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Riding ‘The Apprentice’ aftershocks

Cassie Pence
Special to the DailySince starring on "The Apprentice," local Raj Bhakta has earned some major street credit as a ladies man.
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WEST VAIL – Since starring on “The Apprentice,” local Raj Bhakta has earned some major street credit as a ladies man.Raj was a special guest doing commentary at the ceremony where Yahoo announced its earnings. Raj was chosen because he had the most hits on Yahoo out of all the characters on “The Apprentice.” He even pinned a bow tie on the CEO.”A group of three guys, Indian guys – who are not the smoothest guys with women, generally – come up to me afterward and they were asking me, seriously, about what to do to get girls,” said Raj. “Like I know what the hell I’m doing. I’m saying things like ‘pony up’ on national television.”Following many of these speaking engagements Raj participates in now, which are offshoots of “The Apprentice” fame, the public never fails to ask about the women: Has “The Apprentice” gotten him women? How should we talk to girls, Raj? How should we approach them?It was the scene on episode No. 5 when Raj asks tennis star Anna Kournikova out on a date that has garnered him this “player” reputation. Tennis at Arthur Ashe Stadium with Kournikova and John McEnroe was Donald Trump’s award for winning task No. 5, selling the most product on QVC. Kournikova, whom Raj called “an epic beauty,” said if he could return one of her five serves, she would go out with him, otherwise Raj would have to perform a dare. Raj ended up in his underwear dodging fired tennis balls, but as Raj likes to say, “there are no points for not trying.””I don’t do anything differently than what all other guys are thinking of doing. I just do it. A guy sees Anna Kournikova. Anna Kournikova is a beautiful sex symbol in America. You want to try to take Anna Kournikova out. So what the hell, try.”

Raj is the managing partner of Vanquish Enterprises, the entity that has the controlling interest in the Holiday Inn/Apex Lodge in West Vail. He starred in the second season of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump’s reality TV show that tests contestants business savvy. He made it to round No. 9 when he was fired, ironically, on a real estate task, which is his business.”It shows you that god has a sense of humor, that a real estate developer loses to a wedding planner. That’s sort of embarrassing, but you have to take it with a grain of salt,” Raj said.Raj said he was fighting vigorously in the Boardroom, the location where Trump utters the dreaded words “you’re fired,” but producers mellowed the scene quite a bit with editing. Raj said his arguments were too reasonable, and if they had played his disputes, it would have appeared that he shouldn’t have been fired.”There’s a legitimate business lesson in there. As a company, as a business man, you’re really only as good as the team that you have together,” he said.In retrospect, “The Apprentice” is a big game of office politics, said Raj, and you learn office politics is an awfully important game to win in the business world.”The best strategy to win ‘The Apprentice’ in many cases is to fly beneath the radar. Don’t do anything particularly brilliant, because if you’re working on something particularly brilliant it could also be particularly stupid. And all the blame can come down on you,” said Raj.

Where fame is taking RajRaj is currently basking in “The Apprentice” afterglow, traveling the country to attend inaugural balls, giving motivational speeches at colleges and conventions and appearing on various TV shows, like “Crossfire.” “You’ve got this fame and people, for example, pay me to speak to them. Which I think is a funny thing because I’ve been speaking all my life and no one’s paid me a thing, and now I go on television and apparently I have something valuable to say,” said Raj. “I was picked to go on a big mother-ship reality TV show and therefore I’m known. But I think there is a problem in America today about people worshiping celebrities for the sake of celebrities.”But the fame is great, he admits, albeit distracting. Raj finds it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand, like finishing his project at the West Vail hotel, which he’s very fortunate that his father is now spearheading. His long-term ambition is to serve the people in a political realm, inspired by his successful immigrant parents who have given him a unique perspective into the greatness of America.”America has one sacred duty to all of its citizens and that is to give them a fighting chance. There needs to be a middle of the road, representing young people – rational people – who believe in small government and freedom. Things that we all hear about that are slowly being stripped away,” said Raj.



He just started a political activist group, the Coalition for the Advancement of the Republic (www.advancerepublic.org), which is a platform for Raj to express and spread his political views.”There will be someday when my fame is deserved,” Raj said. “I’m quite sure I’ll die more famous than I am now.”Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.comVail. Colorado


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