Monday, December 12, 2005

Apprentice TV Show cast member Kristi

Kristi Caudell never was a television watcher; the only show she saw regularly was "The Apprentice."
Being a member of "The Apprentice" cast crossed the mind of the young Hall County businesswoman. But it took her mother to prod her to go for it after watching her succeed in business.
Kristi became one of more than a million people who applied for the fourth season of the hit television show that features New York business executive Donald Trump judging up-and-coming entrepreneurs on how well they can handle themselves under pressure in the business world.
She was among the 2,500 answering a casting call in Atlanta last February and survived when the nationwide list was narrowed to 200.
After Kristi underwent psychological and other tests, interviews and even a physical examination, Trump himself sat on a panel that interviewed the final 200 in Los Angeles. He had been upset about the cast of the previous season and said he would select the finalists himself this time, Kristi said.
Never one to be intimidated, Kristi was calm when she met Trump and during the final interview, she said.
"I didn't treat him like an idol," Kristi said. "I treated him like an everyday person; he's very down to earth. We had great chemistry."
As she waited to learn if she would be selected, "I never had the feeling I had it," Kristi recalls.
But within two days of the final interview, she and 17 other contestants were notified they would be the cast for the show's fourth season.
Roll camera
The show pits young business people against each other to compete for a chance at working in Trump's organization. Trump "fires" cast members every episode until only one is left standing.
Filming began in New York April 8. Four cameras followed the cast everywhere.
"I'd never been around cameras before," Kristi said. "You have no privacy. They get every facial expression ... everything."
But she got used to it quickly, she said.
"It's very weird, but your mind is thinking about the task," she said.
Teams were assigned a new task every three days. "You don't eat, you don't sleep, you're so vulnerable, so ill," she said.
The pace was so intense and the competition so fierce cast members sometimes were at each other's throats.
Each episode of "The Apprentice" requires 72 hours of film, which is edited down to 35 minutes for the show. While it might seem difficult to do justice to a cast member or a team, Kristi believes they got it right for the most part.
The fifth episode did her in. Divided into men vs. women, the teams were to design a parade float for an upcoming movie.
"Jennifer M." was project manager, and she and Kristi clashed during the task and in the boardroom in front of Trump.
"Jennifer and (fellow contestant) Marshawn had called me negative," Kristi said.
But Jennifer, the project manager, wanted to change things, she explained. Besides, Jennifer M. and others went shopping for some last-minute materials.
"But it was 3 a.m., and we didn't have time," Kristi said. That left her being perceived as negative. "I cried a lot on that one. That hurt," she said. "It really shocked me.
"I gave Trump a hard time after I watched that episode," she said. "People around me, who love me, know who I am, and that's anything but negative."
Her proudest moment on "The Apprentice" was the first episode when she was project manager trying to create and promote a new fitness center class in New York City.
Her team lost, but by only $11, despite being limited to only three classes while the men's team was allowed five classes in a more favorable and affluent part of the city.
Her team spent only $350, and its return on investment was better than the men's. But Trump ruled otherwise. Kristi weathered criticism from some members of her team and wasn't fired.
Growing up in Hall
Kristi Caudell was born in Hall County in 1980 to Don and Debbie Caudell. She attended Riverbend Elementary School, North Hall middle and high schools, graduating in 1999. She was a B student in high school, a cheerleader, on the student council and yearbook staff.
But her passion was soccer. In four years, Kristi set a school record for most goals: 96.
"If we had left her in, there's no telling how many she would have scored," said Doug Childs, her soccer coach. Kristi and the team were so good they usually led by comfortable margins.
"She gave 100 percent in soccer," Childs said. "She does that with everything. That's her personality. She's not intimidated."
Betty Childs, Doug's wife who was an assistant principal at North Hall, described Kristi as energetic and outspoken. "She never held anything back," she said.
