MANILA, Philippines—Now it can be told: Celina Le Neindre is no longer in the running to become “The Apprentice Asia.”
This was finally revealed with Wednesday night’s broadcast (July 3) of the 7th episode on AXN which, the reality show’s sole Filipina contestant tells Rappler, was shot two months ago.
Until then, the Philippines was the only country with two remaining “Apprentice Asia” contestants — the other contender being Jonathan Allen Yabut.
Le Neindre’s 7-episode “Apprentice” stint is no mean feat. “I made it to the Top 6 and I’m proud of it,” she declared to attendees of the Episode-7 viewing party sponsored by AirAsia Philippines at the Prohibition Liquor Lounge in Greenbelt 3.
Chosen from among 30,000 applicants around this region to be one of the program’s 12 contestants, Le Neindre was quite a refreshing presence in that highly competitive setting.
She was soft-spoken and seemed less driven compared with the other go-getter competitors, yet she managed to be part of the eventual winning team on 4 of the show’s 7 episodes thus far. And she was the project manager on two occasions, the last wherein the contestants, working as teams, were tasked to help run the Hilton Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
For the crucial 7th episode, Le Neindre and the other remaining contestants, divided into two teams, were tasked to design new uniforms for budget airline AirAsia, of which “Apprentice Asia” host Tony Fernandes acts as CEO.
The project culminated in a brief fashion show, the finished clothes showcased on a hangar runway. “This will be an interesting task,” quipped Le Neindre on-cam – a remark worth noting, given her penchant for fashion design and modeling experience.
In the end, Yabut’s Team Mavericks was adjudged by the audience of AirAsia’s on-air, ground and cargo crew as having the better set of uniforms, which meant that Team Apex’s members — self-assigned project manager Alexis Lothar Bauduin, a China-based French expat; Samuel Rufus Nallaraj of India; and Le Neindre — were at risk of losing a shot at the US$100,000 apprenticeship with the Malaysian Fernandes. Partly because of Le Neindre’s having designed the less-favored uniforms, Fernandes’ stern index finger and “You’re fired” declaration were directed at her.
“I don’t think it was time for me to go,” a teary-eyed Le Neindre said. She pinned her sudden exit on Bauduin, who deemed her worthy of being fired during the boardroom deliberation. “He found my weak spot and he went right for it,” she said. At the viewing party, Le Neindre further confided that “Alex got me on my weak day of the month.”For her, this all boils down to the project manager: “babalik dapat sa leader” (this should go back to the leader).
Comments at the party and on Le Neindre’s Facebook fan page, however, cite two other people in relation to her early dismissal: fellow contestant Dian Krishna Mukti, a former Miss Universe Indonesia, whom many — including Singaporean teammate Andrea Loh — thought should have been eliminated last week; and Expedia Asia’s Singaporean CEO Kathleen Tan, one of Fernandes’ two “Apprentice” advisers, who dealt the AirAsia crew’s biting critique that part of Le Neindre’s designs were “impractical,” “old-fashioned” and “looked like a school uniform.”
Le Neindre, who co-hosted the viewing party with Yabut — one of several AirAsia-hosted “Apprentice” parties around the region — admitted that this was “an emotional episode: “This is the first time I’m seeing the edited version and getting to relive what we went through.”
She qualified her trial as “the toughest job interview of my life.” At the episode’s broadcast, she was surrounded by friends and was seen embracing her boyfriend as her “Apprentice” run was ending.
What was the first, undeclared thing that crossed her mind as she stepped out of the show’s boardroom for good?
“Thank God, that’s over,” Le Neindre tells me. Post-“Apprentice,” the Davao City-born daughter of a Frenchman and Davaoeña believes that “I’ve become a much better person and respect myself more. Nothing compares to the lessons I’ve learned in those two months of shooting.”
One such lesson: “Don’t let first impressions fool you.”
Le Neindre, whom Yabut declares to be “one of the sincerest people in the show,” says, “I’ve always been myself, the Celina I can trust and depend on. My only strategy in the show was to be myself. If I stepped on anyone’s toes, it was purely [unintentional].”
One misimpression she has realized is that her mestiza looks may have led people to think she’s some spoiled rich kid. “I’ve worked my way to be on the top of my life now,” says Le Neindre, who had worked as a waitress and hotel housekeeper.
Le Neindre continues to be a food and beverage consultant for a number of resorts and hotels and is developing some projects. But since her “Apprentice Asia” exposure, she could now diversify her career portfolio.
At the viewing party, Philippines’ AirAsia CEO Maan Hontiveros openly invited Le Neindre to join their staff. That impromptu gesture may be unofficial, yet it shows that hefty offers could be in Le Neindre’s immediate future.
And given what Yabut calls his ex-contender’s “beauty and brains,” it won’t be surprising if Le Neindre returns to the small screen — all fired up and ready to go.
Whatever happens, Le Neindre assures her compatriots that “I will continue to make the Filipino proud.”
Here is the trailer for The Apprentice Asia’s episode 7:
‘The Apprentice Asia’ airs in the Philippines on AXN every Wednesday at 9 p.m. Replays are on Wednesdays, 11:50 p.m.; Thursdays, 2:30 p.m. & 8:10 p.m.; Saturdays, 9:15 a.m. & 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 3:35 p.m. & 11:50 p.m.