Photo courtesy of StacieJ.com
Any faithful viewer of this seasons run of the NBC reality show The Apprentice already knows the drama that surrounded the dismissal of the Harlem business owner, introduced to us as “Stacie J”, in the third week of the series. It is easy to think that you know a reality television star from their stint on a show, but high pressure situations and hours of editing can make for some misleading impressions.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Colorado, Stacie Jones Upchurch earned a Masters Degree at Atlantas Mercer University, simultaneously operating her own marketing company while still attending school. Between earning her BA and MBA, she was selected out of over 5,000 contestants in Atlanta when the Manhattan Model Search came through town. She was signed with the Elite Modeling Agency, and worked out of Miami, Europe, and Africa before returning to Atlanta to finish grad school. She opened a jazz restaurant in Atlanta, and later relocated to New York City to model. In the spirit of her entrepreneurial vision, she opened a Subway franchise in the middle of Harlems bustling 125th Street, ensuring that she would have something secure for her future.
Stacie is currently signed with the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency and is still with Elite in certain markets. Over the past few years she has appeared on soap operas like As The World Turns and Guiding Light, and on Comedy Centrals Dave Chappelle Show. Her face has graced ads for the likes of Revlon, Clairol, Avon and Bacardi Silver, and she has done catalog work for Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Target, Sears, and J.C. Penney, just to name a few. Major magazines including Essence, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Fitness, Shape, and Redbook have all enlisted her face and body in their editorial and fashion layouts. She currently graces the December issue of Maxim Magazine along with some of her Apprentice co-stars.
What could possibly lure a beautiful, successful, intelligent woman into the vicious world of reality television? What does a person do when they are immediately labeled negatively on a reality show? Whats really real? Stacie J invited AllHipHop.com Alternatives up to her immaculate store in Harlem to have a boardroom-style conversation about the ins and outs of becoming television fodder, and, most importantly, life after Trump.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Did you have an idea in mind of what would happen when you auditioned for The Apprentice?
Stacie: No, I had no idea because I dont even really watch TV. I had only seen one episode of last years Apprentice, the episode when Omarosa got hit on the head just the fact that they were renovating an apartment, I was like, Wow, you know I could do this. My friends had always told me, Stacie, you know you should be on The Apprentice. I was like, No, you know Ill never apply for that show. Theres only two people that I said I would ever work for in my life, and it was Donald Trump or Don King. Ive never worked for anyone, ever since I was 20, and I said, Wow, the opportunity is there with Donald Trump now. This guys a genius – hes a mastermind at the top of his game in New York – let me apply for this show. So thats why I decided to apply – it was really to get into his rolodex and use him as a mentor to take my game to the next level in terms of building my little small empire.
AHHA: What was the difference between the actual experience that you had versus what we saw on TV – good or bad?
Stacie: You only get to see not even one percent of anything that I did, and I think its pretty much about the people that last a little longer, you see a little more. It differs quite a bit, you dont see hardly anything. Let me try to give you one example, like say on the second task which was the ice cream task. On Thursday nights show they showed me under the table making phone calls. I came up with this great idea to call a temp to get more manpower on the street to sell our ice cream. What you guys dont know is we have rules where we cant separate into more than two divisions of our team, so we cant have one person off at 34th street, another person down in the village, another person at Yankee Stadium. It only can be in two different teams, so we had one part of our team in Times Square selling ice cream, the other part doing institutional sales like at TCBYs and things which you guys really didnt get to see.
So when Im under the table making phone calls I had asked the project manager Ivana, I wanna hire a temp to increase our sales on the streets. Everyone on the group signed off on it and she said, Okay, go ahead and make the call. So here I am making the call, but on Thursdays show they make it seem like they specifically put in Stacies off on her own making calls without permission. Now when they rerun the show on Saturday night when [the editors] were doing extended boardroom, I dont know if it was a mistake, but I hear theres no mistakes, so I guess this is not a mistake – but on Saturday nights version all the truth came out with Ivana saying Yeah, I did give Stacie permission to call the temps. That was interesting that they would say one thing on Thursday and then tell the truth [on Saturdays rerun], because I was sitting there like, Oh my God, theyre lying about me on TV on the Thursday night show, and then they covered themselves. I mean its weird; I was like freaked out by that.
AHHA: Weve watched the Magic 8-Ball scene, and Im sure everyone asks you about this, because at first you seemed to be having fun reading the Magic 8-Ball, going on and youre having a good time. Then at some point in that room its almost like everyone just looked at you like, What the hell? and tripped out. How long did that whole session go on with the conversation?
Stacie: Its really interesting because thats what Im known by, the 8-Ball.
AHHA: I love the Magic 8-Ball by the way.
Stacie: The thing with the 8-Ball is I never ever even asked that thing a question. Everyone was playing with that 8-Ball, we were at Mattel then. So if you look at some of the other footage you saw other people carrying the 8-Ball, you know everyone was just like goofing around with the 8-Ball. What I was trying to do like I do here at my store was really motivate people, get passion for my team and let me tell you all the stress was gone. Tasks are two days long, Thursday is boardroom. Bradford, Jen, and Elizabeth had just gotten back from the focus group with the kids to see which toy won and they were super excited, we all knew that our toy had won. At that point everyone was real excited, and then everyone went to their separate corners and they started eating the food which I had ordered for them from McDonalds.
I grab the 8-Ball, Im like joking around all of a sudden the whole mood changes. I was like, Whoa, whats going on? It actually really freaked me out, because at that point it was only three days that we had been working together. It was during a relaxed situation, they had only seen me very business-wise – Im not trying to give an excuse for them, but this is maybe what Im rationalizing. Theres one of two things I think. It either is just completely like Survivor where theyre like, Lets see who we can gang up on and vote off first, and they saw the opportunity there.
But anyway, honestly, I was coming up with all the ideas. With the car, that car idea was mine, I spearheaded all of the meetings at Toys-R-Us with executives, came back and named the car. They dont show that on TV because what they show is me being more reactive instead of really being proactive, because they had to build a case up to my firing. You dont really see the merit of what Im bringing to the task, which I really am disgusted with. Outside of that the whole team knows, so its a matter of me being really strong and these girls are like, Okay lets see how we can figure out a way to get this girl out of her. So thats one reason.
Another reason I figure is, they got really quiet and they didnt understand the dimensions of my personality, no one knew each others personality. The first two days were real business, where at the end of the task were just waiting around for a task resolution, no ones nervous anymore, youre not thinking youre getting fired, youre just waiting to see which team is gonna win. We knew we won, and personally I was having fun. Im very different business-wise than in my other areas. I mean, when they interviewed me to be on the show that was one of the reasons why they picked me, because of the range of my personality from mellow to all the way out there. [laughs] So maybe they just didnt understand but I dont know. I also have other theories on my firing, that it was done for ratings.
AHHA: Watching the boardroom all of us are sitting there in our living rooms like, Say something, say something, say something! It seemed like Donald didnt like the fact that they were ganging up on you. It was almost like he was pushing you to say something – pushing at you to at least get angry and defend yourself. Why didnt you defend yourself, or did you just feel like it was like whatever?
Stacie: No, I dont think maybe Id have to watch it over but I know he was never like, Stacie say something. Matter of fact, the way it happened was Donald Trump was like, Stacie, are you crazy? and I was like, Crazy? What are you talking about? You didnt hear that – you actually didnt hear him say that because hed always use the word loose cannon [when it aired].