long before Donald Trump found her. Stephanie returns to The Apprentice this Thursday at 10p EST for part one of the season finale to keep things interesting!
Here is our candid conversation about her experience on The Apprentice, losing both her parents to AIDS growing up in Canada, overcoming adversity by turning fear into fire, and what inspires her today:
Bambi Weavil: What a lot of my readers don’t know, I’m a huge fan of this season of The Apprentice. I don’t watch a ton of TV but this season in particular, was something I’d look forward to watching each week because I feel this is the only show that I can think about how I’d handle each task if I were on. It’s also a great lesson in HR, seeing how different personalities work with each other on down to the wire tasks. What made you try out for the show? Have you been in the position in your career to hire and fire?
Stephanie Castagnier: I am a commercial banker and the last couple of years have been difficult to say the least. I felt as though I needed to take charge of my career and kick start it again. Working for Donald Trump would be the perfect opportunity for me kick start my career and think outside the box. I have been in a position to both hire and fire people throughout my career which is a necessary part of business. I believe in always being efficient and getting the job done. I want my team to share my passion for success!
BW: Based on how the edit rooms portrays the cast on TV, what would be the most surprising thing fans of the show would not have known about you based on how they showcased you in particular?
SC: The show definitely portrayed me as a pushy bully in all circumstances. I only take a stand when I am backstabbed and pushed around, which I was on the show. The audience did not see the backstabbing that was happening for me to become so pushy. I will not let anyone sabotage my work! Also, I have become a tough business woman because the reality of being a woman in business is you have to maintain a certain strong front in order to lead your team. If you are a wishy-washy woman, men in the workplace will walk all over you!
BW: The Trumps and NYC are the centerpiece of the show – did you experience any downtime in NYC that you were able to enjoy? What are Don Jr. and Ivanka like away from the cameras?
SC: We did not get any down time! It was constant work the entire time we were in New York. We did not get to interact with Don Jr. and Ivanka when the cameras were off unfortunately. I would have loved to spend some one on one casual time with them to talk business and life!
BW: What people may not realize about you and one of the reasons I was really drawn to follow you closely this season is because you founded Child Cause because of your own personal experiences of losing your parents to AIDS as a teen. Child Cause is a non-profit that helps teens affected by AIDS and substance abuse through positive outlets. How did your experience working in the non-profit world affect and prepare you for your performance on the show?
SC: My work in the non-profit world continues to develop my creative thoughts and helped me think outside the box. I love marketing and being creative and am able to put those passions to good use with my non-profit work at Child Cause.
BW: I read your book, Fear to Fire, which I recommend everyone to take the time to read. You write about your mother basically being the rock to you and it was you and her against the world as you dealt with your dad disappearing for weeks at a time as a international drug dealer, and then dealing with his addictions in and out of rehab, which progressively got worse, including stealing from you both anything that wasn’t nailed down. Did your Mom ever confide in you her own personal pain of dealing with your dad or did she shield you from the pain it caused her?
SC: My mother’s pain was evident to me every day as we struggled with my father’s drug addiction. We lived our lives in fear everyday, forced to deal with his addiction and the violent dangers we were forced to deal with. The pain I had to watch my mother endure is a driving force in my life and part of my mission to empower women both in the workplace and at home!
BW: In the ’80s especially the Say No To Drugs campaign was big in the US, because you had to keep to yourself during your childhood with what you were going through with your dad, did that come up in Canada during your schooling? Did other kids realize what you were going through?
SC: I lived in the ghetto in Montreal so drugs were everywhere including school. I did not share with any of my friends what I was going through at home but everyone knew something was going on with my father. My father would sleep on the park bench and my classmates would walk by him so knew who he was! Very humiliating as a teen.
BW: Despite what you went through with your parents, finding out that your mother was dying of AIDS as you rushed home from a trip she insisted you take out of the country to take a break from your own life and helping her through the process of letting go ultimately from the hell of toll of AIDS, you got yourself together to make something of yourself and put yourself through college by working every shift you could. Years later it was like you were waiting for the other shoe to drop with your father having the same fate since he infected your Mom knowingly with AIDS, except he wrestled with his addiction all along the way. In comparing both experiences, how did you grow as a person from the time your Mom passed to after your Dad had passed?
