The New Celebrity Apprentice is back with Arnold Schwarzenegger as its host and contestant Carson Kressley competing in the board room. This season, Kressley will be blogging exclusively about each and every week for PEOPLE – check back weekly and follow him on Twitter at @CarsonKressley!
Our task this week was to to create an innovative and “disruptive” ad campaign that would consist of four images to be presented in an art gallery format for a new model of Kawasaki motorcycles.
From the moment we walked into the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., I knew this would be the task for me. Now I’ll bet I know what you are thinking, dear reader: What does Carson Kressley know about motorcycles?!? Well, let me tell you. I grew up in a very automotive family. My grandfather and my father ran a car dealership since 1945 just outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. My dad had a variety of motorcycles when I was a kid and we would often go for rides. Later, I had a boyfriend who was a Harley fanatic and drove a bike. This was not my first day at the rodeo, so to speak.
I also knew a thing or two about creating a successful ad campaign. In my life before TV, I worked as a stylist and creative director for Ralph Lauren. I traveled the world really styling the looks for the iconic Polo brand. I knew how to stay on brand and create a beautiful photo that elicits an EMOTION.
So right away I volunteered to be the project manager.
After meeting with the executives, it was clear that they wanted a campaign that would disrupt the space and set them apart for what they have done in the past — as well as from their competitors. It didn’t take long in the meeting to understand that this new bike was an entry level motorcycle aimed at capturing a diverse new group of riders. We had to show everyone that “yes they can” own and ride this motorcycle.
Boy George has a great artistic eye. I came up with the master creative of showing all types of people engaging with the bike and George art directed the shots.
Chael, Ricky and Vince almost tossed their cookies when I mentioned I should pose nude on the bike! Who doesn’t love a tasteful nude??? I found out pretty quickly.
Now, I had no intention of really being nude. But George insisted. Oh, well here I go taking one for the team! Again. That’s me, mister team player. Besides some fleshy bits getting stuck to the gas tank, all went well and I was sure we were racing to the finish.
Insert screeching brake sound here. When I told the team my fabulous drag superstar friend Alaska Thunderf— was coming to model, they got a little uptight.
I’ve had the honor or judging many seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And I know that drag is a fabulous art form. I know that it’s a community of artists that often times pushes the envelope. I knew that Alaska would add an element of glamor, fun and edge. What I didn’t know is that some of my team would be down right phobic about having my friend in the campaign.
I was not having any of it!
This was for a bike for everybody and every body. Kawasaki wanted art and edge and to disrupt the space and I was bringing it. By being INCLUSIVE. I was the leader and I was prepared to take the fall for my principles and my art.
There was never a time that I thought we were going to lose. How could we — we gave the client everything they asked for. And then some.
The gals took some beautiful photos. But in my opinion, they just weren’t artistic or innovative. They looked like images the brand had already created. Beautiful? Yes. Star quality? Yes. Innovative? No.
The real kiss of death for the women’s team was Brooke Burke-Charvet and David Charvet’s photo. David not helping his wife out and getting on the back of the bike and letting Brooke drive (all in the name of machismo) sealed their fate. David was a jerk about it, actually. Who knew the French were so egocentric — wait, scratch that. At the end of the day, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and lost the girls the win. Allegedly.
I thought our campaign was heads and tails above the women’s because it was exactly what the client asked for. We were critiqued a bit for a campaign that would “raise eyebrows.” Ummm. I think that was the point? Jump cut to the execs telling us to disrupt the space.
Oh well. The great thing is that we won and LGBT homeless youth will benefit greatly from the $25,000 awarded by Kawasaki!!! And if you want to donate, please feel free to go to www.truecolorsfund.org.
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The most frightening part of The New Celebrity Apprentice for me was the notion of calling all your rich friends to raise money. I knew I wouldn’t be good in this task. I’m on cable. I don’t know lots of millionaires! And I certainly don’t know any billionaires! So this week was going to be a challenge…
Our task was to make a new See’s Candies flavor to be personally delivered for a taste test by the owner, who just happens to be billionaire tycoon Warren Buffet.
I was thrilled that Vince Neil chose to be the project manager. It made total sense. Rock and rollers and pro athletes tend to be the richest players for raising money. They have lots of money and they have lots of friends with money.
Over on the the new team, the Arete team chose Ricky Williams. Made sense. (Can I tell you how devastating it was to be broken apart from the men’s team??? It was like moving to a new school in junior high. The worst.) Brooke acted like she wanted to take charge as well, but easily handed the reins to Ricky when he asked. I wondered if he was going to raise such a large amount of money???
We all rallied and all the members of the team called all their friends to come buy bags of candy for huge amounts of money. I personally have to thank my dear friend and Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec for a $25,0000 donation. He actually went to a bank in L.A. and got me a cashier’s check. He had not been to an actual bank in YEARS! It was so kind of him to support me. I will for always be grateful for that level of friendship and support. I will think of something to thank him!!! Oh wait, he’s married to my best friend Kym Johnson…
I thought it was funny and genius to send Arete team member Jon Lovitz to Omaha to see Warren Buffet. I think Ricky and Jon had some tense words, but this was best for all involved. Ricky took charge and managed Jon the best he could. He would up doing a great fun moment with Warren.
On our team, Lisa Leslie thought she should go to Omaha. Seemed a bit of an under-the-radar strategy again. Vince smartly chose Chael to head off to Omaha. He was the most Buffet fan of fans. Lisa sulked a bit again. And I think she used her favorite “allegedly” again. That gets old.
Porsha and I worked in the candy factory on our cashew brilliant — which our smart team kept upscale, simple and delicious. What fun it was to work in the factory. We had our Lucy and Ethel moment making the product. And I think we both looked amazing in a hair net! Who knew????
The next day, we opened the store and the shoppers came in with big checks to buy our brittle!!! A bunch of “adult entertainers” came from Deja Vu in Vegas and Hooters brought in big, umm, checks. We were raking in the dough.
In the board room, I was sure we blew team Arete out of the fundraising water. But it was wildly close — something like $13,000 separated us from the other team. If we could win the $25,000 bonus for creating the favorite candy for Warren, we would not only win the money we raised but the other team’s money as well.
Drama ensued!!!! We were on pins and needles, but we were thrilled when Arnold told us Warren liked our candy best. We won $769,000 for Vince’s charity: the Cleveland Clinic. I was so happy for Vince. He did a spectacular job of fundraising. And I have to say it was nice ringing that cowbell each time we raised money for such a good charity. Yay us.
The New Celebrity Apprentice airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.