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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Debbie Gibson on "Celebrity Apprentice": All of the Rivalries Are Real

My husband has a lot of celebrity crushes—“The Price Is Right” girls, Tiffany on “Let’s Make a Deal,” a couple of local news anchors. But one celebrity has always been number one in his heart—Debbie Gibson.

So it’s pretty cool that Debbie is a contestant on the new season of “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Especially since one of my all-time faves, Clay Aiken, is also a contestant.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Debbie, fellow contestant Arsenio Hall and host Donald Trump himself. Debbie talked about why she decided to do the show and the decision process she went through and about keeping your cool with the cameras on you. Plus, she reveals another celebrity who really wants to be on the show. And Trump talked about how great the show is and how people are knocking down his door to be on it…

Here’s some of what she and Mr. Trump had to say…

Debbie on why she decided to do the show: “Basically it’s so taxing to my nervous system. I thought oh my god, do I want to put myself through this. I knew it was not for the faint at heart. Ultimately, the charity aspect was what kept nagging at me. And I do think anybody would be lying if they said that was the only reason they were doing it. Because obviously this show is an amazing platform for every project you’ve got going on. Maybe things that I’ve been doing in my career that people didn’t know about. This shines a big light on everything. But ultimately the charity aspect is the backbone of the show and if you are going to get up on very little sleep and run around and basically achieve the nearly impossible in 24 hour periods of time, it is amazing that there is that as the backbone of the show because millions have been raised for charity every season. Being a part of that and watching that unfold was incredible."

By the way, Debbie’s charity is Children International.

Trump on what he knew about Debbie: “I didn’t know Debbie as well as Arsenio, other than I watched her on Broadway in ‘Les Miz’ and she was fantastic. I mean the thing that I knew about Debbie she’s a very, very talented singer and actress. And I was actually there Opening Night when she opened in ‘Les Miz’ and it was great. I still remember it. The way she sang.

Trump revealed that one of the biggest rivalries on the show was comedian Lisa Lampanelli vs. former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza. Debbie said she found herself sticking up for Dayana quite often.

Debbie on whether the rivalries are real: “When you watch the show as a fan, you wonder how many of the relationship issues are provoked, maybe by producers or whatever. And what I learned is that all of the roller coaster relationships and rivalries are real. You are in close quarters with people. You don’t get along with everybody. I usually get along with everybody, but I had my share of rubbing elbows with somebody. And then it would take a turn and one day you’re getting along and somebody you thought you liked would show some colors you didn’t like and suddenly that took a turn. So all that stuff’s real which was one of the biggest surprises for me.”

Trump and Debbie on Debbie’s rival: Trump: “Deborah had someone in particular that really went after you for which I never even understood why.” Debbie: “And then it turned and now we’re actually friends. Go figure.”

Trump on the cast: “This was a very, very smart cast. People are going to learn a lot from ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ I’ve had emotional casts, and this was one of them, but this was a very smart group of people as a whole.”

Debbie on getting along with Lisa Lampanelli, who has been complimentary of Debbie in recent interviews: “Lisa and I hit it off. We’re both New Yorkers. Since I started in pop music, people assume you’re sort of precious and prissy. And I think Lisa might’ve been surprised that I’m very much like her. I spent a lot of my life schlepping around New York, not having anyone do things for me. So the two of us, we had a similar energy and if something involved—say we had to take photographs of each other—we didn’t care how we looked. It’s like, let’s get the job done and move on. We did hit it off and it’s really nice to hear she’s so complimentary.”

Debbie on whether she showed any surprising behavior: “I mean I definitely had times—you think you’re nuanced in business and you can maintain your cool. But I’ve got to tell you with very little sleep and cameras on you all day, definitely there were moments when I got a little snippy with people probably. I have three sisters, so that’s kind of like a dynamic that I grew up with. I think I have a very kind of nice demeanor, but at the same time, when pushed, I will snap. I have a backbone, but I don’t feel like I have to flaunt that until I need to. And there were moments when I needed to.”

Debbie on her strategy: “My strategy was to have no strategy which might have been the smartest thing or might not have been the smartest thing, you’ll have to see. I really wanted to play the game well. To play as a team player. And really come into the boardroom each week with an open mind and a clean slate so when Mr. Trump said who fell short, simply answer the question. I didn’t have any agenda or anything against anybody in particular. There was some of that going on behind the scenes. Some of the women would sort of want to target somebody in particular. And I just couldn’t sleep at night if I did that, so I didn’t. I wasn’t a part of that. I just wanted to be…one thing I learned from the show was not to be shy about fundraising. Mr. Trump taught me that. You really learn from this show. Just when you think you’ve tapped out all your resources, there are more. So it was really an amazing experience in that way for me.

On what celebrity she would want on the show just so she could see them fired: “My obvious answer would be Tiffany. But I actually know she wants to be on the show and I actually endorse her being on the show. So that was somewhat sarcastic.”

Trump on how the cast is chosen: “All you can do are pick who you think are the best, which in this case are 18 people. It’s the largest cast we’ve ever had because it’s done so well they have two extra episodes this year. It’s just something that you have to go with your gut. You pick the people that you think will be really good together. And I think that’s why we have a great cast this time. It is very easy for us to get people on the show.”

Debbie on whether she was concerned the show would hurt her brand: “In terms of being a pop singer, being a performer, I thought to myself being seen in a group of people, being seen in this context, how will that feed what I do, what I love to do, which is be on stage. And you really have to come around to the fact that we do live in a different world now and this kind of visibility is a really…Unless I go and make an idiot out of myself, I thought it’s only going to enhance everything I’ll be doing. So I did go through that concern and actually had a conversation with Cyndi Lauper’s manager and she said, no. Where houses were half sold, they went to sold out. It’s just the visibility factor is amazing with this show. But I did have that concern in the beginning.”

Debbie on meeting with former contestant Marlee Matlin before doing the show: “I wanted to go on and be myself and be authentic and I felt like she was the least gimmicky of everybody I’d ever seen on the show and I thought I would approach it in a similar way.”

Debbie on what she learned: “I really just learned that I’ve always been resourceful, but I realized just how resourceful you can be in that you’ll do a project in whatever time you’re given. If you’re given three months to stage an event, you’ll probably use every minute of the three months. If you’re given 24 hours, you can get it done. It was a pretty incredible thing to realize. It was like I knew that, but to be able to actually exercise it and do it was amazing.”

“The Celebrity Apprentice” premieres Sunday, February 19th at 9 p.m. on NBC…

Photo Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC