As I was about to ring up Katrina Campins at her Miami, FL offices for her newly launched Real Estate Firm, The Campins Company, I had what felt like first date jitters. From watching her on the first season of The Apprentice, I got the impression that she was a no nonsense hard hitting businesswoman who would scrutinize my every question, gesture, and comment. Our phone meeting began as a comical game of telephone tag. This served to break the ice, and when she apologized for it, I felt a sense of relief, as if the playing field had been leveled.
During our lengthy conversation, I discovered a young woman who is extremely bright and almost too driven for her own good. I also found her to be very sweet and vulnerable, a quality that I didn't see on The Apprentice. We bonded on several levels, and our interview transformed into a laid back conversation about: work, relationships, family, ethnicity and expectations about the future.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Hey
Katrina Campins: Hey, how are you? I'm sorry about all the telephone tag.
PR.com: No, no, that's ok. So, how's the weather in Miami?
Katrina Campins: Beautiful, its 78.
PR.com: Oh, gosh. And you've lived there your whole life, right?
Katrina Campins: Yeah, born and raised. I just came back from New York though, where it was freezing!
PR.com: I'm from New York.
Katrina Campins: You are? I love New York. But, it's so cold. It makes you soooo lazy. I went up there for all these events, and it was so cold that all I wanted to do was just curl up in bed.
PR.com: Yup! So... first of all, congratulations on the launch of The Campins Company.
Katrina Campins: Thank you.
PR.com: In 2004, a lot happened to you. You got married, you started your own real estate firm, and you became no longer an anonymous person...
Katrina Campins: Yeah. Last year was a crazy year. It was insane. A lot of stuff went on.
PR.com: Has everything calmed down to status quo or is your head still spinning in circles?
Katrina Campins: I'm spinning more now than ever. I thought that once The Apprentice 2 and 3 came about, there would be less tension on us; it's actually been the opposite. Because we were the first, and because people see us as being a lot more genuine; being there for the right reasons. So, we're getting a lot more opportunities that maybe would have been sent their way.
Katrina Campins: Yeah, it's quite interesting. When I embarked on this venture, I thought that it would destroy everything that I tried so hard to prove in the business world. Once the show became the big phenomenon that it had become, I realized that I needed to use it as a stepping stone to something else rather than just, oh ok, here are my 15 minutes of fame, and let me enjoy it while it lasts. Kwame and I see eye to eye on all of these things, and we really want to use this to become not Donald Trump, but even bigger than Donald Trump! It's been phenomenal for my career. I had a strong clientele beforehand, but my dream has always been to have my own real estate brokerage, one stop shop, powerhouse... so, I decided that, although it was sooner than I had expected to do it, it was the perfect opportunity for me to branch out. And it's been unbelievable.
PR.com: And you're only 25! So, you're basically the classic overachiever.
Katrina Campins: I'm a perfectionist and I'm anal retentive, and the tough thing about it is that I'm my worst critic. I'm so tough on myself, so my husband constantly reminds me, "your 25 years old!" I'm constantly thinking... "I can be doing this, I can be doing that, why am I doing this?" Also, I'm just very competitive with myself more than anything. In turn, I drive myself crazy.
PR.com: Well, I've done research on you, and you went to the University of Miami, where you had a 4.0 GPA throughout your college career.
Katrina Campins: And I studied International Finance and Marketing. It's funny, 'cause I really wanted to go to New York to study, and I got a scholarship to Cornell and a bunch of other schools up there 'cause I'm Hispanic, and because I had a great GPA and I was involved with so many things. But then I fell in love with the real estate market, so that's why I stayed here [in Miami].
PR.com: What drove you to get your real estate license at the age of 18? You could have just kicked back and enjoyed your college experience, and not had to worry about the business world quite so soon.
Katrina Campins: It's interesting because most of my friends, I would say, had the whole college experience. And I can honestly tell you that I didn't because I spent most of my time in the library. Looking back, I was never interested in partying on Thursday night like most college people did, and I never even went out on a Thursday night until after college. I was the biggest dork!
PR.com: What do you think it is that drives you to be such a perfectionist in everything that you do?
