She may not like to dress up (at least not as a Dairy Queen mascot), but The Apprentice's Toral Mehta sure liked to dress down her teammates. Surely it was just a case of titillating reality-TV editing, right? TVGuide.com talked up Toral just days after last week's ouster.
TVGuide.com: So, you had the weekend to recoup....
Toral Mehta: Yeah, for sure. I never heard more people say my name or stare at me as I walked down the street. I went shopping in SoHo and everyone stared. "Are you Toral?" Yes, I am. No one has a comment, they just stare.
TVGuide.com: Let's start by recapping your suggestions for the DQ Blizzard mascot's name. What is a "blizzamarole"?
Toral: What is a blizzamarole? Oh, I can't remember.
TVGuide.com: Wharton isn't known for its name-generation classes?
Toral: To be honest with you, I can't remember the details of the task. Honestly.
TVGuide.com: Your teammates said it was your chance to step up, and you insisted you wanted to step up. So why didn't you step up to be project manager?
Toral: I did, but I didn't vehemently volunteer, and the reason is because I thought the whole thing was so stupid. Listen, I was in a really bad situation — there was a lot of ill will against me from the week before — so it was a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. If I had [been PM], the women would have easily sabotaged it. You don't see the level of animosity against me on TV, but it definitely was there.
TVGuide.com: You adamantly refused to wear your team's mascot costume. Meanwhile, Mark on the men's team was dressing up as a female genie!
Toral: I stand by my decision. I'm an investment banker in New York, and it's professionally inappropriate and personally demeaning to wear a costume like that. And when Donald Trump asked me if he looked stupid when he wore [a chicken costume] on Saturday Night Live, I felt like saying, "Absolutely, you did." And then he wore a farmer's costume at the Emmys! It cheapens his image. The world works on perceptions, and if this is a job interview, it's important to remain professional. I've got multimillion-dollar clients; I'm definitely not going to wear that sort of outfit.
TVGuide.com: You said your teammates weren't women you would "even associate with in daily life," and "I wouldn't hire them as my secretary." Was that a bit harsh, in retrospect?
Toral: They need villains on the show, right? So they beef it up by picking out the entertaining quotes. I realize in retrospect [those comments] are somewhat snobby and elitist, but the point I was trying to make is [this is] the fourth season of a show that used to be a hit with over 25 million viewers, and now we're down to 7 million. And the reason is because people are getting sick of the cast. No longer is this a competition between the cream of the crop. Forget trying to get a job with a real-estate company. This has become an MTV show where people are using vocabulary that is not of the highest caliber.
TVGuide.com: But that happens with any reality show; people jockey for the limelight, not the prize.
Toral: But this was The Apprentice. This was supposed to be a show where the cream of the crop compete for a job at a preeminent real-estate firm. I was so disheartened, to be honest with you, that they were selecting women who are just beauty queens and strippers, who have no professional background or college degrees whatsoever. You ask me why I didn't step up; I almost didn't want to associate myself with the competition. I personally find it insulting to be on the same team as a stripper; I'm not sure that I want to be on the same toilet. I hate to say things like this but I'm relying every day on my knowledge, experience and intelligence for my paycheck. Many of these women were not relying on their knowledge and intelligence for their paychecks, and I'm supposed to respect that?
TVGuide.com: So you decided not to go all out and win?
Toral: Absolutely. I told Rebecca, who ended up being a good friend of mine, "Listen, I would like to remove myself as quickly as possible from this whole thing." And I think that's why Donald Trump was so inevitably angry with me, because I was his top choice [in] North America and he did everything he could to get me on the show; NBC came after me very, very hard. Then he saw that I wasn't giving 100 percent. When you have an individual like Kristi — a 23-year-old kid with no work experience who doesn't even speak proper English — get in your face, rather than fight back or tell her off, you're like, "Dear God, get me off of this." A lot of people wonder why they removed 1) the juiciest character on the show thus far and 2) easily the smartest woman on the women's team. Who is there now to watch, right? Donald Trump wanted me to fight a certain way, and I just didn't.
TVGuide.com: It's disappointing as a viewer, though, to see that a contestant was not invested in winning.
Toral: People are upset. Now who is there to watch? The smartest woman is gone. But they need to figure that out in editing, how they're going to manage the teams. How interesting is it for America to see whoever's left compete for a job when it's obvious that none of those people are remotely qualified?
TVGuide.com: If you had given up, why did you trot out the claim that the costume was actually against your spiritual beliefs?
Toral: There was a spiritual aspect [to my decision]. I believe that humans and animals are separate entities requiring respect, and for a human to take on an animal form is disrespectful, inhumane and ultimately inappropriate.
TVGuide.com: But that is not a specific tenet of Hinduism, is it...?
Toral: I can't answer that. I don't know, to be honest with you.
TVGuide.com: In researching Hinduism before you called, I did find that one practice is to "shun pride and pretension."
Toral: [Laughs.] I understand. But these are my personal spiritual beliefs. I'm a pure vegetarian to support that.
TVGuide.com: How were the veggie offerings in the suite?
Toral: Terrible. There was very little to eat.
TVGuide.com: I see you have been taking some big hits on Indian community message boards, saying you didn't "represent" well.
Toral: My response is that I'm not really there, or anywhere, to represent a group of people. I would tell any of my detractors to wait in line, go through the various rounds [of The Apprentice auditioning], get selected from more than a million people and accomplish even a quarter of what I have accomplished. Once they have done all that, then I feel they can comment on my achievements.