Apprentice winner Marnie Swindells watched her dad die in the caravan they shared when she was just eight years old — but believes her childhood trauma drove her to success.
Lord Sugar‘s new business partner was wearing her school uniform when her beloved father lost his life in front of her eyes after she directed an ambulance through the caravan park to where he urgently needed medical care.
Just days after witnessing the heartbreaking event, boxing gym owner Marnie, 28, performed the lead role in her school’s rendition of Grease, dancing and singing on stage in a bid to prove to the world her determination to succeed, even as a grieving child.
In an exclusive interview, Marnie explained to MailOnline how she kept her late dad by her side during the Apprentice process by wearing a gold bracelet he had planned to gift her when she turned nine, but he sadly died weeks before her birthday.
She said: ‘My dad died very suddenly while we were in the caravan when he was 47. I saw the whole thing happen and I was actually the person that got the ambulance.
Apprentice winner Marnie Swindells watched her dad die in the caravan they shared when she was just eight years old — but believes her childhood trauma drove her to success
Lord Sugar’s new business partner was wearing her school uniform when her beloved father lost his life in front of her eyes after she directed an ambulance through the caravan park
Just days after witnessing the heartbreaking event, boxing gym owner Marnie performed the lead role in her school’s rendition of Grease (Marnie pictured in her caravan as a child)
‘I ran to direct them because they couldn’t get in the site where we lived, I was running in my school uniform in front of the ambulance and there was this immense pressure to get them to the caravan quickly to try and help.’
An emotional Marnie didn’t want to divulge exactly how her father died but explained it was an accident, which on a different day could have been avoided.
Marnie, who grew up in Oldham, Manchester, said the same week her dad passed she acted in a school musical after her mum advised that staying strong was the only way to move forward.
She explained: ‘I was the lead part in a school play around the time he died and within two days I was back in school and performing.
‘He died on a Tuesday and on the Friday night I played Sandy in Grease and was up on stage singing and dancing. My mum is very tough, and she said it’s happened now, and we have to carry on.
‘It was a strange time because I felt I had to step up and become the man of the house because my mum was never very good with forms or letters, all the admin that comes when someone dies even at eight years old, I felt very responsible. I became my dad, I had to step into those shoes.’
She fought off competition from 17 candidates to win Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment during the 17th series of The Apprentice and Marnie says her late father was with her every step of the way.
In particular, she felt his presence riding in the back of Lord Sugar’s Rolls Royce after being crowned champion, wearing the gold bracelet he never had the chance to gift her.
Marnie fought off competition from 17 candidates to win Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment and says her late father was with her every step of the way
The businesswoman said she felt she had to become the ‘man of the house’ after her dad’s passing despite only being eight years old
It was the anger and confusion that Marnie felt following the sad loss of her dad that inspired her to take up boxing, where her negative energy was channelled in a positive way
She said: ‘My dad left me a bracelet that my mum had no idea about and he must have been saving up for. It was a small, gold bracelet.
‘He died a few weeks before my birthday and my mum found it in his coat pocket when she was clearing out his stuff.
‘I wore it throughout the final few moments of the Apprentice. In the Rolls Royce, I wore it because I wanted him to be in a Rolls Royce with me. I wore it during the You’re Hired show, which was a way he could physically be there.’
Marnie comes from humble beginnings after growing up living in a static caravan until the age of 13 and says her parents, who met when they were schoolchildren, constantly worried about money.
She says her motivation to succeed in the working world first stemmed from her longing for a better life, admitting although she was raised in a loving family, she was too ’embarrassed’ to invite friends to her home and always wished she had more.
She said: ‘One of the massive driving forces to want to be wealthy and do well for myself is to make sure I am not in the position that my mum and dad were in.
‘Even though I don’t believe money can buy happiness, I do believe it can buy freedom. I looked at the situation that my mum was in, and I desperately didn’t want to end up like that and she would agree, she said don’t end up like me.
‘I lived in a caravan for as long as I can remember. I was always so envious and embarrassed to bring friends over. I don’t think I ever took friends home.
‘I always wanted what they had, a big house, and especially losing my dad as well, a two-parent family. Even from being that young I was very aware of my position in the world and that we didn’t have what other people had and I wanted more.’
Since winning the Apprentice last week Marnie has attended a number of high profile events including the launch party for the upcoming Anthony Joshua vs Jermaine Franklin fight
Marnie trained as a court advocate, later handing in her notice so she could pursue her dream of opening her own boxing gym
Away from business, Marnie is engaged to fiancé, fellow boxing coach Micheal Harris, who she’s been in a relationship with for a decade, after he proposed in Greece last year
Marnie trained as a court advocate, later handing in her notice so she could pursue her dream of opening her own boxing gym, after the sport helped to positively channel her grief and anger following the sudden loss of her dad.
She said that having a legal career often gives people that aren’t aware of her background the impression she was born into a rich family, a misconception she hopes to dispel.
Now that she’s proven her worth by becoming Lord Sugar’s business partner, opening her first boxing gym named Bronx, and is now hoping to franchise, the reaction from her loved ones hasn’t solely been positive.
Marnie explained: ‘My family have had a weird response to me doing well. It was almost like them saying I’ve sold out, it wasn’t happiness.
‘They are limited by their perceptions of what I should be and are held back by that too but it’s not going to happen. They don’t want to see that I have moved on and transcended but each generation should change and grow. It’s hard for them to watch if they haven’t done that themselves.’
But Marnie’s mum, who’s always pushed her to succeed, was ecstatic after she was announced the winner of the Apprentice last week, beating salon owner Rochelle Anthony in the final.
She added: ‘My mum is so, so, so proud. When I found out I won last Tuesday I had the chance to tell her privately, but I waited for her to see it on the TV… she was in shock.’
Away from business, Marnie is engaged to fiancé, fellow boxing coach Micheal Harris, who she’s been in a relationship with for a decade, after he proposed in Greece last year.
After securing Lord Sugar’s investment, their wedding plans have been put on the back burner, with Marnie insisting she’s in no rush to walk down the aisle.
She said: ‘Right now life is moving so fast, and I couldn’t add the pressure of planning a wedding. When we get married it will be simply because we’re both yearning for a bit of straightforwardness and ease.
‘I would love a family one day too but right now I am too selfish, and I know children require a lot of love and in this moment in time I’m not in a position to give it. I need to make my business work and right now there’s no limits on anything.’