Katrina Campins: I think my mother instilled that in me at a very young age. She would always tell me that education is the one thing that no one can take away from you. And she always told me, "don't depend on a man for anything!" She always pushed me. I don't think I would have been this obsessive compulsive had she not pushed me to always strive for the best.
PR.com: Was it something that you appreciated as a child, or was it something that made you feel pressured?
Katrina Campins: In high school I would say that we fought like cats and dogs. I would come home with an A- minus and she would be like, "why didn't you get an A?" At the time of course I didn't appreciate that, and we got in constant fights about that. Then in college I found myself doing it to myself. She never even asked [about it]. It was just something I did on my own.
PR.com: So then her voice became your internal voice as you got older.
Katrina Campins: It's scary! I actually just convinced her to come and work with me at the company, and it's really scary how much I resemble her. You know, you always say you don't want to end up like your mother, but you eventually do...
PR.com: Right. You follow the pattern that you saw as a child as you get older...
Katrina Campins: It's insane, it's scary! I watch things she does, and I'm like, "oh my god, that's so me!"
PR.com: Have you ever passed by a mirror making a facial expression and you see that it's your mother?
Katrina Campins: You know what's scary? When I watched myself on television, I realized, she realized too, how many of the same faces we make. Watching myself on TV was definitely very humbling. First of all, we didn't have very much time to get ready. I felt like I looked like a disaster. My grandmother was sending moisturizing cream to me saying, "if you keep making so many faces, you're gonna wrinkle up before your time."
PR.com: When you watched yourself on The Apprentice, did you say, "Ok, that's Katrina," or did you look at the screen and say "Who is this person that I'm watching who looks like me?!"
Katrina Campins: Exactly! The second thing that you said. And it was tough at first. I would say the first few episodes... I remember the third episode was the episode that I actually screamed at Omarosa and told her to shut up, and that was before she became a villain. I remember calling up producers and telling them that they had ruined my life and that I could no longer leave my house, because I couldn't walk into a Starbucks or a CVS [drugstore] without people looking at me like I should be in jail for screaming at her. People were so quick to judge. Then she became the villain, and the next episode after that, I started getting fan mail because of it. So, it made me realize that the public switches so quickly and that your persona is completely up for grabs.
PR.com: Do you think that the other cast members, including Omarosa, came off the way that they were in person, or do you think it was the magic of editing that created a lot of those personas?
Katrina Campins: I think some people came off exactly the way they were, and I think others didn't. Amy actually said, "I think everyone came off the way they really were except Katrina and Kwame." And people asked her, why do you say that? And she said "Kwame is such a bright guy but he's also so much more fun then they portrayed him." Kwame and I are very close and I always tease him because I say, "if people didn't know you, they'd think you're such a straight arrowed boring creature," and really, he's intelligent, he's got his head on straight, but he's also A LOT of fun and a caring, caring person. He loves to have fun and party, which you would never know...
PR.com: No, I would never have known that. Also, I'm sensing a warm soft side to you that I didn't pick up on while watching The Apprentice.
Katrina Campins: When I was on the show, the cutthroat environment was just not my nature. So, the first three episodes I was actually pretty silent. And one of the producers said to me "boy, we thought you were a casting mistake there for a second, because you didn't say anything."
PR.com: Did that make you sink inside, when you heard that?
Katrina Campins: Oh my god, when he said that, I was like "casting mistake???" Because I went to the audition and I was very outspoken, but when they put me in an environment with so many type A personalities, my defense was to just shut up. I wish I had continued to shut up, because I think it would have been better in the end. But Omarosa evoked emotions in me that my best friend said she's never seen [in me before]. And you know what else was weird? I found that a lot of people were camera whores, like Omarosa. She had it planned out from point A. She told me, "villains get the most publicity in every reality show. I've studied my reality shows." She knew what her mission was, and if anything, I congratulate her for achieving it. It's not what I would have chosen to do.
PR.com: So people became very media savvy, very quickly?
Katrina Campins: I would say she (Omarosa) was media savvy. And I think Troy was media savvy. Troy had all these canned sayings that he knew would get him to be America's Golden Boy. I was very naÃ¯ve. Ereka (Vetrini) and I talk about how naÃ¯ve we were. I mean, we just didn't know. There were times when I would run from the camera because I didn't want to do another interview.
