‘The Telegraph is my paper. You won’t be too mean about me?’ It’s a rare moment of weakness. For all his bluster, incisive words and sharp suits, the latest victim of Sir Alan Sugar’s extreme recruitment drive, The Apprentice, is clearly concerned about the public’s perception of him. He appears to know that he is not perfect. Who would have thought it?
Raef Bjayou, sculpted of hair and bushy of brow, the man who referred to a performance by a pair of child actors in a tissue commercial as ‘DiCaprio-esque’, is self-aware.
This is a rare attribute in the BBC’s reality-TV show, in which Sir Alan hunts for a bright young thing to mentor. ‘Flaw’ is clearly not a word in many of their dictionaries.
However, Raef’s self-knowledge makes his departure all the more upsetting. Perhaps the last genuine character on the show, the space he leaves behind only emphasises the vacuous nature of the contestants left to entertain us on Wednesday evenings.
When I ask him about his ignominious exit (Sir Alan referred to him as ‘a lot of hot air’), he is clearly disappointed. ‘I honestly thought I had what it takes to see it through to the end.’
He was eventually undone by his own enthusiasm. In this week’s task, his team was asked to create a tissue commercial. Raef and Michael filmed an attractive, touching advert with Siân Lloyd, two cute children, and Ronan Keating singing in the background. But, to Sir Alan’s obvious ire, they completely forgot to show any tissues.
‘You could argue that perhaps we enjoyed ourselves too much’ he concedes.
Had his artistic aspirations got the better of him? Is it actually a case of ‘what I really want to do is act’?
‘Not at all. It’s very tough going on a show like The Apprentice because when you come out and try to explore different avenues, you are automatically labelled as somebody who went on to the show to use it as a platform.’
But not him?
‘I’m a Jack of all trades, master of some.’
It is another embarrassing yet memorable phrase from the man who announced, in the first episode, that ‘the spoken word is my tool’. In the flesh he is startlingly well-groomed. He is also polite, a touch pompous, but genuinely friendly – three reasons, perhaps, why an army of female (and some male) fans have set up tribute sites on Bebo and YouTube.
Initially considered an ‘absolute pillock’, Raef’s defining moment came when he stood up to a savage attack on the beleaguered Sara Dhada, led by a fuming, rambling Lee McQueen. ‘I reined him in,’ he says with surprising modesty.
But he will say nothing ill of his fellow contestants. Except of Michael, co-creator of the tissue-less commercial.
‘Michael is ever the actor. He gives puppy dog eyes in the boardroom. Sir Alan was obviously taken by that.’
You, not so much?
‘I’m a good judge of character and I could suss Michael out fairly quickly. He’s a social chameleon. I’m a guy who won’t cheat to get ahead.’
That is the only uncomplimentary thing he has to say, except for the ‘DiCaprio-esque’ comment about the children, which I learn means ‘woody’.
So what does the future hold? ‘I found in The Apprentice that I absolutely love working with people.’
‘A chat show, then?’
That infamous laugh erupts out of him.
‘I’ll see what comes my way.’