The Apprentice’s Joanna Jarjue: ‘Argumentative? I’m just trying to make my voice heard’

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It’s not easy being one of Lord Sugar’s chosen crew of investment hopefuls – and Joanna Jarjue is someone who knows it firsthand. 

From the breakneck speed of filming, to making sure you put your best foot forward at all moments throughout the process, the candidates of The Apprentice are definitely put through their paces in order to snag a £250,000 investment and a business partner in Sugar.

23-year-old digital marketing manager Joanna may be the youngest person in this year’s process, but she hasn’t let that, nor accusations of being ‘argumentative’, stop her. Through some determined work, Joanna has been one of the year’s most memorable contestants, and now she’s made it to the final five. 

In a friendly interview, she told Pride all about the process – and why she’s found some of her feedback ‘unfair’…

So Joanna, tell us about your journey to getting on the show?

I went to an event called ‘An Evening with Lord Sugar’, and I asked him a question from the audience. He’d ripped everyone else apart, as he does, but when I asked the question he was alright with me!

One of my colleagues uploaded the moment to Facebook, and everyone told me to apply for the show – so I did, but I didn’t actually think that I’d get on in my first time. But I knew that having a business, with or without the show, was the end goal, and obviously, a £250k investment is a big draw… 

What did your family think when you told them the news?

They kind of expect things like this from me now; I’ve always been one of those people who anything I see, I just go for it. It’s weird, because they’re the ones always in that mind set of thinking that I can do anything, even more than myself. They were really excited – they’re my biggest supporters. 


Pride’s Nicole meets Joanna

Spill the beans – how much of what we see on the show is true to life?

I’d say quite a lot! The other day someone asked me whether it’s scripted, and it’s really not – the cameramen and crew are more like flies on the wall, no-one’s telling you what to say. Because there’s so much to do within the day, there isn’t much time to manoeuvre around stuff – we just brainstorm, discuss, and make a decision.

What’s been the hardest part of the process?

A couple of things have been misconstrued. In the first couple of tasks, no-one was really interested in what I had to say, whether it was right or wrong! In the first couple of weeks, with me being the youngest, my points didn’t have that much weight to it. In the boardroom, Lord Sugar would mention something that was done wrong in the task, and sometimes it’d be something that I’d brought up, but hadn’t been listened to. It took a while to gain respect from the other candidates, who may already be running businesses.

Maybe they thought I was there to think it was a fashion show, or I was there to just dress up on TV – but it was more self-branding. They didn’t know my business plan is related to fashion! When I got to lead in the buying task, I was in my comfort zone. I didn’t have to debate with anyone about certain decisions.

Otherwise, I didn’t want to be caught out if anyone asked me what I contributed to the task, so I never went back into my shell. It’s not that I’m not contributing, it’s that people are purposefully not listening to what I’m trying to say. I’ve tried, but then it turns into me being called argumentative instead! 

I’m glad you brought that up! ‘Argumentative’ is quite a coded word, often used when black women try to make themselves heard – what did you think when you saw that reaction?

I didn’t think it was very fair. That’s not me saying that I didn’t get in any arguments, because I did – but the key thing is that I’m not the only one. The first time I was told that was told I was being argumentative, the previous task had seen Siobhan [Smith], Sarah Jayne [Clark] and Sarah Lynn had a massive bust up on the street, and I was the referee telling everyone to move on. There are other people who’ve called each other names! So I’ve struggled to understand how that fell on me. 

How have you found reactions from people online?

It’s either been from one extreme to another – people are either rooting for me and are also confused at the ‘argumentative’ label; others are like ‘she’s vile’! [laughs] As soon as someone’s described in one way it tends to stick – if you’re looking for a particular quality in someone, you’ll find it eventually. They don’t look for the ‘argumentative’ thing in other people, but as soon as it was said about me, you see it.  

What is the biggest thing you’ve taken away from the process?

I’ve learnt a lot about business – whether you’re 23, or 43-years-old, there’s always stuff to learn. But I think you learn a lot about yourself in this process. For me, I’ve learnt more to step back before I let somebody make me react – a lot of things that were used against me were based on my reactions. All I had to do was open my mouth a little, and Bushra [Shaikh] for example would say: ‘I’m not arguing with you, Joanna.’ I wouldn’t need to say anything! So I learnt not to let people get a reaction from me, so they can pigeonhole me.

And finally, what does 2018 have in store?

It’s hard to say right now – because who knows, I might be the winner! But whatever happens, I’m gonna try and do my best and try not to get too sucked into things. Once you’ve been on a show, even though it’s business-based, you might find yourself veering off into the wrong direction – I don’t want to go off track. For me, it was never about just getting on TV; I’m thinking long-term business.

Catch The Apprentice on BBC One, Wednesdays at 9.00pm

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Nicole is Pride's Entertainment and Features Editor; favourite topics include Beyoncé, where to get dinner, and musical theatre.

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