PR.com: Did you ever stop and think to yourself, "wait a minute, I'm not an actress, I'm a real estate broker. Why am I being put in this type of position?"
Katrina Campins: The first few days I was miserable and I was thinking, "what have I done to myself? What am I doing here? This is insane." [Once I came to bond with people], we all got very close very quickly, and I was having fun. After Ereka was gone and Heidi was gone and a lot of people I got along with were gone, I no longer was really passionate about it and that's when I felt that I would have to become someone that I'm not in order to win the game. I would have to backstab, lie and cheat. That's just something I didn't want. Not only did I not want to do that, but I didn't want to be showcased as that on television. So, I really didn't put up too much of a fight towards the end.
PR.com: Well you got pretty far...
Katrina Campins: I remember when I left, the producers were screaming at me like, "why didn't you fight?! You weren't supposed to be gone! Why didn't you fight? We've never seen you so mellow!" But, I always tell myself, when you're no longer passionate, it's time to step out. And that's what I did.
PR.com: That seems to be a big word for you. I've been to your website several times and I noticed that you use the word "passion" in describing your company's philosophy a lot.
Katrina Campins: That's really my philosophy in life...
PR.com: What's your definition of "passion?"
Katrina Campins: I would say it's something that you feel inside for something that you do, and you're having fun doing it and you don't realize that money's coming in because of it. I did very well financially thru real estate but, it was unbelievable... Sometimes I would forget to cash my checks. It's not why I did it. Now it's important for the cash to be coming in to build the company. It's determination and drive. I don't think you can teach that.
PR.com: Are you of Cuban descent?
Katrina Campins: My dad's family is from Spain and my mom's is from Cuba. I'm the only Latin person who's ever been on one of Donald Trump's shows, and I spoke Spanish on the show, but it was never shown.
PR.com: Yeah, I never saw it mentioned, ever, that you are Latino...
Katrina Campins: People always think I'm American, it's so funny. My mother, if you speak to her, has less of an accent then I do. My dad's the one who has an accent. [My mom] looks like a white Jewish woman. She wishes she were too.
PR.com: I'm Jewish...
Katrina Campins: Oh my god, you don't understand! First of all, I told my mom I was gonna convert to Judaism, and all her friends are Jewish. She thinks she's Jewish! It's so funny.
PR.com: But aren't you guys surrounded by so much Latino culture in Miami?
Katrina Campins: Most of my friends are American. People in the Latin [community] don't think I'm Latin at all. It's really strange. So they treat me like a Gringa. It's so weird. Now, I've been doing so many things with charities with the Latin community and so many Latin actors and singers and so forth. So now, people are beginning to realize. But before then, I would say that most of the people around me are Jewish. Jewish people have a great outlook on life, and I think that's why they're so successful.
PR.com: When did you and your husband, Ben Moss, get married?
Katrina Campins: We got married August 14 here in Miami, actually at one of Trump's buildings, and we'd been dating since I was 16.
PR.com: You never dated anybody except for each other?
Katrina Campins: Yup. We basically grew up together, I mean, we were sixteen years old. So, you don't really know too much about life when you're sixteen, although you think you do. He's become my best friend, he's involved in my business now.
PR.com: Do you guys talk shop a lot in your downtime, when you're just hanging out?
Katrina Campins: Yeah. Maybe too much.
PR.com: Do you have to tell each other to shut up and just relax and have fun?
Katrina Campins: We had that conversation yesterday. We decided that we have to have certain days of the week where we just don't talk about business.
PR.com: Tell me about 605 Lincoln Rd. because I know it's a very prestigious property in Miami, and The Campins Company has an exclusive to represent it...
Katrina Campins: 605 Lincoln is the Sony Music Building on Lincoln Rd. [in Miami] and what we're all trying to do together, with the Lincoln Road Association, is we're trying to make it the next 5th Avenue of Miami. There really isn't a 5th Avenue type street yet. And a lot of big time tenants are coming to Lincoln Rd., Starbucks, Oakley, Apple Computer...there's a lot of big tenants who are actually coming on board. With 605 [Lincoln], the developer acquired the building, turned it into office condos and we sold 95% in 4 hours. It was a great response.
