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Omarosa Manigault on 'Apprentice,' Becoming a Minister, and Coping with Michael Clarke Duncan's Death

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Omarosa Manigualt
Photo Credit: David Livingston/ Getty

Reality television’s original take-no-prisoners diva with a bad girl attitude is singing a different tune these days.

We’ll get to meet a kinder, gentler Omarosa Manigault on the new season of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice (March 3). Now a seasoned reality star, Manigault credits the change to the church—she became an ordained minister a year ago—and becoming more mature. But don’t expect her to be totally angelic. “I fight with everybody,” she told reporters during the TV critics winter press tour last month.

ESSENCE.com spoke with Reverend O—as members of her congregation call her—about returning to reality television, competing for charity, and what she’s learned about herself after her fiancé Michael Clarke Duncan’s passing in September 2012.

ESSENCE.com: I recently read an interview where you said a "new and improved" Omarosa would be on the new season of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. What did you mean by that?
OMAROSA “REV. O” MANIGAULT: The difference is I wasn't in the ministry the last time I appeared on season one and seven of Apprentice. That doesn't stop me from being competitive because I'll always be that, and I'll still have my edge. But it has made me more aware of what I was doing and how I was doing it. There's still that sharp businesswoman, but maybe a little kinder.

ESSENCE.com: So we can expect a kinder, gentler Omarosa?
MANIGAULT: [Laughs] Well, I’m still competitive. I still have my knives sharpened. It is a competition amongst 14 people trying to get $250,000 for their charity after all.

ESSENCE.com: And you’re competing to benefit the Sue Duncan Children's Center.
MANIGAULT: Yes, it's on the Southside of Chicago. When you look at what's going on in that city, I think the center's mission is vital. My fiancé, the late Michael Clarke Duncan, is an alumni, but he's not related to Sue Duncan. The 200-plus children that they're serving at the center literally need every dollar I raise. Michael and I have made sure to make contributions to the center over the years so I wanted to keep that going. People can go to the Sue Duncan’s and give in Michael's honor. He was 54 years old, and I'd like people to give at least $54. 

ESSENCE.com: You recently celebrated your first anniversary as an ordained minister.
MANIGAULT: Yes, February 18th. I entered seminary about five years ago so it's been a long journey for me. Everybody wishes to find a calling in his or her life and I'm just so glad to figure out what God's mission for me is. I've discovered my true passion and that is truly being a messenger for God.

ESSENCE.com: What would you like to do as a minister? Do you want to become pastor of your own church?
MANIGAULT: Serving as an assistant pastor at the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles has taught me that there's so much more I have to learn and when God is ready for me to be in a leadership position in that way, I will accept. Right now I'm being obedient and allowing him to guide me, which is so different than anything I've ever done in my life because I've always been so ambitious and a go-getter. But listening to what God tells you he wants you to do is incredible.

ESSENCE.com: Do you ever feel conflicted being an ordained minister and being on reality TV?
MANIGAULT: There are Christians who work in all walks of life so it's not unusual to find a Christian on television. What might be unusual is to find a Christian who, at times, had been so provocative. But all of that can be used to get people's attention to draw them into the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

ESSENCE.com: Speaking of provocative, you were one of the first outspoken Black women we saw on reality television way back when. What do you think when you see reality shows now?
MANIGAULT: I know! I was so provocative. But I think I'm a like a pill in comparison to what these girls are doing now. I have never once had a fistfight or had the sort of aggression I see in reality TV these days. The reality shows that I've done, thank God, have been more intellectual, competitive shows. I watch some of these shows and I'm amazed at how far they’ve come and, in some ways, the direction they’ve gone. 

ESSENCE.com: So you wouldn't do one of the more lifestyle reality shows?
MANIGAULT: I've done more than 30 reality shows so I'm not one of those people sitting back and saying, 'This reality is good and that reality is bad.’ That's not my place to do that. When the offers come to me for shows I make decisions that benefit my interests. So I don't judge anyone for what show they choose to do. I've just decided to select shows that I believe enhance who and what my brand is.

ESSENCE.com: Your fiancé Michael Clarke Duncan passed away five months ago. They say the death of a loved one can teach you a lot about yourself. What have you learned about yourself?
MANIGAULT: Firstly, I learned very early on in our journey that we wouldn't have the benefit of having a private love affair. Our relationship was public, which also means his passing is public. And subsequently, my grieving is public. I've been mindful of that and I've tried to stay encouraged for people who come to me and say, 'How have you been so strong?' What I've learned is that if I trust God, he will carry me through the difficult times and challenges. And I've learned that I am equipped to deal with everything that life throws at me.

ESSENCE.com: You’ve said you feel like Michael is still here.
MANIGAULT: I'm still in our home. Michael's toothbrush is still in our bathroom; his jacket is still hanging on the hook. I live with the presence of Michael Clarke Duncan every day because everything is as he left it. I need time to decide to put away the toothbrush, or fold up the clothes that he threw over the back of the chair. But I haven't done that and that's my process of grieving. It's unbelievable at times. I miss him every single day. It doesn't get better, but you get better. So I'm working on getting better.

Catch Omarosa “Reverend O” Manigault on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice this Sunday, March 3 at 9pm on NBC.

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