The Hired Man

updated 05/03/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Bill Rancic already has his title—president of Trump International Hotel and Tower—but his first order of business should be to make Apprentice loser Omarosa Manigault Stallworth quit prancing around as if she won the $250,000-a-year job on NBC's reality hit. The night after the show's finale, they both flew from New York to L.A.: he to appear on The Tonight Show, she to explore her own personal projects. "I'm in first class, and homeboy's back in, you know, business or coach or something," she gleefully reports. Rancic has just about had it with her. "Omarosa's 15 minutes," he says "are like 17 right now."

After what he went through to get to the top of The Apprentice heap (215,000 applicants, 16 finalists), he's hoping for a bigger chunk of time than that. Nothing in his long experience as an entrepreneur—from charging his grandma's neighbors $5 for pancake breakfasts when he was a boy to selling his own business, Cigars Around the World, for $425,000 plus stock in 2003—prepared the 32-year-old for the live April 15 finale on the studio set of Trump's boardroom. There he and Kwame Jackson, 30, a Harvard MBA with Wall Street experience, received The Donald's verdict. "I was sweating like crazy," says Rancic. For the whole week before "I didn't really sleep. Kwame is a tough competitor. It could have gone either way." Not to Trump: "Bill's a winner. He doesn't stop." A thrill-lover who once tried out for another reality series (he won't say which one), Rancic says, "I've gone from doghouse to penthouse."

It may get scary up there. What exactly are his duties as president of Trump's Chicago real estate complex, which has yet to break ground? "I really don't know yet," says Rancic, who on his own was already developing 37 condo units in Chicago but knows nothing about managing a $700 million, 90-story project. "I'm going to make mistakes. It's human nature." Trump is hedging his bets against that kind of error. "Bill will work with some of the best professionals in the business. That's why he's an apprentice."

At least the new job doesn't require Rancic to relocate: His mom, Gail, and three sisters will be close by. Chicago is also home to his fellow reality TV star and new date, Jen Schefft, 27, ex of Bachelor Andrew Firestone. "We've gone out to dinner a few times," he says, confirming their brief history but shrugging off talk that it's serious. "It's not heavy duty." Rancic may have more pressing things on his mind. The phone rings—it's Trump executive vice president Carolyn Kepcher. "I need to take this."

The Omarosa Show
Her antics stunned viewers. Her real-life story is surprising too

The show is done, but for Omarosa Manigault Stallworth, 30, the real game is just heating up. Dubbed "the best reality TV villain of all time" by challenger Amy Henry, she has already shot a cameo on the soap opera Passions and is busily planning her next move. "I'm working on a talk show deal, a book deal and a line of Omarosa business accessories," she says. "I can do anything: entertainment, politics, business..."

Let's start with Omarosa Damage Control. Telling fibs and wasting time while Kwame's team was organizing a concert starring Jessica Simpson at Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, "she was what did him in," says Donald Trump. "I was very unimpressed." Kwame isn't holding a grudge. "He called me yesterday," she says. And Simpson says the time she spent with her was actually fun. "She was really sweet," she says. "I thought she dressed great."

Some of her over-the-top flash is in Omarosa's genes, says her cousin Lisa Manigault, 32, who still lives in Omarosa's hometown, Youngstown, Ohio. "We used to call Grandma Gladys 'Glad Rags,' because when she got dressed up for church, she was the stuff. My mother's a diva, I'm a diva. All the Manigault women are divas." But Omarosa's a survivor too, a girl from the projects who during auditions showed casting director Robert LaPlante a 4-in. scar from what she says was a stab wound. "I have been stabbed before," she says. "I grew up in the hood." Money was tight ("I've watched my mother buy all of our school clothes at Goodwill," she has said) and her father died when she was only 7. She won't discuss the tragedy, but it may have indirectly helped spur her on to achievement, says Lisa Manigault. "She thinks, 'If I can't do anything else, I'm gonna make my dad proud.' "

The real accomplishments began coming once she overcame a learning disability. "After that," says her cousin, "there was no holding her back." There were beauty pageants, more education, including graduate studies in communications at Howard University in Washington, D.C. (she's finishing her Ph.D: "My dissertation is written, I just have to defend it") and marriage to a devoted husband (Aaron H. Stallworth, who runs an inner-city scholarship program).

She also trails a long, checkered résumé of Washington jobs that she predicts could nonetheless end in the Oval Office. "I could be the first female President, thank you very much," says Omarosa. "The sky's the limit."

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