Donald Trump, although he'd like you to think it on THE APPRENTICE, is not a self-made man. Post-college, he immediately went to work for his father's company. Only through this was he able to build his empire. Without daddy, it is also likely that Trump would have gone bankrupt sometime in the 90's. Unable to pay off loans and billions of dollars in debt, it was his father's reputation and, eventually, the profits gained from selling his company after he died that rescued Donald from the hole he created. Trump is a shrewd businessman, don't get me wrong. You can be a great developer and still go bankrupt a number of times over your career; it comes with the territory. However, Donald's actions point to an extreme insecurity with how the public perceives him.
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Thank God for this insecurity. THE APPRENTICE thrives on it. It is because of it that the character of "The Donaldï¿½? was created. Trump has created a persona for himself that, though it borders on self-parody at times, is unique and altogether interesting. He is no-nonsense and rude. If he thinks you messed up, he will take you to task. He doesn't hesitate to personally attack you during THE APPRENTICE on national television. He is not shy about flaunting his wealth in ways that would seem overly pretentious if it wasn't Donald Trump. With him, you expect nothing less.
How has he gotten to this point? Early on, Trump must have made a clear decision that not only did he want to be wealthy, he wanted fame to accompany it. Doing everything possible to firmly entrench himself in the popular zeitgeist, Trump became America's symbol of wealth. Symbols are powerful things and once he grabbed hold of that symbolic persona, he certainly wasn't going to let go.
Bill Gates is almost fifty times wealthier than Donald, but also probably fifty times less famous and, culturally at least, far less significant. Truth be told, there are dozens of men just like Trump in America, borderline billionaire real-estate magnates with monstrous egos. He has just marketed himself better. He marries beautiful women, says controversial things, lives in a maniacally luxurious fashion, and takes every opportunity possible to appear in TV and film.
Being publicly recognizable is undoubtedly satisfying to Trump personally, but it also doesn't hurt his bank account. On season two of THE APPRENTICE alone, Trump made $48 million for his involvement. He constantly rakes in million dollar fees for TV commercials and public appearances. See, it's all circular: Becoming wealthy allowed Trump to create his public persona, which he then marketed until it made him more wealthy.
All of this allows THE APPRENTICE to avoid what could have a boring reality TV retread and make it the involving, intriguing and unpredictable hit it has become. Well played, Donald.