When we speak in mid-January, Ebanks is still prohibited from divulging too much detail on what went down among the 14 apprentices, which this season include Sharon Osbourne, Cyndi Lauper, Darryl Strawberry, Bret Michaels and Holly Robinson Peete. “Holly is like a big sister now,” Ebanks says. “She founded her charity because her son is autistic, so it really hits home for her. It was really inspiring to see someone so passionate. I may start stalking her, ringing her doorbell, because I plan to learn a lot about how to be a more successful philanthropic person.”

She calls Lauper “a very funny woman who should have her own show,” while Michaels was her biggest surprise: “I went in thinking he would be a total weirdo, but he’s really quite sweet and genuine.” As for how Celebrity Apprentice will play out this season, Ebanks will be watching the edited episodes for the first time with everyone else. “I am completely scared,” she admits. “As much as I told myself I was going to be so careful, the cameras are always rolling. I’m sure there are a few times I stuck my foot in my mouth.”

Her goal was a simple one, Ebanks says: to always maintain an air of positivity and never be reduced to the bad behavior so inherent to today’s reality shows. “Not everyone agreed with my positive attitude,” she notes. “It’s OK, I have a really thick skin.” But did she walk away from Apprentice with lessons to benefit her life or career? “Oh, absolutely: I learned that sometimes I need to be more aggressive—even though it’s funny to say that, because my family thinks I’m the most disciplined, badass chick you’ve ever met in your life. In business, though, I believe you get more bees with honey. But at the end of the day this is a game show with a charitable outcome that meant something deeply to each one of us. So it was always about keeping your eyes on the prize.”

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