When one thinks of reality TV, the first thing that often comes to mind is dramatic love triangles, sensational catfights, and psuedo celebrities. But with the return of The Celebrity Apprentice on NBC March 6, 2011, we decided to round up a group of savvy Black professionals who changed the face of this genre, making real-life power moves and showing how media exposure and business success can go hand-in-hand.
(Images: Thinkstock; KwameJackson.com; Samuelsson; Omarosa.com; KortoMomolu.com; KevinPowell.com; Randall Pinkett; John)
- This New York-based entrepreneur took his exposure from the hit Donald Trump-helmed show, The Apprentice and ran with it, becoming a highly sought after public speaker and media personality. Founder of Legacy Holdings L.L.C., Jackson also branched out into the fashion world, launching his own line of neckwear, Krimson by Kwame, an Oprah favorite. A former Goldman Sachs professional, this first-season alum’s ties have been worn by dapper men from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ESPN’s Tony Reali.#####
- Award-winning chef. Entrepreneur. Food activist. … And Season 2 winner on Top Chef Masters. Marcus Samuelsson, who was the youngest chef to receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times, has made a name for himself among the best of the best in the culinary industry. This Ethiopian-born cuisinier was guest chef at President Obama’s first state dinner honoring the prime minister of India, executive chef and owner of Chicago’s C-House in Chicago, part-owner of New York mainstay, Aquavit, and recently embarked on a new hot venture, Red Rooster, in Harlem. #####
- Once known at Reality TV’s No. 1 “bad girl,” Omarosa came to the first season of this show after working for the Clinton administration. With a background in fund raising and project management, she serves as managing partner of Access America Enterprise Corp., a fund-raising, planning, and consulting services firm. Recently, she has shifted gears as one of the most visible and vocal reality TV stars in the industry, appearing on more than 15 reality TV shows and practically every major TV network show to date — from TV One’s The Ultimate Merger to The Oprah Winfrey Show— offering her tell-it-like-it-is quips and staunch business expertise for millions of viewers nationwide and abroad.#####
- A fifth-season alum, fashion designer Momolu presented her Spring 2009 womenswear line at New York Fashion Week despite ending the season as first runner up. The West African style phenom has taken her success even further, partnering with Dillard’s for a special line of handbags and jewelry which is sold in more than 70 locations nationwide. She also inked a deal with Madera Exotic Woods to design the Saba Collection, a line of eco-friendly jewelry.
- He may be infamously known as the militant (and oldest) cast member in the show’s inaugural season or even as a reformed woman abuser, but today, his resume boasts a host of titles, from activist to best-selling author to journalist to television personality. A former senior writer for Vibe magazine, Powell set his sights on politics in 2010 , with an unsuccessful run for a Congressional seat. But he continues to give voice to the challenges of Black malehood, the issues of urban communities, and the detriment of domestic violence, and remains an in-demand speaker both in his community and on network and cable television.
Randal Pinkett, The Apprentice
- The season 4 winner, Pinkett set a reality TV record as the first black contestant to take home the gold. After triumphing on the show, the Rhodes Scholar continued his role as CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar technology, management, and policy consulting firm. He is also a highly sought after speaker and author of several books including Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, which was published last year. #####
- Self-made millionaire, author, and founder of the FUBU clothing line, Daymond John took his marketing and business prowess to this ABC show, serving among a panel of investors holding the fates of budding entrepreneurs’ businesses in their hands. John offers his expertise to companies and television shows as one of the most sought-after branding experts in the fashion industry.