Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was renowned for her ability to thrive on very little sleep. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the indefatigable Stella English, the Apprentice’s answer to the Iron Lady, stays up into the wee small hours plotting how to nobble rivals Stuart Baggs and Liz Locke. Then again, I’m not sure she even thinks of “the Brand” as a genuine threat – more of a cheeky schoolboy who’s just wandered into the wrong class.
Watching Stella’s audition video I realised that she and Stuart share a love of fast cars. Yes, while the rest of us were breaking crayons and covering ourselves with glitter, the four-year-old Stella was drawing pictures of red sports cars.
This year, the female candidates on The Apprentice have been extremely voluble before, during and after their boardroom exits. Who could forget the “karmically” deluded Melissa Cohen with her penchant for neologisms, or the upselling Paloma Vivanco, who (hopefully) has now been upcycled into a less bombastic version of herself. More recently, there was the lovesick Laura Moore, with her self-generated and very unladylike “shit storm” in Hamburg.
But while these ladies were finding new ways to talk themselves out of a job, one candidate was taking a leaf out of Stuart’s book and reining herself in. Experienced Stella watchers will know that the Bionic Woman usually prefers to unleash a piercing stare or a toss of her blonde mane when she’s irritated or threatened. Shouting, swearing and panic-stricken bluster aren’t her style.
So when, after a long run of wins, she finally got dragged into the boardroom last week it was a little worrying to hear her utter the dreaded phrase “skill set”. (Melissa memorably tried to promote her own extensive bundle of assets in Week 4 and ended up getting fired.) This kind of talk is the last resort of desperate job seekers and those who are about to be cut down by Lord Sugar’s overworked finger.
Despite the odd truffle-related lapse in judgment, Stella has spent the past nine weeks wowing us with some devastating one-liners, withering put-downs and meaningful silences. How else would you survive close encounters with the mad, the bad, the rude and, in the case of the droning Chris Bates, the just plain boring?
In Week 2 Stella was dispatched to Synergy in an attempt to turn them into a classy outfit. Little did she suspect that the kind of “classy outfit” banker Chris and creepy Christopher had in mind would be a bikini — with tassels. They claimed it was all about marketing that over-achieving beach towel (aka the Cüüli). But women everywhere knew it was a crude attempt to undermine the PM, just because she happened to have breasts. Stella weighed up her options, wore the damned bikini and “took one for the team”. Nice try lads.
Mum’s the word
In Week 4 the sight of “the world’s softest thermometer” caused Stuart to overheat and gave Stella her first sight of motormouth Baggs in full cry. As Synergy attempted to cosy up to the nice lady who invented the Babyglow, Jamie was busy talking up his team’s parenting credentials. But Stuart’s ham-fisted attempt to negotiate (or demand) a 50 per cent price reduction, stuffed things up for everyone. “That was, quite frankly, embarrassing!” admonished Stella as she prepared to impale “the Brand” on her (specially sharpened) Bic biro. Luckily, Jamie was in the way.
The bubble bursts
Week 7 brought the ultimate clash of styles between super-organised Stella, who writes everything down and Stuart, who (apparently) hasn’t yet mastered the art of reading and writing. In the boardroom he attempted to justify his dodgy pricing tactics to Lord Sugar and claimed Stella’s concerns were the result of her being “much older” than him and “too corporate”. Ouch! Her restrained response was “I found it very, very taxing.” Celebrating their (undeserved) victory with vintage champagne, Stella winced at Stuart’s undisguised lack of sophistication: “You don’t like mature, complex characters, do you?”
A vote of (no) confidence
“We can’t stop Stella from planning”, sneered Stuart as he attempted to ambush her before the Hamburg Crisp wars had even commenced. But while Herr Baggs did get to eat a lot of sausages and show off in German, PM Stella was the one making the big decisions. “I don’t see any issue” she told the furious Laura and the mildly irritated Stuart, after demoting them from an important pitch at the Hyatt chain. Revenge, unlike sausage, is a dish best served cold.
Failed PM “Little Miss Perfect” Liz Locke was distinctly narked at losing the discount buying task and — even worse — having to confront her own inadequacies. After failing to deliver the coup de grace in the boardroom, Liz later railed at the unfairness of Stella having criticised her leadership skills. “I disagree with you”, she whined as Stella wearily pointed out the patently obvious, this is a C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N. After nine weeks I think I can confidently sum up Stella’s unspoken response as they glared at each other from opposite sofas: grow up, get a life and get out of my face, bitch!