'I'm amazed I got out unscathed' - Jen on reality show trauma
Jennifer Zamparelli has revealed the negative impact of reality TV - describing her experience as "so traumatic" - and warned those thinking about taking part to be prepared.
Her comments come in the wake of ITV's announcement that it will provide therapy, social media training and financial training to contestants on reality shows in the wake of the deaths of two former stars.
RTE presenter Jennifer (38) was a contestant on the BBC reality show The Apprentice in the UK 10 years ago, before returning to Ireland to launch her own business and later moving into broadcasting.
Jennifer appeared on the show for seven weeks in an effort to win a position working for Alan Sugar. However, she was ultimately one of the contestants who was fired.
Speaking on Breakfast Republic on 2FM, she said she was completely unprepared for the experience of reality TV - and the fallout.
"I had no media background, I had no entertainment background. I was in business," she said.
"I can only talk about it now, first of all because I was under contract that I wasn't allowed to talk about it, and second of all it was so traumatic I'm amazed I got out of it unscathed.
"Even to think about it makes me want to get sick because I was in there for about seven weeks.
"I was 27. I went in, I got through the audition process. I thought 'this is going to be amazing, be a great platform for whatever I want to do'.
"But from being misquoted, to paparazzi trying to get photographs up my skirt after the show, ex-boyfriends telling stories, nothing prepares you for the s**t that comes after it."
Jennifer said she suffered from sleep deprivation during her time on the show, citing one instance where she went to bed at 4am before her alarm went off for another day of filming at 6am.
"That is unhealthy. It's not right," she said.
"People think, why are they so c**p on The Apprentice? That is why."
Jennifer said she had a problem with the "picture they painted" of her as the "Irish ice maiden".
"There were quotes in the paper that I never said like, 'She describes herself as an iron fist in a velvet glove'. I never heard that saying until I read it in the paper," Jennifer added.
"All these lies, and you have that and then you get kicked out and have to deal with reporters following you, journalists calling you, paparazzi."
However, the most difficult part was the impact on her family.
"For my mam to read stories in the paper about my ex-boyfriend telling the nation about what we got up to in the bedroom - or may not have got up to in the bedroom - it's not nice. They're not prepared for it," she said.
Thankfully she had a supportive family and the family of her then boyfriend (now husband) Lau was also hugely supportive at the time.
"It's so easy to have a breakdown when you come out of a show like that. You're thrust into a completely different world that you're not equipped to deal with," she said.
Jennifer revealed that she is often asked by young people how to forge a career in TV and whether she would recommend starting out on reality TV.
"If you are going to do it make sure you have a support system. Make sure your family are on board, they are prepared for negative comments, for people coming out of the woodwork, for you being cast aside, for not knowing what to do," she said.
Jennifer commended ITV for its announcement of increased support, describing the move as "monumental".
"It's too hard to deal with [fame] on your own, especially when you don't know what to do with it," she went on to add.
'TV stardom can destroy lives, that's the reality.' - Anna Nolan, p14