Many thought she slid by too easily. Others knew she deserved to be in the final interview. But the newly crowned Apprentice, Stefani Schaeffer, had a plan all along. Sure, she was thrown for a loop when Trump said she had to live outside. (Who wasn't?) Yes, she was up against some loudmouthed personalities who weren't going down without a fight. But the 32-year-old California-born attorney didn't get caught up in the scuffle. She ignored the romance, she avoided making enemies, and she remained focused straight through to Sunday's finale to hear The Donald make it all worth it with those two words we rarely hear him say: "You're hired!" Stefani spoke to TVGuide.com before jetting off to her new job on the island paradise of Cap Cana and shared her disappointments, her biggest competition, and how she made it to the top despite all the nonsense and noise.
TVGuide.com: Congratulations! Were you nervous?
Stefani Schaeffer: No, actually, I wasn't. It didn't [occur to] me to be nervous. I'm fine with that kind of situation. Audiences don't really disturb me.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever imagine you'd be signing up for a season with so many changes?
Stefani: No, I had no idea that tents would be involved or that we'd be living outside. My idea of The Apprentice is living in this beautiful Trump penthouse suite at Trump Towers, doing some business tasks and going up against some vicious people for a while — that was my impression from the show.
TVGuide.com: I know a lot of fans were disappointed with the changes this season. Did you hear that at all from people?
Stefani: I did hear that from people. I got a mixed reaction. Some people liked the tents, because they just thought it was funny to watch people suffer, and some people just thought that it was demeaning and didn't belong in the show. So there was a mixed opinion, but with any show, I think you'll find that with any change anyone makes.
TVGuide.com: Were you disappointed, as viewers were, that the final task was… the final task?
Stefani: I wasn't disappointed in the Renuzit task, but in so far as it being the final task, I was disappointed that it wasn't at least a gigantic charity event or something for a good cause — I thought that that would be a good way to finish the show. If I could change anything, I would make that recommendation. It was a great task, it was. It was very challenging, it may not have seemed it in the final 60 seconds that you saw as an audience member, but it was a lot of work put into a very, very short amount of time, and it was a lot of moving parts.
TVGuide.com: What would you suggest to breathe some new life into the show?
Stefani: You know, I'm not sure. I think the show has a good format. I like the show as it is. I don't know that I would keep the tents….
TVGuide.com: Would you keep it in L.A.?
Stefani: L.A. was really interesting, and if the tasks are challenging enough, it really doesn't matter where the show is. The show being in New York added a heightened sense of, I don't know, anxiety, feeling like you're in a rush — I think that was conducive to it being an experience. But L.A. was good, too. We're so spread out in L.A., the stress is there, it's just different — it's with traffic, it's with limitations of when businesses are open and that kind of stuff, so I think both locations have their advantages.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel the show took advantage of the L.A. setting as much as you'd expected?
Stefani: I don't know. In retrospect, we did do two different types of commercials and we did do things, like the tour-bus task, that were Hollywood-esque, if you will. We probably could have done a little bit more.
TVGuide.com: Was staying under the radar a "genius strategy" you planned?
Stefani: My strategy was to stay out of the firing line, and that meant doing a good job and making sure I had the respect of my teammates, and it was effective. It made me end up in the finals and I did it without ever ending up in a boardroom. No project manager ever brought me before Mr. Trump to try to get me fired, no teammate ever said anything negative about me, so I think it was a great strategy and I don't think I was under the radar at all. The audience sees a very tiny portion of the footage, and I can tell you that I was as active throughout the beginning of the show as I was shown to be by the end of the show, so you can't actually fly under the radar in a situation like this. With teammates who are all looking out to be No. 1 and be the winner, don't you think someone would say something to try to get you fired if you weren't pulling your weight plus more?
TVGuide.com: Definitely. And with your crew, you had very loud, boisterous people alongside you.
Stefani: We did. They were very loud. We had Chicago and New York adequately represented and quite a voice from Seattle as well.
TVGuide.com: I know you volunteered at one point to be PM.
Stefani: I did volunteer. It was after Surya was fired, but I was outvoted once again, because I wasn't perceived to have survived the boardroom, so to speak, and the rule really was that if you were one of the two survivors coming out of the boardroom, you had first dibs at being the PM.
TVGuide.com: Right, to prove yourself.
Stefani: Yeah, so that resulted in my never having a chance.
TVGuide.com: Did you see PM as being a danger zone?
Stefani: Not to me. I don't think that being a PM would have been a danger zone, only as much as if you lose, you're in the boardroom. But if I had been a PM and had lost a task — which I don't think I would have — and been in the boardroom, I would have, by far, defended myself better than the other candidates. I don't think I would have been fired despite being a PM.
TVGuide.com: Is there anyone you thought should have been in the final four?
Stefani: Wow. Perhaps Kristine could have been in the final four.
TVGuide.com: She had a surprising firing.
Stefani: You know, I would have liked to have gone up against her, I think she's very qualified. She was great.
TVGuide.com: Did you see her as your toughest competitor?
Stefani: Probably the toughest on Kinetic.
TVGuide.com: And what about Arrow?
Stefani: On Arrow, my toughest competition was James.
TVGuide.com: And you felt that even before the finale?
Stefani: Yes. That was my only competition.
TVGuide.com: What was the most frustrating part of the process for you?
Stefani: Life in the tent without a bathroom — that was frustrating. No running water when you're kind of a girlie-girl and you like to have your accessories about. Not having a blow-dryer, that was tough, sharing a port-a-potty with a bunch of guys, that was a little rough, no refrigerator....
TVGuide.com: Nothing about the tasks themselves?
Stefani: The tasks were the tasks. We all signed up knowing we were going to be handed some crazy assignments with just ridiculous deadlines and little or no sleep, very little food along the way, and you wouldn't have the opportunity to do your daily routine that puts you in your comfort zone. We just had to deal with it. The tasks were what I expected them to be — they were intense — and I would do it all again.
TVGuide.com: Would you really consider hiring James, as you said, now that you've won?
Stefani: I really would. If Mr. Trump gave me the opportunity, I would hire James. He's a great guy, a great worker and a smart man. I always said — and he said the same thing — we would hate to break up the team, and I think we did a really good job at maintaining a sense of loyalty and we were able to present our strengths respectively without bashing each other, and that's what we set out to do. I have great respect for him.
TVGuide.com: When do you leave for Cap Cana?
Stefani: I have no idea. I leave for New York, and then I don't know what the future holds after that.
TVGuide.com: Probably lots of meetings before you go.
TVGuide.com: Well, if the show returns, maybe we'll see you again, but on the other side of the boardroom table!
Stefani: Hopefully! Maybe I can sit in for Carolyn.
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