Vanessa ‘OMGNess’ Goodson, winner of The Apprentice Aotearoa, tells Alex Casey about her Covid-19 experience and why she uses her large Instagram platform to share the realities of life in quarantine.
Her only regret is that she did not quarantine her balloon pump. “I so could have made my balloons out here, ”says Vanessa Goodson, winner of The Apprentice Aotearoa and balloon styling maestro, and points to the small hotel balcony with a perfectly French manicured hand. “I could have inflated the whole place, so when people pull up with Covid and they’re scared, they see the balloons and say, ‘Oh, it’s okay, OMGness is here’.”
She talks about zooming out of a quarantine facility in Auckland, where her small family arrived a week ago after Covid-19 began to spread through her bladder. Although she may have forgotten the balloons, Goodson is sharing her experience of contracting Covid-19 with her thousands of social media audiences in the hopes that it will make people less afraid of the quarantine process. “You never think this is going to happen to you, and when it happens to you, you realize, ‘I have a following here, what would happen if I told people about it?'”
So far, their Covid content has included a one-hour Instagram Live Q&A and a fascinating supercut of their introductory day, of course with a soundtrack by Beyoncé. “That day was really overwhelming,” Goodson recalls. “From packing up and leaving my house in the van to stopping here and setting up our room, it was by far the most emotional I’ve ever experienced.” After close contact tested positive, she knew it was just a matter of It was time until they got the call. The phone rang on Monday morning and she was in quarantine at the end of the day.
“They told me they had booked us a room, the van will come at 4 p.m., bring a mask and see you soon.”
Known for a lavish “Bougie” personal brand so widespread that it penned its own cheeky catchphrase “It’s a lifestyle” on The Apprentice, Goodson packed eight monogrammed Guess bags to quarantine. She had not tested positive for Covid-19 herself, but knew that this would likely happen and would likely extend her stay. “I’ve packed my whole life – my ring light, my crystals, my makeup, all of my cosmetics, all of my sponsored stuff that I was an influencer for in case I had to work here, my laptop, five chargers, and all of our food from at home. ”
Although the family brought all of their food with them, the family did not pack their air fryer – a zeitgeist device that Goodson has come to rely heavily on. She immediately ordered another one that was banned on arrival due to fire safety concerns. Always the hustler, Goodson presented her kitchen vision to the authorities. “I really had to take my case to you, like, ‘Please, I’m grateful for the food, but I just want a steak and I promise I won’t make any smoke’.” Yesterday they heard her call and allowed her to cook a TikTok recipe for pork belly in the air fryer.
As opulent as the food on Instagram may seem, there is a small problem – Goodson hardly tastes anything. “I try to eat lemons and oranges to kick-start my taste buds, but it’s still very boring,” she says. It’s one of the symptoms of Covid-19 that persists after four days of Goodson saying she “felt like she was dying”. Things went downhill quickly after she noticed a dry sore throat on her second night in quarantine. “It felt like I smoked 20 packs of cigarettes, the same feeling after you had a big night and didn’t even smoke cigarettes, but you get those flashbacks? That’s what it feels like. “
Then came the headache, which Goodson initially assumed might just be a slight hangover from the much-needed red wine she’d turned up when they’d settled into her room. “I had a couple of glasses with dinner and then I felt really bad. I thought, ‘Am I drunk here or what’s going on?’ – and felt really confused and irritable. ”All of those things she would soon find out were Covid-19 symptoms. On the third day, she was bedridden, slept all day, and couldn’t go to the door without getting out of breath.
Goodson eventually returned a positive test, recalling having a little “freak-out” after actively avoiding the Covid-19 news cycle and 1pm updates because they made her too scared. “I hadn’t read about it, I tried not to think about it, and then I just realized, ‘Oh my god, it’s right here – I’m a case’.” In her exhausted state, she could barely process the message. “You are just weak, super weak. These days I can’t even remember having made a phone call, I couldn’t even communicate properly because I wasn’t feeling well at all. ”
One of the people she managed to communicate through the fog of Covid-19 was mortgage mogul Mike Pero, with whom she has worked closely since winning The Apprentice Aotearoa last season. When the nationwide lockdown was first announced, the two did a photo shoot for what Goodson calls their “big secret plans” for the future. “He was one of the first people I told about it because I had to let him know that I couldn’t go through the big to-do list he gave me,” she laughs.
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Fans of the show will remember the one big edition Goodson had planned for when it won the $ 50,000 prize: a van for carrying their balloon garlands to events. After their first post-show planning meeting, Goodson says Pero returned to Christchurch and found a van for her within a day, even took it for a test drive, and negotiated a good price. While not quite the BMW she dreamed of – it’s a Toyota – the van is another thing she looks forward to when she’s released from quarantine.
“I’m not going to lie, I’ve lost a lot of money in the last few weeks. We were about to head into the busiest events season, with Fashion Week and all these big, big corporate jobs I’ve been working towards all year. I saw all this money disappear. ”
Goodson is feeling much better now – she’s even wearing false eyelashes again – but continues to be shocked by the effects of the virus. “If I felt like this, and I’m a pretty healthy 31-year-old, I couldn’t imagine how that would affect someone older and not 100% healthy,” she says. “I was like outside – it’s a very lively disease.” Her balloon-less balcony looks out onto the driveway of the quarantine facility, where she sees the ambulances come and go every day. “It’s really sad and scary to see these memories of other people and what they’re going through here.”
As she and her family recover, she will continue to share her experience in hopes of demystifying Covid-19. When she found she was positive, she turned to social media hashtags like #caughtcovid and #testedpositiv for reassurance. “I wanted to know how real people really think about all of this,” she says. “And then I thought it would probably be very encouraging to share my story. I go along with this as a parent, and I’m sure there are other parents out there who are freaking out. Hopefully I can use my voice to normalize it because that’s our normal at the moment. ”
She’s not just focused on creating Covid-19 content right now. As an entrepreneur, Goodson’s time in quarantine inspired another potential business. “I want to make fashion masks, I actually already have a mood board from Fendi, Louis Vuitton and mask jewelry,” she says. “I checked out all of the Covid trends while I was here.” She admits that some people on social media have asked to make t-shirts out of their one-liners, including “Only bad bitches get Covid” and “It’s a MIQ lifestyle”.
At first she laughs at the idea of the catchphrase merch, but when our interview comes to an end, she drops another gem: ‘Rona can’t stop me, nobody can. ”
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