We liked Surya Yalamanchili from the first time we saw his picture on the website for our pick early on to win the job in The Apprentice 6. He looked different. He had that Bollywood thing happening. And though he was only 24, he had the credentials to go all the way. Then he switched teams, got screwed over and, on Sunday’s episode, fired.
In Part 1 of our exclusive interview, the reality contestant whose name sounds like “Sanjaya” took us into the Playboy Mansion. Today, he takes us into the world of Snoop Dogg… and the show’s Boardroom…
“I went out for the show as a lark. One of the reasons was that when I was a kid, Trump was always on TV– because he was going through bankruptcy! When I was six years old, I’d watch TV and they’d show the stock market going up and down and I’d ask my mom, ‘Is that good for Mr. Trump? Will that help Mr. Trump?’ I grew up idolizing this guy. Of course growing up, your idols change, but how cool is it to come full-circle twenty years later? You’d be working for him. That would be cool!
“I think he got that. That boardroom took three hours. He really struggled with it. He’d hear the lies and he’d ask me, ‘Surya, what do you want me to do? You’re not throwing people under the bus.’ I couldn’t. I mean, these people on Arrow weren’t nice to me, but at least they did what I asked them. So as project manager I had to be honest. He felt bad, it’s a crappy situation. But in the end, he’s confined to a game show. It was my mistake in treating it like a job interview. I should have treated it like a game show.”
Surya says he feels physical pain watching the way he’s portrayed on Apprentice, and nothing hurts more than Episode 7, in which he and Arrow were invited to lay down some tracks with his musical hero, Snoop Dogg… “When they said we were going to see Snoop Dogg, I said, ‘Whoa, now this can’t a serious job interview.’ But Snoop? Snoop and Tupac were my favorites. I remember as a seventh grade, walking around with a Snoop-Tupac mix tape. I’d never have the chance to meet Tupac– unless the conspiracy theories are true and he’s really still alive. So Snoop is the closest thing.”
In the memorable episode, Surya was shown playing the wallflower, as teammate Frankie scoffed that he turned shy in the presence of his hero. Inaccurate! insists Surya.
“What I found out was (the producers) only show what they have somebody saying. They showed the crappy things my teammates said. So when Frank said, ‘Surya stood up against the wall the entire time,’ they showed a shot of me standing against the wall. They were able to take all the crappy things my teammates said and used it against me.
“I was literally against the wall for 20 minutes the whole time we were there. That was 20 minutes of a three-hour session, and during that time, I spent time with Snoop, I talked to him about the song, Gin & Juice, and how it was my favorite song in the eighth grade. But at that point, everybody was up close, crowding around– everyone was pretty drunk– they were passing around the Alize.
“At one point, Snoop had had enough. He went off to another room and I went with him. I used to play the drums, and I played some drums. And we talked. I tried to ask him about Tupac and the East Coast beef, but he didn’t want to hear it. He said, “‘No, let’s talk about something else.’”
So why was Surya mistreated by his team and editors? He’s written on his website about racial abuse suffered by Asian actress Shilpa Shetty on the UK version of Big Brother. Was this a case of anti-Asian bias? “At first I thought about it. And you know, it could have been possible, because there totally was that frat boy atmosphere (in Arrow). I don’t know if it was because I’m a minority, because (archrival) James was a minority. The producers saw me and said, ‘Let’s play him up as the engineering Asian guy.’ They wanted to sterotype me as the Indian. James got the ‘jerk edit’ in a way. It’s ironic. If anyone looks at what I did in my life other than the Internet company, I’m not an engineer. I’m not a programmer. They chose to make fun of me. And for those who believe there’s editing, this is the proof.”
Here’s the poignant part: even after his firing, Surya held out hope that it wasn’t over– because he’d been nicknamed “The Hair” on the Apprentice website. “How could I be ‘The Hair’? There’s only one ‘The Hair,’ right? And that’s Trump! So I thought maybe I had it made, maybe at the end, he’d call me back and say he wants two Apprentices. I already knew I didn’t win and at least thought I was going to get a good edit.”
Now that he’s back in Cincinatti, Surya’s got his Surya Says website, and he’s writing a book about politics and how the election process is run like a game show. And after being so royally screwed, we knew he’d never allow himself to be on reality TV again. Right?
“Would I go back? I’d hope I’d say I learned my lesson,” he said. “But an All-Stars Apprentice? Well, an All-Stars version. That’s different. They wouldn’t let the All-Stars look bad. Right?”
(Confidential to Miss May, Alison Waite: Surya wants to get in touch. Click here for his MySpace page.)