The former BBC Apprentice winner Dr Leah Totton speaks to Celebrity Secrets about her award-winning cosmetic clinic, a love for the NHS, and what it’s like being business partners with Lord Sugar…
Have you always wanted to be a doctor?
“Since I was about 11! I was very academic at school, the first in my family to go to university, and the first to become a doctor. I wasn’t following in the footsteps of anyone – it was just something I was really passionate about. I always knew I would be able to handle the level of responsibility doctors have.”
When did you decide to go into aesthetics?
“It was a chain of unfortunate events that led me to aesthetics. My aunt had some dermal filler injected by someone who was available at the time but wasn’t adequately qualified. Unfortunately, she had some serious complications and ended up with an infection and a noticeable scar. I did a bit of research and found that it’s perfectly legal for anyone in the UK to buy and inject dermal fillers – and this devastates me. I saw an opportunity to make a change and to build a brand. I had a vision of bringing Harley Street’s quality to the high street, and for a high street price. I wanted it to be accessible for people who want to improve their appearance, but didn’t have the Harley Street-type money to do so.”
Is appearance important to you?
“The ethos of the brand is to improve how people feel about themselves, not necessarily how they look. A lot of the work I do in my clinics is medical-based, which involves stretch mark removal, skin tightening procedures, excess skin treatments and excess hair laser. Obviously this line of work is all centred around appearance, but if people feel good because they look good, then that’s fantastic!”
What is your most popular procedure?
“We have two clinics and they have very different audiences. Botox is the most popular cosmetic treatment in the world, and I truly believe that throughout my whole career this will never change. It is something that makes a noticeable difference, as well as being reasonably priced at around £300. The demand for lip fillers over the past two to three years has also gone through the roof, especially in my Essex clinic. However, in the London clinic it is mainly medical procedures.
Do you think social media has prompted younger people to want fillers?
“I actually turn away lots of people who I don’t think require or would benefit from these procedures. If I can’t demonstrate how they would benefit from the treatment, I won’t treat them. I am honest with my patients and most people are quite happy to take that advice.”
Have regulations changed since you were on The Apprentice five years ago?
“I think we have made a positive step in terms of patient education. Before I was on The Apprentice, there was really very little said about aesthetics in the press. Backstreet practice just wasn’t acknowledged. Regulations haven’t changed and it is still unregulated, but I think patients are now making better choices of where to go to, and that is what is important.”
If you aren’t working in your clinics, you are working for the NHS. How do you fit it all in?
“I just don’t sleep! I take a Sunday off, but halfway through the day I’m checking emails. I have always worked at this intensity and I think it is just how I’m always going to be. My hobby and my interests are my work and I’m grateful I’ve found a career I truly love. But I do struggle finding time to exercise, I think this happens a lot with doctors -we don’t really practice what we preach. In terms of a social life, I don’t really go out, I’m too dedicated to my work. I’m sure this will change when I get married and have children, but for now my focus is my career.”
How was working with Lord Sugar?
“He is really great and we get on incredibly well – he’s been a great mentor for me in business. But doctors think differently to how other people think, as we have different priorities. A lot of the skill sets are there but I really feel like with his help, he showed me how to go from being a doctor to a successful businesswoman. I’m really grateful he put that trust in me and saw my potential.”
What about Karen – did you work much with her?
“Karen actually came to launch the clinic as Lord Sugar was away on business at the time. Karen in her own right is absolutely incredible and I really admire her work ethic. I look around at people who have made it and one thing they all have in common, is how hard they work and how passionate they are about their career. All sectors are competitive and it takes that extra drive and true enthusiasm to really succeed.”
What’s The Apprentice actually like?
“The process itself is a TV show and you have to be mindful of that, but it’s definitely no joke. The first few tasks you are there with about 16 to 18 other people and you can see that within that group of candidates, you wouldn’t trust them to feed your goldfish – let alone give them £250,000! You represent Lord Sugar from the minute you win that show and you are an extension of his brand, which is an extremely successful one – and you do need to perform.”
What was your favourite and least favourite part of the show?
“I didn’t enjoy the show at all! I am delighted that I won, but I did find it really intense. Some people really thrive on that dog-eat-dog type of thing – I am just not like that. I find that level of confrontation uncomfortable. It is such long days – you’d be filming for 18 hours then arguing in the boardroom, so it is like a rat race. I am so glad I did it, but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to do it again.”
Did you really only have 20 minutes to get ready once you received that call in the morning?
“Honestly, yes! Only 20 minutes – it was crazy. I have really thick wavy hair, so I would have to sleep with hair rollers in so I could just get up, unroll my hair and then get there. It is doable…you just get up and get on with it.”
What are your plans for the future?
“We are currently in the process of setting up a third clinic in London. As well as this, we are producing a Dr Leah skincare range. So we have a busy 12 to 18 months in the pipeline.”
Finally, can you tell Celebrity Secrets something our readers might not already know about you – and also about The Apprentice?
“I have failed my driving test three times! It’s the only thing I have ever failed in my life. I have passed it now though, thankfully! As for The Apprentice…we had no access to smart phones! When you are watching it at home you are screaming at the TV ‘oh my god just Google it!’ but you actually can’t. The phones you get you can only make calls from.”