PR.com: That's incredible!
Katrina Campins: Yeah, we did very well. Much better then we anticipated. Office condos are the next big thing here in Miami. Sony takes up the sixth, seventh and part of the third floor. I'm on the third floor as well. I bought my office condo where the Sony offices are.
PR.com: On NBC 6 in South Florida, you are hosting a show called "Step Inside". Tell me about that...
Katrina Campins: They are segments that come on during The Today Show, and the goal is to de-mystify the South Florida real estate market. So many people are so confused on where to invest and what to do. Our goal on the program is to showcase certain developments that I believe in, and that I think are going to be successful and have strong people backing it up. I'm now working together with some producers to develop a real estate based show about different hot spots throughout the country. It would be a national show.
PR.com: I have this theory that the American Dream as we know it has shifted somewhat, meaning that the new American Dream is to obtain celebrity in order to then generate income from the cache that that celebrity brings. Basically, obtaining celebrity status creates many avenues for generating personal income that the average person doesn't have...
Katrina Campins: I would say that's something that's relatively new, because of reality television. And people have seen how successful others have become in reality television; Donald Trump being a perfect example. Now Martha Stewart seems like she's gonna be more successful after being in jail then before. So it's kind of strange the way that our culture and society awards people.
PR.com: Have you found that to be your personal experience? Has being on The Apprentice created income and other career opportunities that you never would have had if not for the show?
Katrina Campins: Most definitely! And I didn't realize the power [of it]. I never really knew what stars names were, I was never really in tune with it. I didn't watch much television, and I would say, since then, it's actually taught me a lot about how our society feels about celebrities, and how we treat them and how powerful they really are. A lot of times it's just perception. But I've learned that perception creates reality, and it's how you utilize it as a stepping stone. It's incredible how powerful television is. Mark Burnett (Producer of The Apprentice) told me that 1 in every 3 people in the United States saw [The Apprentice] finale. I said to him, "your self promotion is exactly like Trump. You guys are rubbing off on each other." When I went out into the streets, I realized, "boy, he really was right." People still to this day, come up to me and tell me how influential the show was. Kids come up to me and tell me they want to start a business.
PR.com: What were the circumstances in which you first found out about The Apprentice auditions?
Katrina Campins: I was representing and actually still do, represent a lot of NFL Players with their financial needs. One of the players I was representing... his girlfriend was there and they were trying to rip him off, and my claws came out at the meeting. We ended up getting the exact deal that we anticipated, and so right after this she said, "oh, there's this show that was on The Today Show and I think you would be perfect for it. She sent it to me three times and I deleted the email and told her "no, no, no, no." And then another great friend of mine actually taped me the day of the deadline and sent it in and they called me. She followed me an entire day and I told her "get out of my face, this is ridiculous, I'm not doing this." And she just came along with me an entire day and I was just laughing like it was a joke. I didn't really think she was gonna send it in, and she did! They called me the next day, and I went for an interview and the next thing you know I was in LA.
PR.com: So it's almost as if it was meant to be. You were pushing it away like the plague and it followed you and caught you.
Katrina Campins: I think everything happens for a reason, as corny as that sounds.
PR.com: What would you say is the biggest life lesson either professionally or personally that you learned from Donald Trump?
Katrina Campins: To brand yourself, because your name is everything and if you can create an empire around that, then you've really achieved success. And so, I actually renamed my company after going on the show [to The Campins Company].
PR.com: Although he is extremely successful, nobody's perfect...did you see anything that you think can be improved within his organization?
Katrina Campins: I would say that he is great at what he does, and he's a great businessman; don't get me wrong. But I think that his major expertise is marketing and branding. I think he is a master of branding before being a great businessman.
PR.com: It would seem that that is what he enjoys more then being a businessman.
Katrina Campins: I think he is a frustrated entertainer. He wants to be an entertainer more then a businessman. He just doesn't realize it, and I think that now that's he's seen a little bit of it, he's really, really into it.
