'Celebrity Apprentice': Dayana Mendoza talks about having to deal with Lisa Lampanelli (and that racial slur)

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

She set a Celebrity Apprentice record for most times being brought back to the Boardroom. (She also set a record for most times being verbally berated by a single contestant.) So it was only a matter of time before Donald Trump told Dayana Mendoza “You’re fired!” But before that happened, Miss Universe was on the receiving end of yet more brutal tongue-lashings from Lisa Lampanelli. Why, even Clay Aiken got in on the action this week, taking several swipes at the Venezuelan supermodel — who also demonstrated super-human restraint in refusing to take the bait and engage in shouting matches and nasty name-calling. Now, Mendoza talks about what it was like being the biggest punching bag in Apprentice history, as well as her feelings on Lisa’s recent use of an ethnic slur while referring to her in a radio interview.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re a pretty calm, even-keeled person, so when you signed up for Celebrity Apprentice, did you ever think you’d be on the receiving end of as much anger and rage as you were?
DAYANA MENDOZA: [laughs] Nope! I had no idea. I didn’t know the people I was going to be playing with. But I guess it’s coming out very well for me. I’m very appreciative of what everybody’s been mentioning about me, because it’s just making me look better every time they’re opening their mouths.

Did you know who Lisa Lampanelli was before this show?
I had to Google most of the cast before. I’m from Venezuela, I’ve been in the country for four years. But no, I had no idea who she was, and I got to see one of her stand-ups on the Internet and I thought that she was hilarious. But doing the show, in the environment where we were working for our charities, I didn’t know that she was going to be so explosive or that she would have such anger. And I just didn’t find that professional or funny.

What was it about you that made her so gosh darn angry?
I would have loved for her to answer that. Everybody else that I worked with always said that I’m a hard worker, and I felt like I was never given the opportunity to show it. I was always pushed to the side and I found out, as the season kept going, that it was just another technique that some of the contestants would have to take people out. I don’t know exactly what is her personal issue towards me, I would have loved to know. I think I’ve treated her better than anybody else on the show has. I just treated her with professionalism and to be honest, I feel that an adult woman needs to behave that way.

She constantly made references, especially in this last episode, to you not being very smart. As a model, I’m guessing you’ve dealt with that stereotype before, but I can’t imagine that was very pleasant for you to hear over and over again.
I mean, it’s frustrating that you keep trying to do your best and it’s never recognized, and everything you say and do is always wrong. When they don’t want to work with you, it’s annoying. It’s an environment that nobody in any profession would like to be in. But you deal with the idea of being pretty must mean that you’re being stupid — I’ve been traveling the world since I was very young, I’ve always been a hard worker and I speak three languages and I have all these other things that most other people don’t have. I’m actually happy that I’m able to live right now in the city where I am living and developing my ideas for what I’m doing, and I don’t think I would be doing it if I was stupid.

Dayana, you brought up a valid point a couple times in the last episode that you can’t yell and scream and curse like a maniac at your associates — and certainly not at your boss — when it comes to business. Should Lisa have been fired for that?
I think in any other type of business, such behavior and aggression isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t matter where you are at or what you are doing. It’s actually surprising for me to visualize how you can relate success with such a thing. But it’s a show, you know, the ratings and the story probably had to deal with her and I and the rest of the cast staying or leaving the show as well.

The thing about Celebrity Apprentice is that performance is a very small part of the pie in terms of how long you stay.
Right, so that worked out for everybody, and it worked out very well for me. But again, in another professional environment, that wouldn’t have been acceptable. You would have been fired immediately, and I don’t think that it’s part of the respect that you should carry towards anybody else.

Lisa recently used an ethnic slur when referring to you in a radio interview. Even after everything you two went through on the show, were you surprised by that?
I never came out saying anything when she was talking about me. I never mentioned I’m upset because she was talking about me this way. I came out saying I don’t agree with her using such a word. At this point, it’s not funny. She’s not on stage performing it. She’s not trying to make a joke. She’s using a derogatory term, not towards only me, but towards a whole culture, which happens to be my culture. So now you’re including my mom, my dad, my sister, the rest of my family and everybody that I love that is related with it. If she was calling Arsenio Hall the N word, this would have been all over the newspapers for as long as possible, and I’m not going to accept it. It’s unacceptable. It’s not funny. It wasn’t a joke. She’s doing it in a mean, derogatory way.

Getting off Lisa for a second, one of the things that really surprised me about your final episode was to see the normally calm, cool Clay Aiken get visibly upset at you. At one point he called you “the most frustrating person he ever met in his life.” What do you think caused him to snap? Was it you giving him input on his performance?
I don’t know why his frustration came out the way that it did. I kept trying to talk through things and treat everybody again with as much respect as possible. I would love for him to probably answer that. When you’re in such an environment, and under such stress and there are cameras around you constantly, you’re already exhausted — probably that was something that set him off a little more.

Did you ever want to say, “I’ve had enough of this” and just get the hell out of there?
[laughs] I was very tired by the last episode. I was just exhausted and very frustrated at how much I was trying and how disrespected I kept being by my team players. I was not over it, but I was very frustrated, very tired.

Would you go through all of that again?
I would be happy to do it, and I would do it the same way I did it. [laughs] It was a terrible experience, it was terrible for me, but I’m happy that I did it and I’m happy that it came out the way it came out, because I feel like my values and everything that my mom and my grandma and my dad taught me is reflected in my job and the way that I behaved.

Make sure to read Dalton’s recap of last night’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ And for more reality TV ramblings, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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