It might not sound like the best career move -- abandoning your job for two months to shoot a reality TV show -- but Katrina Campins would beg to differ.
Campins, 24, a South Florida real estate agent, auditioned for a new show in which 16 highly successful business men and women would vie for a chance to work for one of New York City's most flamboyant developers. But she had second thoughts after being selected: Could she really afford to leave work for eight weeks?
Today, she's one of six contestants still around after 10 weeks of The Apprentice, which airs at 9 p.m. tonight on NBC. She has yet to hear Donald Trump speak his signature line, "You're fired." And the show that she almost passed on has already catapulted her career forward.
"This has opened doors that I never thought would be open to me," Campins said. She's been invited to do joint ventures with real estate developers, asked to host a talk show and offered endorsement deals. Playboy approached her about being a centerfold.
Campins, a University of Miami graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and a degree in international finance and marketing, didn't originally set out to be a contestant on The Apprentice, which ranked third in the Nielsen ratings last week. The Apprentice, Season 2, is now holding open casting calls -- one today at Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach.
Although Campins says that being on the show was the best thing to happen to her career, she initially thought it was "a big mistake." She said, "I had worked so hard to get to where I am."
She had to find someone to cover for her at work during filming last fall. And she would have to take a pay cut if she wins. The winner becomes president of a Trump corporation for a year, at an annual salary of $250,000. Campins, the top-selling agent at Jeanne Baker Realty Inc. in Coconut Grove, would not disclose her salary, but said she sold "way more" than $9 million in properties last year.
But Campins went ahead with the show, reasoning that "this is an opportunity to learn from one of the biggest real estate moguls in the country."
The show was grueling: Contestants performed tasks, from selling lemonade on the streets of New York City to running a restaurant for a night. The two-to-three-day tasks came one after another, Campins said. "We didn't have time to breathe." After each, a contestant was eliminated.
Her biggest challenge, she said, was "living with 15 other people with Type A personalities. That was incredibly difficult." The contestants were followed by cameras constantly.
Campins also had difficulty with her characterization. "I was shocked when I saw my portrayal on the show because I look like an emotional basket case," she said. "I'm a passionate person, but my emotions are more in line with a man's. ... I've been successful because I don't take things personally."
She also felt her on-air time did not adequately show the contributions she made. She blames the desire for ratings. "Katrina doing spreadsheets is not good television," she said. "Katrina in a miniskirt makes good television, but that's frustrating because I don't walk around Miami selling houses wearing a short skirt and looking cute."
Campins learned a lot about business from Donald Trump -- lessons she now applies to her business, such as the importance of branding. Campins now puts her logo and photograph on everything.
She also honed her negotiation skills. "Certain things were reinforced, such as never be the first to quote a number, never show someone else how badly you want something and be passionate about what you are selling," she said.
She expects the experience to boost her career and job options. Susan Murray, the co-editor of Reality TV: The Re-making of Television Culture, said that appearing on a reality TV show is "certainly good PR" for contestants and "brings attention to them as job candidates."
Ereka Vetrini, 27, another contestant on The Apprentice, said after Trump fired her, she received "tons" of job offers. She's also been offered the opportunity to write a book and has appeared on many television shows. "I can't go anywhere without being noticed," she said.
As for Campins, she passed on the Playboy opportunity. "Posing in Playboy contradicts everything I have tried so hard to prove in business," she said.
She plans to stay in real estate and ultimately wants to open her own brokerage. "I eat and breathe real estate. It's who I am."