The narrow world of Troy McClain, a 1989 Mead High School graduate, once consisted of a strip “10 miles to the left and 10 miles to the right.”
All of that changed last spring when he became one of the most popular contestants on the first season of “The Apprentice.”
“Now, I am absolutely Australia to Alaska,” said McClain by phone from his Boise home. “I just travel all over the place now, doing public speaking and other things.”
For instance, next Wednesday he jets off to China to co-host the Miss World competition.
“I’m just a podunk idiot from Idaho and now I’m co-hosting Miss World?” said McClain, barely believing it himself. “A competition with 2.1 billion viewers globally? That’s huge!”
However, on Sunday he’s making a smaller trek back to his pre-“Apprentice” world: Spokane.
He’s making a free public appearance and talk at River Park Square’s atrium on Sunday from 1 to 3:30 p.m., presented by Connect Northwest, a Spokane-based organization that encourages and supports budding entrepreneurs.
McClain’s subject: “The Road to ‘The Apprentice.’ ”
“It’s about a young entrepreneur making his way from the country to the concrete,” said McClain. “How I went from Montana to Spokane to Boise and all of a sudden to New York City and around the world.
“I would term it a motivational speech for anybody thinking of going into business, or who has been in business. Really, I talk about my failures, but along with my failures, I learned so much.”
Some of those failures were right here in Spokane. McClain and his family moved to Spokane from Eureka, Mont., in 1988, when he was a junior in high school.
“I said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to graduate with my cousins and all of my relatives, because I’ll end up taking one of my cousins to the senior prom. That’s not going to work for me,’ ” he said. “So we looked at the map and she said, ‘What’s the next big town close to us?’ And she picked Spokane.”
After he graduated from high school, he opened a small gym called Athlete’s Arena on North Division. He ran it for three years, until 1996.
“I count it as both a success and failure,” said McClain. “It was a success as far as landing a successful business partner. But was the business itself a success? No. We kind of put the cart in front of the horse. We had top-of-the-line equipment, but we had no members.”
Still, he said Spokane is where he cut his teeth in business, and he is grateful to several local mentors, including John Selden of Country Homes Power Equipment (“my first job”), Steve Rouse of Rouse’s Towing and Don Walker of Cherry Creek Mortgage.
McClain still operates his own mortgage and financial business out of Boise. Meanwhile, he has made seven TV pilots for shows ranging from an “extreme makeover” show to a “funniest reality audition-tapes show.”
The irony in all of this is that McClain never particularly liked reality shows.
“I had never watched a reality show from beginning to end,” said McClain. “I just wasn’t into ‘em.”
He ended up being surprised at how well “The Apprentice” captured the essence of the experience. He said the show accurately captured the personalities involved, including his friend Kwame Jackson and his nonfriend Omarosa.
“I mean, the essence of Omarosa, by God, is Omarosa,” said McClain. “I’m telling you right now, boss, you can’t melt butter in that woman’s mouth. She is cold. She is a cold woman. They captured her well. And Kwame is Kwame. I’m me.”
If he was surprised at the show’s accuracy, he was flat astounded at its impact.
“I can’t even explain the platform that ‘The Apprentice’ was,” said McClain. “It took off here (in America) and that was great. But they also sold the global rights to it. So ‘The Apprentice’ got aired in China. It’s the No. 1 show in China right now. I was just fired last week in China.”
That explains why he was hired to co-host the Miss World pageant, which will be held in Sanya, China.
“They think I’m the quintessential cowboy, which I’m really not,” said McClain. “But because I wear boots and have my old hat that I wear, they think I’m Crocodile Dundee. I’m like, ‘Wait a second, guys, there are guys that really are cowboys, and I’m not one of them.’ But the perception is that way.”
McClain did not win “The Apprentice,” but Donald Trump told him that he would have won if only he had a college education.
“I said, ‘Mr. Trump, there’s nothing I can do about that,’ and he said, ‘I can do something about it. I’ll pay for you go to college anywhere you want to go in the world, up to a master’s degree,’ ” said McClain.
So McClain is trying to decide where to attend, and will “probably be registering somewhere next fall.”
Meanwhile his immediate goals are more modest. He just hopes that he gets a chance to see some of his old Spokane friends at River Park Square on Sunday.
“I’ve lost contact with so many people I want to see,” he said. “I’m trying to give a shout-out to everyone and say, ‘If you haven’t seen me in a long time, come on by.’ “
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