Chicago's “Apprentice” Readies for Her Debut

Stephanie Castagnier to compete on "The Apprentice"

Chicago's Stephanie Castagnier will get one step closer to one of her childhood dreams when she debuts on the new season of "The Apprentice" Thursday.

The Montreal native always wanted to work in America, and accomplished that goal 10 years ago when she moved to Chicago and became a successful real estate banker. But if she comes out on top on the reality show, she can check something else off her list.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to work for Donald Trump, the ultimate real estate icon," she says. "This is a once of a lifetime opportunity."

To get on the show, Castagnier went to an open casting call in New York and slept on the sidewalk in her business suit, the same tenacity she says will be an asset on the cut-throat competition.

"There were thousands of people, and if you didn't get a bracelet, you didn't get in," she said. "My thought process was, 'I'm all the way out here, I'm going to do whatever I can do to be on the show. I didn't want to have any excuse why it didn't work out."

"The Apprentice" focuses on "second chances" this season, with all of the hopefuls comprised of people hit hard by the economy. Castagnier says she may not have even attempted to apply for the show if the recession had not put her job in jeapardy, but she's overcome so many hurdles in her own life, that Trump's boardroom may seem like a picnic.

Her parents had her when they were 16, and her father battled substance abuse and infected her mother with HIV. Both passed away from AIDS when she was young, and she had to look out for herself, eventually graduating from McGill University while working full-time.

"I wanted to be on the show to prove to myself and prove to others that whatever you want to do, you can do. I've had a unique childhood and life, and because I did, I have a responsibility to share my story and be a role model," she said.

The Bucktown resident is also a national speaker, commentator, author and founder of a non-profit organization called Child Cause.

But is she worried about how she may be portrayed on the show when it's all said and done?

"I'm confident about who I am and how I will come across. I have a strong personality in a no-nonsense kind of way," Castagnier says.

The show premiers Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Castagnier is hosting a watch party Thursday from 7-10 p.m. at Rockit Bar & Grill. A $15 donation includes one drink ticket and benefits Child Cause.

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