For the show’s fourth challenge, the candidates were asked to manufacture and sell bikes, which ended with record-breaking sales of over £1m for the winning team.
Things didn’t end too well for 33-year-old chartered accountant Lubna Farhan, though, who was sent home after being brought back to the boardroom by project manager Thomas Skinner.
Following her firing, we spoke with Lubna about her reason for being so quiet on the show, why she couldn’t be bothered to fight for attention and whether there’s any truth to reports about a feud with controversial candidate, Lottie Lion.
How are you?
I’m okay now that I’ve been fired.
Why do you think Lord Sugar chose to get rid of you?
I think he fired me because he’s got good instincts and he could tell I wasn’t putting everything I had into the process. I wasn’t the reason for the failure of the task, but I didn’t have the will power to say so and I think that showed.
Did you expect to go when you were brought back into the boardroom?
One hundred per cent. I expected to go on the first day when I woke up on that task. When I woke up, my watch stopped working and I just knew that my time on The Apprentice was up. I knew if we failed this task, I was going home. It was like destiny – I could foresee it happening and it happened.
Were you secretly hoping to be fired?
I wasn’t secretly hoping; I was just really expecting it. It was very, very difficult for me to concentrate in the process, because I’ve got two kids who are two and one. Before The Apprentice, I was looking after them 24/7 on maternity leave, and then all of a sudden being thrown into a house with these extreme personalities and not being able to talk to them was very difficult. They're all I could think about. I just couldn’t concentrate.
You did seem very quiet – I thought maybe that was because of the editing, but was it because you wanted to go home?
I felt like some people were attention seekers who just wanted to be in the limelight, and I just couldn’t be bothered to be a part of the drama they were trying to create. I did speak more in the previous episodes, so I would say some of it is the editing. I do feel that, in a way, the show's edited to justify the firing. I was quiet on this task, but I couldn’t be bothered to compete with the strong personalities who wanted attention.
So were you relieved when Lord Sugar made his decision?
I was extremely relieved because I couldn’t really... I don’t want to say ”be bothered”, but I couldn’t, to be honest. I didn’t want to participate in the drama and overacting. Trying to be in the limelight and the loudest voice is just not me. I’ve worked with professional people all my life and I’ve never needed to behave like that. If I don’t overact in real life, why should I overact just because I’m on TV? That’s how I felt.
Were you too nice for The Apprentice?
I would say I was too nice compared to the people who were completely cutthroat, but at the end of the day, I decided to be myself. I don’t think being a nice person is a bad thing – a lot of times people would rather work with someone like me than someone who might be strong in the process, but not a nice person off-screen. There were two things I was definitely not going to do in the process, which I’m happy that I stuck by. One is grovel in front of Lord Sugar, and say “Please save me, keep me in the process.” I did not do that. The second thing – I wasn’t going to throw anyone under the bus and I’m happy I didn’t do that, either.
Why didn’t you want to grovel?
I’d like to think I know my worth. I've never had the need to grovel in front of anyone. I know that had Lord Sugar got to know me, there’s no one else he would have invested in, but I’m an introvert and it takes me time to open up. I was also so conscious coming into the process being a chartered accountant – I knew I had to behave professionally and be aware of the image I was giving out. I did hold back and there’s more I could have given, but I don’t regret anything.
You were lumbered with two of the biggest personalities of this year’s series. First up: Thomas. He was criticised by Marianne for being a dictator as Project Manager. Was that a fair argument?
I would say that he wasn’t a dictator in this task. Lord Sugar did ask him to listen more in the previous episode, and he did. It was the sub-team that didn’t actually listen to his instructions, so he naturally got really annoyed. I must say I do admire his ambition, determination and passion. I don’t really have anything negative to say about him.
He seems like a nice guy underneath the arrogance.
I think he is a nice guy. Let’s be honest here: he hasn’t been educated because of his background, but he’s done so well in terms of business. He actually had more manners than some of the other contestants who do come from educated backgrounds. I’d say that says a lot about how nice Thomas is. He was a gentlemen when some of the other candidates weren’t.
Then there’s Lottie. Was she frustrating to work with?
I would say that Lottie is a very strong candidate. It’s quite admirable that someone at her age has come into this difficult process. She has great instincts and is confident, articulate and can think on her feet. I think there’s a lot of positive things to say. Obviously, she is 19 and she’s quite feisty. I do think she has a lot to learn in terms of how to treat people, but I’m sure that during this process she will come to realise that at some stage. It’s actually good coming into this process at a younger age, because you’ve got the time to reflect before the rest of your life. It’s quite commendable.
There have been reports in the press about friction between you and Lottie in the run-up to this year’s series. Is there truth to the rumours?
I would say there is truth to it, however there’s no point me talking about it because it has already been spoken about.
Which candidate is getting away with the most?
I would say that everyone to some extent is getting away with one thing or the other, but I’m confident that Lord Sugar will be able to see past a lot of their tactics and techniques. He does give people a chance to mend their ways but if they don’t, they will be in the firing line.
If you had to predict who’ll make it to the final, who would you say?
Who I think can be in the final versus who I want in the final are probably two different things. I would love for Thomas to be there. He's worked so hard and is great to watch.
Who do you reckon could win, then?
That’s a tough question because everyone in the process is so confident and are good at what they do. Anyone has a chance, really. I’ve gone quite early so I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Some people come out of their shells later on in the process, but I would say that, from what I have seen, Lord Sugar does likes Thomas and sees something in him.
What’s next for you?
Too many things. I’m working as a finance manager of the largest retailer in the UK. As well as that, I’ve incorporated my business called Business Decoded, which provides tailored business services to anyone who would like them. I’m also writing my book and I’m juggling being a mother of a two-year-old and a one-year-old.
The Apprentice continues weekly on BBC One at 9pm
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