Two native Bronxites have recently been given the opportunity of a lifetime participating in the new VH1 reality series I Want to Work for Diddy.
The show, an edgier, hipper version of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, aims for a younger demographic and features hip hop powerhouse Sean Combs, known by his legions of fans as Diddy, conducting a nationwide search for a personal assistant.
Suzanne Siegel, 37, a resident of Pelham Parkway, explains her slightly different path to securing her spot on the show. “Most people lined up around the block,” she said. “I was actually looking for jobs online.”
Siegel took a chance by sending in her cover letter along with the application, despite not knowing the entire concept behind the show. She eventually received a second call back.
Mike Barber, 26, who is from the Claremont Housing Development on 167th Street, also found an unusual entry into the spotlight. He had been given the application through an acquaintance, sent in his resume, and received a callback.
Siegel and Barber were two of 13 participants picked for the show put through daily challenges and tough ordeals, as would be faced by Diddy’s assistant, including following his numerous requests and creating campaigns for his many businesses.
“It was grueling and hard and torturous and amazing and a blessing,” Siegel said of her experience. “The challenges were so hard, but at the same time, I was so lucky to be chosen. Life is about taking risks, and this is one I had to take. Maybe the Bronx taught me that.”
Siegel explains that participants were placed in a household where they would be required to interact and work with one another constantly. “Some were amazing and professional, and others were just not,” she adds. “Mike and I had that instant fraternal bond of being from the Bronx.”
As the show developed, the environment became increasingly intense, moving at a pace the entertainment industry demands.
“Just one moment can change every moment after that; you always have to stay on your toes and expect the unexpected. Especially when dealing with a gentleman like Mr. Combs, when you never know what he’ll need from you,” reflects Barber, who was inspired to start his own company M.I.C. Management, an outlet for new talent and promotions, as well as a not-for-profit organization entitled Youth Entrepreneurs Speaking, which tours high schools and locations with young adults informing them how to best utilize their degrees and their abilities to help them advance in life.
Though Siegel was highly educated and qualified, herself, she too had never experienced working in an industry as that of the Diddy Empire, which includes a record and fashion label, a series of TV shows and movies, and several additional projects.
“It was like getting an advanced degree,” Siegel, a former Bronx Science and Harvard student expressed. “I learned a lot about the entertainment industry and what it takes to be a champion like Diddy.”
Of course, being from the Bronx helped. Said Barber: “Being from the Bronx gave me that hunger and determination to do better for myself and my family.”
Neither could discuss how far they made it in the competition. Bronxites will have to view it for themselves every Monday night at 9 p.m. on VH1. Check your local listings for repeat airings.