Date: May 01 2012
Tania Zaetta says she felt bullied on Celebrity Apprentice Australia, the experience leaving her just a little bruised on an emotional level.
''I did feel a bit bullied but my way of dealing with that is to put my head down and work,'' she says.
''It was hard to go through the last few weeks being portrayed as a bit of a baddie when I didn't say anything against anyone and there was no footage of me doing anything bad to anyone. It's just the way they play it out.''
Zaetta was the third celebrity fired on the WIN-TV reality TV show, losing in the boardroom to ''showbiz royalty'' Patti Newton.
The tragedy for her was that while she personally raised more than $70,000 for other contestants' charities, none was raised for her own charity, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, a cause close to her heart. (The money raised during the challenges goes to the charity of the project manager of the winning team.)
''That was really, really very unfortunate. I've been doing anything I can to help raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia because my dad has prostate cancer,'' she says.
''He was diagnosed just over a year ago with aggressive prostate cancer and it was due to the [foundation's] website that I could quickly get my head around it, know how to support dad and understand what treatments were available. Early detection saved my dad's life, there's no doubt about it.''
The former sidekick to Mike Whitney on the 1990s action show Who Dares Wins and sometime actress in Bollywood films, Zaetta was targeted right from the start by her fellow contestants on Celebrity Apprentice.
Chief among the Zaetta antagonists was former model turned model judge Charlotte Dawson, who skewered her at every opportunity.
''We've know each other for 20 years and sit down together and have a coffee together but she's great at creating that drama and conflict, that's her forte,'' Zaetta says.
''She can be a very mean, cold person - I still love her. We have a love-hate relationship - she would be the first to admit that, too. From day one [on the show] she was like, 'Tania, I think you and I should just pull each other's hair out and have cat fights and call each other names because that will make great TV.' I just rolled my eyes and went, 'Charlotte that is so far from me, you know that, I will not even take the bait.' No matter what she says, I'm just rolling my eyes.''
Yet Zaetta says among the first people she spoke to after her firing was televised last week was Dawson. ''We were just on the phone for 40 minutes having a little girly gossip catch-up session which I'm sure will shock everyone.
''We're friends and we both admit - put us in a project like that and we're both alpha females, we're going to clash. She's very outspoken; I just put my head down and shut up.''
Zaetta says she had been heartened by the support she received from fans.
''People are like, 'Hang on a minute, you're the one who raised all the money and you're the one who was fired from the show.' Maybe I was just boring TV because I wouldn't throw tantrums,'' she says.
''My background of the last 15 years in television has been feel-good shows like Who Dares Wins. It was one of the original action reality shows and no matter what a contestant did - even if they could not jump off the 12-storey building - I still gave them a hug and they were my hero for attempting it. So it's not feel-good TV any more, it's all conflict and fights.''
Zaetta says she wanted to enter the bear pit that is Celebrity Apprentice to ''showcase other talents outside those people know you from TV shows''.
''Your business side and, I guess, the kind of person you need to be to sustain a long, long career in a pretty cut-throat industry,'' she says.
Zaetta says she is now happily based in Melbourne and pursuing other opportunities, most likely in radio.
Celebrity Apprentice boss Mark Bouris has described Zaetta as a ''street fighter'' and she has certainly pushed herself from obscurity to fame.
Now 42, Zaetta grew up in country Victoria, just outside Mildura on the Murray River. Her dad, Dennis, was a builder, and mum, Heather, a nurse who later opened the first beauty salon in the area.
''Great upbringing with myself and two younger brothers. Huge property. Horses. My brothers had motorbikes,'' she says.
''I grew up on a brickworks. My father and his father before that actually made the bricks that built a lot of the town, it's all heritage-listed now, the whole property. When Mad Max came out, dad bought a couple of very old Volkswagens and cut the body off them and we had our very own Mad Max buggies from the age of 12 or 13.''
Her big break was getting the co-hosting role on Who Dares Wins, which aired on the Seven Network between 1996 and 1998.
''I was sitting next to [The Voice host] Darren McMullen at the Logies and The Voice has just gone through the roof and I said to him, 'If you're really lucky in this industry you might get one hit show' and I was fortunate that Who Dares Wins was that show for me,'' she says.
''You still kind of pinch yourself and think, 'We're so lucky aren't we?'.''
Who Dares Wins was eventually screened around the world, and led to other opportunities including appearances in Bollywood films and hosting other shows including Mission Implausible in Britain where she would compete in stunts against race car driver Jason Plato.
But India was her real focus, spending 13 years working to build her profile and break into the Bollywood scene.
''My opening scene in my first film was with a man called Amitabh Bachchan who is one of the biggest film stars on the planet. There are temples and monuments named after him. I asked him at the time, 'Do you think there's a room in India for a foreign girl to come in and try to break the market?' And he believed it was. So it was a bit like the Pantene ad, it didn't happen overnight but it did happen.''
More recently she has become the face of weight loss brand Optislim, a surprise given her whippet-thin physique. But Zaetta maintains she has to work at it.
''I'm 42 now so the metabolism has slowed down and I've had to put in the effort to keep trim,'' she said. ''I'm proud of it, because I think a natural, healthy lifestyle pays off as you get older.''
Zaetta also appeared in Baywatch in 1999, reuniting on Celebrity Apprentice with Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. The other contestants gave her stick about mentioning her Baywatch appearance a little too often but Zaetta says it's just another case of editing out the real story.
''When we first started the show, I said on camera, 'David Hasselhoff is never going to remember me. He's worked with thousands of girls on Baywatch and there's no way he's going to remember one little random Aussie chick from over a decade ago.' But of course that doesn't make the cut because that doesn't make great TV,'' she says.
And Zaetta has endured other sharper barbs. In 2009, she received an undisclosed sum and a formal apology from the Chief of Defence after his department leaked false allegations she had sex with troops in Afghanistan during a concert tour.
She has learnt to become philosophical.
''Anyone who has hit 40 has had their heart broken, broken a few hearts, had a few twists and turns and ups and downs in their life,'' she says.
''I think you have to grow with them, stand up for yourself and instead of being a victim, learn how to become a better person, not a bitter person.''
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