As Lord Sugar prepares to put another batch of business hopefuls through their paces as the new series of The Apprentice begins on BBC1 on Tuesday and Wednesday (October 14-15), we catch-up with 2013 winner Leah Totton to find out how her new beauty clinics are going…
Has the last year been life-changing? You’ve set up your cosmetic surgery now?
“Yes, it’s been a whirlwind of a year, I still feel incredibly lucky. I have my clinic now, it’s been a lot of work, but I feel so lucky to have won the show and go and build such a fantastic business.
“Alan Sugar and I set up the business so we own 50/50 – it’s a partnership between me and him. He owns half of the clinic, the money was used to launch the clinic in January 2014 so it was about six or seven months after I won the show to get the clinic up and trading. It’s been trading successfully for about eight months now.”
So you couldn’t have done it without The Apprentice?
“No, absolutely not. The investment is absolutely fantastic but also, in terms of profile, The Apprentice completely changes your life. You become instantly recognisable.”
Has Lord Sugar been a hands-on business partner?
“I’ve been really surprised by how involved he’s been in the entire process. Right from winning the show, I’ve pretty much been in constant contact with him. He was a lot more involved that I would think an ordinary investor would be. I was very pleasantly surprised.”
As someone who has first-hand experience of The Apprentice, have you noticed a pattern in which type of characters do well?
“Certainly when you’re in the process, you can tell pretty well early on who’s going to do well. From task one I could have told you three of the last five for definite. Although that isn’t as apparent in the edit, as a viewer. But it was clear who the strong contestants were and the ones you were confident weren’t going to be there at the end. There’s a few in the middle.
“I don’t think I came across as obvious, when you watch it back, but it’ll be really interesting watching this new series. I think I’ll have a good idea from the start who’ll be there at the end. The TV show is heavily edited… But I’m sure we’ll have a sweepstake in the office, me Ricky and Tom. I’m really looking forward to it. Can’t wait to see the different personalities.”
How different was it watching it back?
“I think the edit was incredibly fair and reflected everyone’s personality, even negative aspects of my own personality. I really came across a bit too quiet at times and didn’t speak up enough. Other times I went a bit bossy. It was true to the experience.”
So you’d encourage anyone to go on?
“Oh yes. For me it was a fantastic experience, you learn a lot about yourself and get to meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet in your career path. I’ve now got a fantastic business partner who’s obviously invested a lot money so I’ve been incredibly lucky.
“But I still get on with Natalie, one of the other contestants, and even though she didn’t win, it definitely boosted her profile and boosted her confidence. She went on to start her own fashion line. Luisa I get on with, and she has gone into the showbiz side of things – Big Brother.”
Would you do a reality show?
“No I don’t think so. I like Strictly Come Dancing, but you’re not going to see me on Big Brother any time soon! Luisa’s very happy in that kind of environment, she’s happy she did the show as it gave her a profile she’s able to build on. For the majority of us, [The Apprentice] was a really positive experience.”
Big personalities do well, harder for quieter people?
“Yes, I think at the start it’s easy to be swamped my massive personalities, it took me a while to find a voice in the series. I felt I was very quiet up and to midway through. It’s an aggressive environment and it can be quite intimidating. If you’re from a hard-selling, business background, which I wasn’t, maybe you’re more used to that ruthlessness. But it comes to a point where you have to speak up. I hope anyone who’s quieter does manage to speak up as if you don’t, unfortunately, you will go home.”
How is your daily life since?
“The six months after were absolutely manic, we got a lot of press coverage. When you’re trying to launch a business it is very stressful, but in a positive way. The launch was a relief, we had a lot of press and we got off to a great start. In the past few months its been fantastic.
“A lot of people are coming in through word of mouth. I’m now a spokesperson for the medical cosmetics industry, so I do a lot of work for safety and aesthetics and trying to enforce regulation. I feel very privileged to have a voice. It’s given me a fantastic pedestal to make it safer.”
You won’t treat people under 18?
“No I’ve always been strict about that. I think there’s a lot of exploitation of vulnerable adolescence in the cosmetic industry as a whole and there is no legislation to prevent that at present. That’s something I want to change.”
Would you have Botox? Do you believe it to be safe?
“Not at 26, but never say never! Botox is now a licensed drug so it’s been through stringent testing. It is definitely safe. For me, I don’t believe I need it. These treatments only become unsafe when they administered by people who are unqualified who are not aware of facial anatomy and they are done in unhealthy environments like hairdressers, waxing rooms. I think the Apprentice shone a huge light on the industry. It should always be done by properly trained medical staff as it is in Dr Leah’s Clinic!”