The cast of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice has never looked better! You can thank former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza (and modeling icon Patricia Velasquez) for infusing the motley crew of stars with a ton of Latina beauty and smarts. After five weeks, the 25-year-old Venezuelan model/philanthropist is still going strong on the cutthroat reality show. Mendoza’s charity of choice is the Latino Commission on AIDS, an organization she’s been involved with since 2008. Here the multilingual venezuelana speaks to Latina.com about her experience on Celebrity Apprentice, her blossoming friendship with Velasquez and battling dumb model stereotypes.
How was your experience on Celebrity Apprentice?
I don’t know of anyone who’s been on the show who’s said it’s an amazing and enjoyable experience because it’s definitely hard work. It’s tough to work with so many people who are trying to get as involved as you. But I do feel lucky to be part of the cast and learn from them because these are people who definitely have tons of experience in their careers. I’m learning how to behave myself in a professional environment without getting my personal feelings involved with whatever is going on.
Who was the most intimidating competitor on the show?
I don’t know if “intimidating” is the word I would use, I guess I would use “surprised.” I would say Lisa Lampanelli who is someone I respected and admired because she’s a great comedian and does an amazing job on stage. I was actually amazed that she actually behaves herself when she’s not on stage.
It seems like you’ve developed a strong bond with Patricia Velasquez. Tell us about your friendship with her.
I’ve always admired her. Patricia is [also] Venezuelan like I am. She’s been my idol since I started modeling at 12 years old. I had no idea that she was going to be part of the show until we started almost filming like a week before. When I saw her and I hugged her and told her, “I thank God you are here. I don’t know how your personality is but I’m just happy to have you here. So I won’t be the only Latina here; so we can team up and do our thing together.” I told her, “I won’t even compete with you because at the end of the day whatever we do it will go to the same place which is our community.” Even after the show we have a [good] relationship; she can count on me and I can count on her.
How did you learn English? Rosetta Stone? English-language movies?
Whoever I’m hanging out with and they say a word I don’t understand I bother people and I ask people to explain what they’re saying. So that’s how I pretty much learned English. I started working as a model when I was 15 out of Venezuela and that’s when I left my country. I did the same with the Italian language in [Italy].
You’re a New Yorker now but what do you miss the most about Venezuela?
Oh my God! My family of course and the weather, which is pretty, stable all year, every day. I’m from Caracas and we have the Avila Mountains that I can see from my parents’ apartment on their balcony. Food I can get here but it’s not my mom’s food.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a beauty queen?
She must be dumb because she has a pretty face. Obviously, she’s stupid. No, I think that people just think that way about good-looking people around the world. Everyone carries insecurities in themselves and if it’s something physical or not hurting others with their words might make themselves feel better of who they are.
Watch Dayana Mendoza on Celebrity Apprentice Sundays at 9P/8C on NBC.