Reality TV Villain Finds New Calling In Faith

Omarosa Manigault made feisty appearances on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice, but now she is serving as a Baptist reverend. She talks about her career change with host Michel Martin.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for Faith Matters. That's the part of the program where we talk about matters of faith and spirituality. And today, we are speaking with someone who has taken what some might consider an unlikely path to a role as a faith leader.

Now, if you are a fan or a follower of reality shows, then you probably know the name Omarosa Manigault. She earned her stripes as many peoples' favorite villain on "The Apprentice" and the "Celebrity Apprentice" for exchanges like this one with journalist Piers Morgan.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE")

OMAROSA MANIGAULT: I have absolutely no respect for Piers. My whole mission is to break him down, and I knew his weak spots and I exploited them. The mother of your children hates you, Piers, and your children hate you, Piers. They're embarrassed by you.

MARTIN: But now Omarosa has a mission beyond making fellow celebrities suffer. After a period of study, she has been ordained as a Baptist minister. She is serving at the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles as an assistant pastor, and she is continuing her studies toward a doctorate.

And so the Reverend Omarosa Manigault joins us now to tell us more. Welcome back to the program, and congratulations to you on this next stage of your life.

MANIGAULT: Thank you so kindly, Michel, for having me on.

MARTIN: How did you experience your call?

MANIGAULT: Well, I think for me, it was kind of a unique journey. I believe that I got my call very early on in my Christian walk. And if I understood earlier in my life what a true call was, I think I would have responded and not waited until I was 38 years old. But the definitive call, I would say, really came when I was in the Gambia in 2008 and I was doing some work there, and I ended up at the SOS village in the section where the children were there, essentially, with HIV/AIDS, and they were sent there, essentially, to die.

And I found myself in this room with these babies by myself, and I truly could hear the voice of God very clearly, and I understood what my mission in life needed to be.

MARTIN: What do you think that call means you are meant to do now?

MANIGAULT: Well, the great thing about having such wise and informed people in my life is that I don't have to clearly define what I need to do. This is truly a time of discernment for me. So essentially, I continue my seminary studies. I continue to serve as assistant pastor at Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, and I continue the missionary work that I've been doing for the last 10 years.

MARTIN: You know, obviously, many people know you best from your time on "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice" and...

MANIGAULT: As well they should. Twenty-eight million viewers tuned in every week to watch that show.

MARTIN: Well, you know, exactly. And you were known for, you know, throwing some sharp elbows. And, if I may say, I think people know by now that you're kind of playing a character, in a way, as a villain, which is what - one of the things that people liked about you. They like - some people feel that, you know, women should do more of that, maybe throw a few elbows. But I am wondering how you - you know, reconcile...

MANIGAULT: You know, I was going to say that there are women every day who have to walk into the boardroom and they have to face some really tough opponents. They have to face men who are unyielding and unapologetic about being tough in business.

It's very interesting that I've been characterized as a villain for being a tough woman in the boardroom on "The Apprentice" specifically, which is a competitive reality show. And so I find it very interesting, but I don't apologize at all. I will forever be a very smart, tough businesswoman, and I wish more women would stand up for themselves and not be pushed around and not be walked over and looked over in the business world.

And so I understand that people struggle with that, and the duality of my personality is that I will forever have the essentials of who I am. That's Omarosa tough, unyielding and outspoken.

But my spirituality doesn't have to be put into a box, separate from those parts of my life. There are a lot of people who do some very interesting things, who work in very interesting professions who are also Christians.

MARTIN: Well, that was my question. What I was going to say was is that one of the reasons I think you have a following is that there are a lot of people who think, you know, more women could stand to throw some elbows. More women could stand to be...

MANIGAULT: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...ambitious and aggressive on their own behalf.

MANIGAULT: Absolutely.

MARTIN: But your new profession, if you will, even though there are many prominent ministers who are very strong personalities, the tradition of Christian leadership is servant leadership. Right? And, in some ways, it involves the suppression of ego. As we know, the famous - you know, Martin Luther King phrase is, if you want to call me a drum major - that famous speech about being a drum major...

MANIGAULT: Be a drum major for justice.

MARTIN: ...saying, I was the drum major for justice. So that was my question. How do you think you want to use those two aspects of your career and personality together?

MANIGAULT: Well, it's funny that you mentioned servant leadership. I spent so many of my years - my professional years - teaching leadership and understanding leadership. And the one thing that you have to have is a point of view, as a leader. My point of view is that I really do believe that everyone should have their own and define their own spirituality. And, for me, I follow the teachings and the beliefs of Jesus Christ.

I do not apologize for being a Christian. I love praising and really telling everybody that will listen about the Lord. But what becomes very interesting to me is that people feel that you cannot live a regular life when you're a Christian. And so I guess if people were to look at me and to look at my life, they will know that, you know, your life as a Christian has to go on day to day, and you can spread the word of Christ in every place that you go.

I, fortunately, have a huge platform to tell everyone that will listen about the word of God. And so if people criticize me for using the media to tell people about Christ, that's on them. For me, I have to use the gifts that God has given me to the best of my ability to spread the word of God.

MARTIN: Well, I hope you'll come back and tell us more about your - this interesting new phase of your life and how you implement all the aspects of Omarosa that people have come to know and be interested in.

MANIGAULT: Absolutely. And, in fact, folks can see me preach live. We have a Weller Street live. We stream our services every Sunday, Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

MARTIN: Will you be preaching?

MANIGAULT: I'm preaching Sunday morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, what's your sermon going to be about? Can you give us a hint? Have you thought about it?

MANIGAULT: You know, I selected a text last week, and last night, I got this inkling to preach about remembering Lot's wife, where she was instructed not to look back, and she did, and that was her destruction and that was her demise. And so I think my lesson this week will be not to look back, and really taken from the text of Lot's wife.

MARTIN: That was the Reverend Omarosa Manigault. She was recently ordained as a minister in the Baptist tradition. She's currently serving at Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles as an assistant pastor, and she was kind enough to join us from New York, where we caught up with her at NPR's New York bureau.

Reverend Omarosa Manigault, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MANIGAULT: Thank you for having me. God bless.

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