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Interview | ‘The Apprentice’ star Frank Brooks speaks about being gay in the corporate world

Brooks opens up about whether sexuality should be an issue for a good business partner

By Steve Brown

Words: Steve Brown

The Apprentice is back on our screens and in full swing.

In the last episode on Wednesday (October 17), Frank Brooks was the latest hopeful to be fired by Lord Sugar.

However, many people took to social media after the openly gay candidate was criticised for being too ’emotional’ during the task – which was to create, design and bake doughnuts.

Now, in an exclusive interview with Attitude, Frank has opened up about his sexuality and his experience on the BBC programme.

You were fired from The Apprentice on Wednesday. How was the experience for you?

Overall it was an amazing experience. Truly life-changing. I’m a big fan of the show and to be selected from the thousands of people who auditioned was a dream come true. The whole process itself, sort of found it what I expected. It was tough. It was intense. You really throw yourself into stuff. But actually I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the tasks, meeting all the other candidates, being on location in the house. So the overall experience was amazing.

Do you feel you were the right candidate to be fired?

Absolutely not. I don’t think you’d expect me to say anything else. But I really feel like I was blindsided. I shouldn’t have been brought into that bottom three, I was not the reason that we failed the task. I think project management wasn’t up to par. It’s unfortunate I fell victim of those mistakes. But obviously it’s a competition. I had a great experience on the show. I really hope it will be a springboard and learning experience for me.

People criticised comments that you were too ‘emotional’, how do you feel watching that back now?

Yeah, that was a word that definitely kept coming back up three or four times during the episode and afterwards. I really don’t like the word ‘emotional’. I feel it has negative connotations and can be seen as unstable and I feel it was a bit of an unjust comment, I think. I will except that I am quite an animated character and maybe brought a sense of drama to the task, but in the sense of emotional I really disagree with that and I will stand by it.

Do you think because of your sexuality, you’re not seen as an authoritative figure?

No I wouldn’t say that was the case. I think the fact that early on in the process, everybody wanted to make their voice heard and I think that I was project manager in week two and maybe people thought because we lost, I might have had a target on my back. I don’t know if the people thought that could be the reason to question my abilities in the task. But I don’t think it was my sexuality that did that. In those early tasks, everybody is trying to get their opinion across and you don’t want to waste time discussing something, you want to kind of get on because unfortunately you want to win.

Did the editing process make you out to be more emotional than you were?

I think it’s difficult because obviously you’ve got to get all those hours of filming into one hour episode, so there are things that make the cut and things that don’t. I think they are focused on the first half hour of us in the kitchen. We got up at 2am and 45 minutes later we were in the kitchen. Obviously tensions were thwart from the start. Everyone is feeling the pressure. Perhaps it was highlighted a little bit at the start when we were trying to find our feet. Unfortunately that is the show and it’s about highlighting the ups and the downs.

Has your sexuality stopped you getting jobs in the past?

I’ve been really lucky actually, it’s never been an issue. I’ve never had to justify that at all. Everything I’ve gone for in life, I have been successful with, I have been very lucky and I think that you can get caught up in that and I know a lot of people don’t have it that way and they are prejudice against and I feel quite lucky and I think that’s why it’s good to talk about these experiences of it never been an issue. I don’t think I actually ever said in my audition about my sexuality because to me it doesn’t make a difference. I’m still a credible candidate. I still have good business plans and I was the right person to be pick as a candidate this year.

How does it make you feel that still today gay businessmen and women are discriminated against?

It’s difficult and hard to hear. It’s a shame that it is still happening now the prejudice against, not just sexuality, but gender and it is frustrating that it can distract from being successful and from people have really great ideas and taking people as their own person. It really makes me angry that we still talking about this as an issue. I have been lucky and I’m grateful for that. But I totally appreciate that there are gay men and women and trans people who are struggling to get their voice heard in the way of business. It can seem sometimes that it is this corporate lifestyle but I think you just have to be true to yourself and not let that be the focus point of anything you are trying to get across.

Around 70 per cent of people fear coming out at work because of discrimination, how would you advise those struggling to come out?

I think it’s difficult. I think the thing people should realise is that it isn’t an issue on how good you are to do a job. I would say to those people don’t feel like you have to do it. It’s not a rite of passage. And I know some people feel more comfortable doing that. I have come across a lot of gay men and women who are choosing to keep things separate and that’s how they deal with it. My advice would be to just own it yourself and if it comes out then so be it but don’t feel forced to do it and people generally think it’s a rite of passage to come out on your second day at work. We live in a society where we are pressure to feel open and be upfront straight away. Where actually people need to face value and your character and what you can bring to the table.

Your Instagram account is full of images of you celebrating Pride, but did you ever hide your sexuality?

Not necessarily. I don’t think it’s a case of hiding. I think it’s just a question of knowing the right time and the right place to talk about that. With my view on it, we are still in a society where people do feel uncomfortable and I totally appreciate that. We all have things that we don’t understand and for me personally, the way I dealt with that as to accept that you get a sense that some people don’t want to talk about it so you don’t talk about it with those people. It doesn’t have to be a thing. You don’t ask them about their personal life and they don’t ask you about yours. I think it’s about acceptance and knowing that we are all different. We have a long way to go to equality across sexuality and gender – which I am really passionate about – but to me, I never had to hide that but I feel you have to sort of be sensitive in some aspects as not everybody is as accepting. I don’t know if we will ever get there but I really hope we get to the point were it doesn’t become an issue. It really shouldn’t be.

When did you realise that you were gay?

Around university. That is the time where you really discover yourself. I learnt a lot about me as a person and my character and found that was actually who I was. I think you just start to life that version and that was really a positive thing for me and really allowed me to, after university, really focus after that cloud gets lifted.

How was coming out for you?

To be honest, it didn’t really happen on one day. It was over a couple of days and everybody was accepting and receptive but I know that not everyone has that.