The Apprentice Aotearoa winner Vanessa's message: 'This is a win for all mums'

The boss babe reveals what's next for her balloon empire and bougie lifestyle

By Florence Hartigan
In the emotional, hotly contested grand finale of The Apprentice Aotearoa, Auckland event stylist Vanessa Goodson went head to head with Southland social media guru Stephen McDowell. Just hours after her win, the ecstatic mum-of-two, 30, sat down with Woman's Day to talk about how the prize – a $50,000 investment and mentorship from self-made millionaire Mike Pero – will change her life.
Congratulations, Vanessa! Did you think you were going to win?
Thank you! In my heart, I felt like I would, but I definitely had my moments of doubt. I'm really proud I got right to the end because the only person that was getting in the way was me – sometimes my overthinking and anxiety were so high. But being myself got me through. When I started comparing myself to other people, I'd remind myself, "Stay in your own lane, Vanessa. Don't look at anyone else."
Tears of joy! Vanessa felt "so proud and powerful" after her win.
What went through your head when Mike announced you as the winner?
I just about rolled off my seat! There was so much emotion. I felt so proud and powerful. This win means everything to me. I feel like I won not just for me, but for every woman out there like me – every boss mum, every dropout and everyone with a business dream who's not good at money.
How is being the Apprentice going to change your life?
Well, firstly, I'm about to have a new workmate – Mike Pero! While we were shooting, we'd see him in the boardroom, but there was no chat afterwards, so I can't wait to pick his brain. As for the $50k, I'm putting it back into the business. I launched my new website OMGNess.co.nz on the night of the finale and my DIY balloon garland boxes started selling right away! My challenge is going to be not taking on too much. There's so much I want to do.
Vanessa's first executive decision was to take the family on vacation
How did you celebrate?
My Apprentice castmate Kennedy [Anderson] and I hosted the bougiest finale screening party for 150 people. Everyone played games like laser tag and go-karts, then we watched the finale together. We had balloon garlands, gourmet food platters and a dessert table with little cookies shaped like Chanel handbags! All my family and castmates were there, and we did a tasting of Stephen's coffee brand. It was a vibe! Now it's all over, I'm taking my family to Queenstown for a well-deserved break.
How did your whānau react to your win?
My partner and I just cried, and my daughter Mila ran up and gave me a big hug. After the finale, she went to the drive-through and was like, "I'm the Apprentice Aotearoa's daughter!" She's already started name-dropping me! My girls learned a lot from the show – now they want to start their own business! Mila's already working on drawing her logo.
Vanessa was in the final three with Michael Wilson (far left) and Stephen.
What was your lowest moment on the show?
I had a meltdown when we were working on the two-in-one haircare bar. I didn't listen to my anxiety signs – I just kept pushing and it all came out when I was under pressure. I cried so much in front of the cameras, but I'm so glad all my real emotion got captured. It was about my kids and my family, and I know a lot of people can relate to that.
Some contestants have referred to backstabbing and people being fake on the show. What didn't we see on screens?
There were lots of emotions. While we were shooting, we were together 24/7, so when we were under stress, of course we were going to take it out on each other. I wasn't offended by anything anyone said about me on screen, but there were definitely some comments I didn't see coming – shout-out to Tony Collins! But seriously, even though it was a competition, we all supported each other. I got crazy-close with everyone and Erna [Basson] really saved my life in the finale.
With partner Kerry and girls Mila (left) and Madeline.
Not only do you act like a boss, but you always show up looking like one. What are your beauty secrets?
I love getting eyelash extensions and lips are definitely my thing – my secret is a long-lasting lipstick, overlining with lipliner. Oh, and filler! I was inspired by Kylie Jenner about three years ago to start getting lip injections. I loved how it looked, so I kept on going back every four months to the point where one day I tried booking and they turned me away! They said, "You don't need any more, Vanessa." I just love the lips lifestyle! I've also had a bit of Botox, which is a lifesaver. I don't think I'd consider getting anything more drastic done, though. I'm loving the look of Miss Vanessa Goodson: The Apprentice Aotearoa! I look so boss and that's no Instagram filter – that's all me!

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