PR.com: I think he's loving every minute of the show and the franchise that it created.
Katrina Campins: Mmm hmm!
PR.com: There's a quote I found when I did some research on you and this is the quote, "A woman that claims she doesn't use her sex appeal to sell, simply hasn't learned how to use it to her advantage."
Katrina Campins: I knew you were gonna say that quote. (We both giggle) Cause that's the only quote that people use with me, and it was the last thing that I said before being sent [back] to Miami. The reason I said that is because they were filming an NBC commercial and I knew that they needed some good stuff, and they wouldn't let me go until I said something that was good. I was sick and tired of the cameras and I had had it. So, I was like, "you want a good quote, I'll give you a good quote!" What I meant by that and what I strongly believe is that a woman has a distinct advantage over any man if she's able to strike a delicate balance between femininity and respect.
PR.com: So you don't mind that quote being super glued to you?
Katrina Campins: I don't mind it because it allows me to really explain to people what I meant by that. I think that I get a bad rap before people actually meet me. A lot of my clients are women, cause women are the primary decision makers when it comes to real estate. Men want to keep women happy and sometimes they just give their wife their wallet and let them buy whatever they want to buy. Most of the time it's real estate, because that's what makes them happy. So a lot of the times, the women are making the decision.
PR.com: In any sales process I've ever been involved in, it's always the wife making the ultimate decision...
Katrina Campins: Yup, exactly! And there's always a strong woman behind every man.
PR.com: You turned down a quarter of a million dollars to pose for Playboy.
Katrina Campins: Yes.
PR.com: And you posed for FHM for free. Did it sting to turn down all that cash, or did you not even give it a second thought?
Katrina Campins: I always said beforehand that I would never do Playboy. It was something that I've never believed in, and I think that that's pornography. There's a distinct line between FHM and Playboy. FHM to me is not pornography, you're not naked. But, when that money was presented to me and I was sucked up in that whole...well it was just so crazy and everything happened so quickly. I thought about it for a second and I decided that it wasn't enough money. I was pretty difficult with them. I told them I would do it for a million dollars and they were like "we're not even giving Britney Spears a million dollars! We wouldn't give you a million dollars!" (We both burst out in giggles) So I was like, "I'm not interested."
PR.com: Wouldn't that fall along the lines of women using their sex appeal to sell?
Katrina Campins: I think that women should use their femininity and when I say femininity, I don't mean your breasts or your legs. I mean the fact that you're a woman and that, in my mind, women are more powerful then men. They just need to learn how to really embrace their femininity.
PR.com: Do you kind of feel like if women organized, we could rule the world?
Katrina Campins: Yes! There's so many stupid men that right now, are so powerful. It's because they have either a secretary or an assistant behind them that's a woman, that's really covering their butt. There are so many people who are perceived to be so powerful, and when I meet them, I'm just so deeply disappointed.
PR.com: Well, that's part of the celebrity illusion that we were talking about before.
Katrina Campins: Mmm hmmm.
PR.com: It's got nothing to do with the person...
Katrina Campins: Nothing to do with the person, you're right.
PR.com: What do you think of a man using his sex appeal to sell?
Katrina Campins: I think that men use their charm all the time but it's not really brought to people's attention the way that it is when a woman does it. I think on the show, Troy used his charm constantly. But that wasn't ever seen as a negative. It was always seen as a positive. I think it's done all the time. It's just that women have just recently become as powerful as they are, and I think that it's almost men trying to bring women down in a sense.
PR.com: I don't want us to come off as "Thelma and Louise" in this interview (we both break up laughing) ...
Katrina Campins: I love men, don't get me wrong. I think that men are awesome. I get along with them so much better then I do with women...
Katrina Campins: They're very cut and dry like I am. I get criticized all the time for being too cut and dry and people tell me, even my husband tells me, "show me a little emotion," because my personality and my emotions are so in line with that of a man's.
PR.com: That's something we have in common. I feel that I can let my sense of humor fly more around men. When I'm in a business situation with women, I find myself saying a lot, "let's take the emotion out of it and just try to fix the situation"... Women have a hard time getting past the details, whereas men can just go right into fixing mode.
