Make a note: If you are planning on inviting your car to dinner with Martha Stewart, make sure that at least the place setting looks nice. Leslie Sanchez, a 36-year-old marketing company owner from Virginia, learned that lesson the hard way on last week's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, when the domestic diva fired her for failing to find a unique way to sell a high-end Buick. Leslie's teammate, Ryan, came up with the "Guess who's coming to dinner?" idea, but it was Leslie's execution and poor management that took the blame. TVGuide.com spoke with Leslie shortly after her firing to get her side of the story.
TVGuide.com: How hard was it watching your firing on TV?
Leslie Sanchez: It's never easy to watch something like that, but I think you have to look at it and know it's entertainment and it's edited for the purpose of making a fun TV show. If you take it with a grain of salt, it's certainly nothing that's not manageable.
TVGuide.com: Watching it, I thought that Martha's "We don't need you" send-off was one of the harsher rejections of the whole season.
Leslie: I thought I got one of the nicer ones, because Martha comes on at the end and goes "there is a company that really needs Leslie." My letter was very nice.
TVGuide.com: You do all this marketing work and research; don't you think there's a place at MSLO for that?
Leslie: That's the funny part — Martha Stewart's company does numerous focus groups. But she has to come up with reasons to send folks home and get to that final elimination.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of your letter, Martha wrote something like "PS. — Alexis sends her best." Was there a special bond between you two that we didn't see?
Leslie: What you don't see is that Alexis is the most gracious, generous young woman. I really connected with her and I'm looking forward to hopefully building that relationship because I think she's really remarkable and coming into her own. I thought that was very kind of her to want to be included in my letter.
TVGuide.com: Is there a player still remaining that you're rooting for?
Leslie: I think ultimately the person who wins is going to be the person with the most passion for the job. If you look at Jim, although he's diabolical, he has incredible passion. And Bethenny has incredible passion, too. Those two are interesting in that they are so driven to work for Martha, above and beyond anyone else in the cast, they'll do whatever it takes. It's hard to say how far they'll get, but that's their personality.
TVGuide.com: Were you aware of Jim's crazy schemes while you were on the show?
Leslie: Jim was much worse in person than he is ever portrayed on the air.
TVGuide.com: Wow! I find that hard to believe.
Leslie: We're all convinced there will be "Jim-Martha Stewart Uncut" [footage] that will be on the Internet one day.
TVGuide.com: Why did you want to work for Martha Stewart?
Leslie: I want to work for Martha because she is an inspiration to me as a corporate businesswoman. There are so few who have excelled in the way that Martha has, and I think she's a role model for anybody who's interested in business. I also believe I can help her build alliances and bonds in the Hispanic marketplace. Because of her merchandising, Kmart is a big component and Kmart's biggest consumer group is minority shoppers. We buy a lot of Martha Stewart sheets. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Was being on the show what you expected?
Leslie: I think it was a great adventure to be on the show and I am going to follow Martha's advice. She said to "focus on what you do extremely well, which is marketing and consulting," and that's where my success has been. I've been fortunate to advise everyone from the president of the United States to members of Congress on what people think. A lot of what I see in the way in which I've been portrayed shows that I'm the one who's probably the best at sales most of the time. I'm the one who understands the customer, and so this task was hard for me, because I never understood how that concept was going to connect with the baby boomer. What you don't see on TV was that Ryan's other idea was to "wrap" the car. [Laughs] It was like bringing this beautiful, elegant car to Pimp My Ride. I was like, "No."
TVGuide.com: I can see why you picked the other idea he had.
Leslie: In the short time we had to decide, that was what we went with. My critical flaw [was] that it was too hard to execute. We should have deliberated a bit more and found something better conceptually.
TVGuide.com: Did you have a feeling from the outset that it wasn't going to work?
Leslie: I knew it was a cute idea, but I knew it could be a disaster. Clearly... [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Well, with the table that looked like the bed...
Leslie: Martha has a list of 30 things you need to know how to do — like set a table, make a bed — and we had to read both of her magazines to learn how to do that.
TVGuide.com: Right, she did call you on the fact that the table wasn't "pretty."
Leslie: No, it wasn't. Not at all, it was horrible! It was so bad it wasn't funny. Oprah Winfrey has an expression, "When I have doubt, it usually means don't," and the whole time I had reservations about this concept.
TVGuide.com: Is that why you called in the consultant?
Leslie: Yes. My gut told me this made no sense, and I needed a sounding board. Ryan, he's 26-years-old, and this car is designed for baby boomers and elegant, sophisticated shoppers. I went to a woman who specializes specifically in baby-boomer marketing. She's like, "It doesn't make any sense." She rewrote the copy for the ad and I tried to figure out what to do with the table bed, but it was just too hard to weave together. [If I did it again] I would have done it differently and trusted my gut.
TVGuide.com: They had a sound bite of you saying "this was a home run" or something like that....
Leslie: I know! I don't know where that came from. I was like, "Is that my voice?"
TVGuide.com: Can we chalk that up to a lack of sleep?
Leslie: I'll chalk that up to a lack of sleep. There was no way you could have looked at this and thought it was a home run. There's no way! It was so inappropriate to say that. To look at the place, it was clean and nice. In terms of the execution, it was under budget and done on time, but the whole concept doesn't connect. I knew that it was clean, that it was OK, but if the other team had a better idea, we would lose.
TVGuide.com: Did you have a favorite task? You did really well on the QVC one.
Leslie: Exactly! I would say I excelled the most on QVC. What you don't see is that we did a lot of market research from the first task to the last task. I led the focus groups in the first task and came up with a lot of the ideas; I came up with the celebrity designer in the second task and sold the most flowers; I came up with the design of the cake and how to market it in the third task and sold the most cakes. [My momentum] was building and then I crashed on the fourth task.
TVGuide.com: When they put you in the project manager's seat.
Leslie: Right. We had a better concept [on the Westin remodel task], but we spent too much time on the wrong things. I learned my lesson that time, so I got burned on the other end. There's a happy medium. If I was project manager a third time, I would have been very good, I'm sure of that.
TVGuide.com: I was looking at your bio, and I love your dog's name!
Leslie: Jalapeña! [Laughs] She gets more hits on the Web than I do. She actually named herself, is what I say. We picked a puppy from the breeder and were in the car thinking of names for her, like Sunshine, Buttercup and Dakota, and the friend teased and said, "What about Jalapeña? That would be so funny!" The next morning, as a joke, we said "Jalapeña," and she walked over and sat down. She picked her own name. She's trilingual — she speaks English, Spanish and Bark.