stood up so high to some of the rough treatment and was able to remain focused and as professional as possible. I am very proud of how I reacted and happy with how I performed on “Celebrity Apprentice” overall.
Mandatory: I think I might know the answer to this, but who was the worst person to work with on the show?
DM: I think both Lisa Lampanelli and Aubrey O’Day were very difficult people to work with. If you watch the show, it’s obvious that Lisa has a temper issue. She explodes. I think when she focuses and has peace in her heart, she can be a great worker. The difference with Aubrey was, just her personality made it really hard to work with as a team player. It was not easy to work with either one of them.
Mandatory: Who did you respect the most?
DM: Patricia Velasquez, and not because we are both Venezuelan women. Whoever watched the show will appreciate the fact that she was such a lady, yet such a hard worker, very well spoken, and always gave her best. I really respect and adore her.
Mandatory: Just to make sure, you don’t know who wins yet do you?
DM: No, I have no idea who wins. I think even the ones who make the final show don’t know the winner yet. They do the final show live.
Mandatory: So who do you think is going to win out of the five people left (Arsenio Hall, Aubrey O’Day, Clay Aiken, Lisa Lampanelli, Teresa Giudice)?
DM: I hope one of the men left wins it. Clay or Arsenio, I am rooting for one of them.
Mandatory: Now I have to ask, what does Donald Trump’s hair look like in real life?
DM: You know what? My relationship with Donald is special. I admire him so much. After the Miss Universe pageant, he has helped me so, so much. You wouldn’t believe. He made it possible for me to find an agency and work as a model when I had contract issues. Pretty much he gave me a job; pretty much he gave me a working visa; pretty much he signed the letters for me to apply for a green card. He has done so many things for me, has helped me so much, and he doesn’t have to. I see him as a mentor and believe it or not, I never look at his hair. I look at him in a different way than everyone else I think.
Mandatory: Now back to Lisa Lampanelli. A few weeks ago she made some controversial racial comments on a radio show about you and your culture. Has this issue been resolved?
DM: No, not at all. I know she made a reply to the media and defended herself saying she was just making a joke and that is her living. But at the time she said it and the way she said it, it is not even funny. As a comedian, and on the show as well, the way she does things is offensive and not funny. When she calls out my entire culture in that way, and not just talking about me, that is when it gets unacceptable. If she were to use a similar racial slur to Arsenio on the show, after abusing him verbally like she has to me, it would be all over the newspapers. But I’m not Arsenio Hall, and because I’m latina I think she felt she could get away with it. But I’m not going to let it slide. It was rude; it wasn’t funny; she was not making a joke; she was just being offensive. She can talk about me as much as she wants because I am strong and I know myself, but when she talks about my culture in such a way and disrespects me, my family, my culture and everyone related, that is not acceptable.
Mandatory: Has she tried to contact you to explain herself or apologize?
DM: No, she has not tried to contact me directly. She just kept saying the same stuff to the media. She was just making a joke, blah blah blah.
Mandatory: I read that you were kidnapped as a young girl. Is that something you can talk about?
DM: Well I like to believe that I am still a young girl (laughs).
Mandatory: Yes of course, but when you were a younger girl I mean. How old were you when it happened?
DM: I was 19 actually when it happened, and I am 25 now. Unfortunately, it is something that happens to so many other people in my country, and it happened to me. And if it happens to you and you are not well known nobody really cares about it. It happened to me before I was Miss Venezuela and I was able to get out of it OK, but it was very scary. I really had to maintain my cool and it definitely helped me with composure in my life. It probably helped me deal with people like Lisa Lampanelli (laughs). Now I look back on things I used to cry about and worry about, and now I don’t. I am just happy and thankful for what I have and all the opportunities in my life.
Mandatory: So now that you are off “The Celebrity Apprentice,” what is next for Dayana Mendoza?
DM: I am very excited for the things that are cooking now. There are so many opportunities now that I am somehow breaking into the mainstream with “Celebrity Apprentice.” I am more able to do the things that I love to do, like cooking and acting. My team is working on a little bit of everything, but I don’t want to talk about any specific projects until they are out there. I believe when you talk too much about one thing before it happens you can jinx it, and I don’t want to be the person who does that. I am just very excited for the future.
Follow Dayana on Twitter @Dayanamendoza