Katrina Campins: Exactly... and men forget about things so [easily]. They can get into a big fight and in an hour they're fine and jolly. I've become more like that now. I would say when I was younger that I would hold something deep in... if I was mad at someone, I would really hold it against them, but now, I brush it off, and I say, "It only makes me stronger."
PR.com: Plus, holding a grudge isn't healthy, because if you think about it...you're the one who's holding it...
Katrina Campins: ...and it just brings negative energy.
PR.com: If you could wave a magic wand and erase one decision in your life, what would it be?
Katrina Campins: The only thing I can think of that was a tragic part of my life is when my husband and I got assaulted right before our wedding last year. I wish that I had never even parked in that lot and ...
PR.com: Yeah, what happened there? Because there were some reports that made it sound like you and your husband attacked these two toe-truck drivers and it just didn't make any sense to me...
Katrina Campins: And when people meet my husband, they're like, "he's just the nicest person. He doesn't have a bad bone in his body." He's a much better person then I am. When the state attorney met him she was like, "they said that he beat them up?? Yeah ok (sarcastically)." Again, it's the media that's creating something that wasn't there, strictly for their own purposes to sell magazines.
PR.com: Well, I'm glad that you're ok, and that your nose healed.
Katrina Campins: Thank you.
PR.com: So what decision in your life are you most proud of?
Katrina Campins: I would say I'm pretty proud of myself for starting this business (The Campins Company), because I could have taken the easy way out and I could made a good living doing other things and not really taken the risk. But I'm really proud of the fact that I actually took the risk, and at my age decided to go out on my own. To work my behind off to get this company going. My goal is really to just keep my family name going.
PR.com: Hence the name: The Campins Company. If you were an outside observer to The Campins Company, what advice would you give yourself to improve and grow the company?
Katrina Campins: To keep a positive outlook on life. My husband says to me, "remember why you started this company. It's because you love what you do and your passionate about it and because you wanted to achieve something. You don't need to do this." It's funny, because we all make our lives so hectic and difficult, but it really doesn't have to be that hectic and difficult. I know that I put more pressure on myself then I ever need to. It's self inflicted. You always dream of having a white picket fence and the dog...and there really is no perfect life.
PR.com: A year and a half ago I adopted a dog. I never had an animal in my life before...
Katrina Campins: What kind? We adopted a dog too?
PR.com: Oh really? I have a Shih Ztu, a little boy
Katrina Campins: Awww
PR.com: He just changed my whole way of looking at the world. I'm still very ambitious, but he re-focused my mind to appreciate simplicity. When I'm really stressed, I'll play with him and it completely re-focuses my mind and relaxes me.
Katrina Campins: Isn't that funny? We have a field at the University of Miami, and we'll go out there and throw a ball and sometimes I'll look at my husband and he'll look at me and we think, "this is so relaxing." It's time that you take for yourself and just forget about the world. I never understood it when people said that their dog's are like their children. I would jump in front of a gun, if someone tried to shoot her. She's made me look at life completely different too. When you look at them and you look at kids and see how carefree they are, it teaches you so much about life.
PR.com: The third season of The Apprentice is High School educated contestants versus College educated contestants. Do you think a college education is necessary for success?
Katrina Campins: No. Some of my most successful clients/friends are high school grads. It's something I didn't even need for my industry. I think that I would have been fine, and I think that I would have been even more ahead then I am now had I not gone to college, because I would have used that time to build a business. I did it for myself more then anything else.
PR.com: Where do you value street smarts and common sense versus book smarts?
Katrina Campins: If you can have both, you're very, very fortunate. So many people don't have common sense. Common sense is so critical. Without that, you can't relate to the masses, and you can't relate to the people that you're catering to; your target market. The older you become and the more you become involved in the business world, you realize that connections and relationships are everything.
PR.com: Personal relationships...
Katrina Campins: Oh my god, it's everything! You could be as dumb as a rock and if you have great connections, you'll succeed.
PR.com: You have been lovely. Have a great Valentine's Day, and don't talk about real estate.
Katrina Campins: I know, I know. No real estate talk (we both laugh).
View Katrina Campins' PR.com Company Profile for The Campins Company