Kristi's success in high school earned her a soccer scholarship to Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, where her 36 goals in one year set another record. She played one year at Brenau University and began to get offers from Division I schools. She chose Georgia State University in Atlanta, but left after her junior year.
"I had reached my goals," Kristi said. "I was an All-American, a nationally ranked player, and I felt good about just walking away from it."
Kristi's first job out of college was a turning point in her life. She worked for an information technology company run by Al Massulo.
"I owe so much to him in the business world," she said. "He taught me so much I owe being on 'The Apprentice' to him."
Her parents were amazed at the change in her, Kristi said. "I had always been real sweet and wanted to be liked by people."
But Massulo taught her to be more aggressive and challenged her to not hold back and close deals. "It's all about the numbers," she said. "I want to be liked, but I don't expect everybody to like me."
After Massulo died in 2003, a group of California investors approached her to run Gold Creek Resort's hotel and conference center in Dawson County.
"They wanted me to sell $600,000 in a year, but I did it in four months," she said. She ended the year with $1.3 million in sales.
Bob Tablatt, one of the owners, recognized Kristi as something special when he first interviewed her. When she talked to him about trying out for "The Apprentice," he encouraged and helped prepare her.
Kristi's appearance on the show elevated her to somewhat of a celebrity status, and not just in Hall County. She's getting used to signing autographs wherever she goes, and she still averages 40 e-mails a day from fans.
She has become one of a group of reality show alumni and has gotten to know some of the "Survivor" TV show participants through charity events, including a soccer match.
How has she gotten along with other cast members on "The Apprentice" since filming ended? Despite tension-filled acrimonious boardroom debates, Kristi stays in touch with most of them, even her nemesis on the fifth episode, "Jennifer M." or Jennifer Murphy.
Murphy and eight other cast members attended her recent wedding to Jason Smith in Highlands, N.C.
'Not a quitter'
Life hasn't always been soccer success and six-figure sales for Kristi. She was pregnant when she returned to North Hall High her junior year.
The baby delivered at five months and weighed 2 pounds. Both baby and mother were seriously ill and hospitalized for weeks.
But she didn't let that affect her life adversely.
"I had a peace about being pregnant," she said. "I went on about my life."
Her daughter, Catelyn, now 8 and a second grader at Lakeview Academy, was at many of her soccer practices and games. Kristi even carried her to classes at Brenau.
Debbie Caudell said Kristi always was strong willed and made up her mind to not let being a 16-year-old single mother be a barrier to her success.
"She is not a quitter," said Betty Childs. "Her difficulties molded her into a stronger person. She finished school in style."
Besides her parents and Doug and Betty Childs, she credits her minister, Dr. Tom Smiley, and North Hall English teacher Betty Kessler with being major influences in her life and helping her work through tough times.
So what is in the future for this fireball entrepreneur who relishes being outside her comfort zone?
"'The Apprentice' wasn't her pinnacle," Debbie Caudell says. "There's more to come."
That "more" includes a key role in Gold Creek Resort's plans to take nine holes of its 27-hole golf course and develop 253 homes.
She also is buying with partner Karen Gayton the old Princeton/Woolworth's building in downtown Gainesville. The two plan to upgrade the present Sea Bones Restaurant as a draw for corporate and other events and start a franchise operation.
The building also houses a beauty salon and spa and will contain a paint-your-own-pottery business.
Her "Apprentice" exposure provided her with business contacts who could position Kristi in lofty corporate offices in major cities.
She remains in touch with Trump, too. But she believes strongly in the future of downtown Gainesville, wants to be a part of it and direct her energy and talents to her home county.
Kristi also is writing a book aimed at women as entrepreneurs. She will discuss her life as a single mother and stress that having a child is a reason to be successful. "There is no glass ceiling." she said. "It's up to the woman."
She also will go on a speaking tour in January.
Now Kristi Caudell Smith, she is happily married to Jason Smith, who operates a sod farm in Dawson County. She said she doesn't believe being on "The Apprentice" has changed who she is.
"I'm the same Kristi," she said. "God put me on the show for a reason, and I want to reach out and touch young women."


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