LAFAYETTE, La. --
Felisha Mason sounds like a proud parent when she talks about her
first baby, a recently opened 92-room Econo Lodge Inn & Suites
It is a beautiful
hotel, said Mason, who has never owned a hotel before. It is, by
far, the nicest Econo Lodge and Suites in the entire
But among its many
attributes, the hotel has at least two distinctive
One is its marble
lobby, which is unusual for a moderately priced hotel.
The other is
After all, she may
be the only hotel owner ever to be fired by Donald Trump on
In addition to
being a hotelier, a licensed airplane pilot and racer of sailboats,
Mason is an entrepreneur and, until recently, a contestant on The
Apprentice, the popular reality series in which 18 individuals vie
for a coveted executive post in Trumps business empire.
The contestants on
the show this season were split into two teams. Each week, after
completing certain tasks, the results were evaluated by Trump and
his executives. Those who succeeded moved on to compete another
day. Those who didnt heard the familiar, Youre fired, from
Mason hung on for
11 weeks of challenges, until her team was whittled down to two:
her and team leader Alla.
But the pair lost a
challenge and were called to the infamous boardroom.
For fans of the
show, it was a typical scene. As Felisha and Alla defended
themselves to Trump, there was backstabbing, bickering, insults and
even tears. In the end, both were fired.
Mason said her
Apprentice-ship began when a former boyfriend flew to New York to
apply for the show.
He really idolized
Donald Trump. He really wanted to be on show. We used to have
Apprentice parties, inviting friends over to watch, Mason
Mason later applied
for the show, ultimately beating out thousands of other applicants
to become a contestant.
After Mason was
selected for the show, she traveled to New York for two months to
participate in the tapings -- just as her bank came through with a
$1.5 million loan commitment letter to build the Econo Lodge &
Suites, a slightly more upscale version of Econo Lodge, Choice
Hotels Internationals economy brand.
But to appear on
The Apprentice, Mason had to sign a confidentiality agreement that
prohibited her from revealing to anyone, including her bank, that
she was on the show.
In short, she left
town without telling her bankers, who had no idea where she was,
Mason said. So when I disappeared, they rescinded the
Mason, 29, said she
couldnt blame her bank. On the surface, it reasonably could
conclude that I was a flighty blonde, she said with a laugh. It was
crazy, and things really went to a stalemate for this property.
Things sort of fell apart.
When Mason finally
completed The Apprentice, which is filmed months before it airs,
and returned to Lafayette, it took me a month or two to dig it out
[from under the red tape]. I had to go back to the bank and tell
them where I had been.
Of course, they
were not impressed. The bank doesnt care about reality TV, she
was able to convince the bank to resuscitate the loan. And despite
the damage caused this summer by Hurricane Rita, Mason opened her
Today, she spends
as much time as possible at the property.
I believe when you
get a hotel that you need to manage it yourself for sometime, said
Mason, who completed several training courses offered by Choice for
new franchisees, while drawing on her own experience as an investor
in an apartment building in Kansas City and several condo
I definitely want
to do another hotel, she said.
reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to[email protected].