SC: After my mom passed my life changed completely. Everything I had lived for, surviving life with my mother, had to change. I now had to think about my own survival and where I was going to go with life. It was a very difficult couple of years and many ups and downs and fears and confusion. I questioned what had happened and all the why’s that come with devastation. I eventually realized I needed to live my life and honor both my parents. I wanted to live the life my parents never had the chance to live! I kept in contact with my father but was able to let go emotionally and think of my own well being. I always loved and respected my father regardless of the life we had lived. I loved him and my mother unconditionally. I learned the tough lessons of not to judge anyone and acceptance.
BW: One thing that I didn’t see you address later on in the book but you did touch on, was how you were a cutter in high school. At one point did you stop cutting totally and did you ever have to address it with professional assistance or was it a decision you were able to make on your own?
SC: I was able to stop on my own. When I realized I needed to move on with my life and it was ok for me to do what was right for me I stopped cutting. I learned it was ok for me to be selfish now and make the decisions that were right for me.
BW: Music and sports were your outlets as well through schooling which inspired you to create your non-profit. How has forming Child Cause affected your life now, what is your organization working on in the upcoming year, and how can our readers get involved with helping your organization?
SC: Music and sports were the saving grace in my life. I kept myself distracted and inspired through these productive outlets. I became passionate about winning and being the best. I gained a lot of self confidence through music and sports. They have always been a driving force in my life up to today. I founded Child Cause on the exact premise of inspiring teens through music and sports. We are always looking for volunteers for our various music and sport events across the U.S. and Canada. Anyone interested can visit www.StephanietheApprentice.com or www.ChildCause.com for more info and to reach out to us. We are also very active on Facebook and Twitter so anyone can take initiative and make a difference with us!
BW: Since appearing on The Apprentice, you’re now involved with the Trump Network – what can you tease our readers about as you are in the pre-launch mode of this new project!
SC: I am busy running several businesses since The Apprentice. I continue to be a banker and operating my own finance company Hudson Financial Group, as well as speak across the U.S. on personal and commercial financing for Americans. I also continue to operate Child Cause and our Live for Music Concert Tour with American Idol Alumni.
I am the Executive Director of the Trump Network which is a multi level marketing company Trump owns giving opportunities to everyone in America interested in being their own boss and making their own money. For more info on any of these business opportunities visit www.StephanieTheApprentice.com.
BW: As you’re aware in the gay community, there has been a lot of awareness being made about kids being bullied and taking their lives early to suicide through not being accepted by their families to not being able to deal with the criticism of peers. What would you say to those kids who don’t know how to get day by day?
SC: I understand what they are feeling and the horrible feelings of stigma and embarrassment. I lived with those same feelings my entire childhood and turned all those Fears into Fire (Hence the title of my book!). I decided to turn all that negative energy into something positive and productive and use that as the fuel I need every day to continue on and be inspired to do great things! It is important to always remember you can truly do anything you set your heart to. I am living proof and continue to dream big! Don’t worry what everyone says around you and keep your head down and focus on your dream! Also, surround yourself with people who inspire you!!
BW: I believe you were able to learn so well from both your parents, good and bad, to make you the person who you are today. Do you consider yourself fearless? What do you hope people will learn from your ability to turn fear into fire in their own lives?
SC: No one is fearless but I have to say I am not afraid to take risks and go for it! I learned you can always start over and always come back!! Once you realize you can do it all over again you gain the courage to go for it! The most important thing in life is to follow your passion and always stay inspired!! Fuel your body and mind with that inspiration be it sports, music, art, business, nature, friends, family, love. STAY INSPIRED AND BE PASSIONATE ABOUT EVERY DAY. LIFE IS GREAT WHEN YOU ALLOW IT TO BE!
BW: Thank you Stephanie! We look forward to working with you more in 2011! For more information on Stephanie and her incredible work, visit her at http://www.StephanieTheApprentice.com and on her Facebook and Twitter!