'The Apprentice' screeches back onto our screens tonight for... Series 9 - yes, you have been watching it that long!

NEW: Lord Sugar denies sexing up The Apprentice

A sneak preview screening of the first episode reveals that some things have stayed the same - Lord Sugar's perplexed frown, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady as serene sidekicks, seeing all, saying little, and the format kicking off with girls versus boys.

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The girls hard at work selling lucky cats in Chinatown - snow... Eskimos, anyone?

You'll notice a few changes, too, however - a tweak to the format means that the candidates now have to present the scheme they hope to win right at the off - so Lord Sugar has more time to chew on whom he'll be choosing to grant £250,000 worth of confidence and trust, by making a business partner.

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Will the boys have more luck?

And you'll be struck by how groomed and coiffed the girls are looking this time around, although Lord Sugar has denied this new look is deliberate. "Everyone takes themselves off and gets themselves done up when they know they're going on the telly," he said at last week's launch.

The first task for both teams is to sell the contents of two enormous shipping crates. There's a whole range of stuff on offer, from ukuleles to leather jackets, with 24 hours to get rid of all. Both teams have to sell a bunch of shiny cats, the ones you see in Chinese restaurants, but which group will prove to have the luck promised by one of these shiny objects, with a big wavy paw?

Can you spot a winner? Here are this year's candidates:

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  • Francesca MacDuff-Varley

    <strong>Age:</strong> 32 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Dance and Entertainment Entrepreneur <strong>Lives:</strong> Leeds, UK A classically trained dancer, one of Francesca’s first jobs was teaching baby ballet at her local dance studios. She is now is the founder and director of a dance studio, a professional dance agency and a lookalike agency. She describes herself as determined, driven and fun, and quotes Debbie Moore and Arlene Phillips as the business figures she is most inspired by, for their creativity and vision. She cites being a hard-worker as her greatest strength, though admits she can be a ‘control freak’ at times. <strong>She says:</strong> “I’m prepared to fight to the death to become Lord Sugar’s business partner.”

  • Kurt Wilson

    <strong>Age:</strong> 26 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Health Drink Entrepreneur and Health & Safety Manager <strong>Lives: </strong>Liverpool, UK Kurt says his friends would describe him as intelligent, argumentative and ambitious. His first job was washing dishes as a kitchen porter and he says his greatest business achievement to date is running his own smoothie business after suffering many knock-backs and rejections. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’m an alpha male; I always get my own way and know how to make people do what I want.”

  • Luisa Zissman

    <strong>Age:</strong> 25 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Retail Entrepreneur <strong>Lives: </strong>St Albans, UK Mother-of-one Luisa describes herself as confident, logical and outspoken and cites her greatest business achievement to be the ability to create new jobs through the success of her businesses. She lists her favourite business brands as Christian Louboutin and Virgin Atlantic for their strong brand identities. Her first job was as a Saturday girl in an estate agent and she now owns her own cupcake shop, baking website and electronics business. <strong>She says:</strong> “I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, and a brain like Einstein.”

  • Zeeshaan Shah

    <strong>Age:</strong> 27 <strong>Occupation:</strong> CEO of Property Investment Company <strong>Lives:</strong> London, UK Zeeshaan, who grew up in Pakistan, believes his greatest strengths are that he is an eternal optimist, street-smart and well-connected. He says his weaknesses would include bossiness and that he can’t do something if his heart isn’t in it. Starting his career as a part-time waiter, he believes his greatest business achievement is still yet to come. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’m a ‘Great’ of my generation. I’m an innovator and leader in business. I take inspiration from Napoleon; I am here to conquer.”

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr

    <strong>Age:</strong> 41 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Literacy and Education Company Director <strong>Lives:</strong> Milton Keynes, UK Married mother-of-three Jaz began her career as a teacher and is passionate about children’s education and learning. She believes her strengths to be her tenacity and determination, while her weakness is that she has no time for those that don’t share her business vision. Her interests include stand-up comedy and lifestyle photography. <strong>She says:</strong> “I’m half machine. I can process things at a speed that is out of this world!”

  • Alex Mills

    <strong>Age:</strong> 22 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Company Director <strong>Lives:</strong> Cardiff, UK Alex says his greatest strengths lie in design and calculations and he describes himself as passionate, hardworking and determined. He began his working life as a housekeeper in a hotel and started his first company at 19. He is inspired in business by brands such as Tom Ford and figures such as James Caan, and enjoys playing the guitar and sport shooting in his spare time. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’m an old head on young shoulders. I believe that I’m the new breed of businessman that this process requires.”

  • Leah Totton

    <strong>Age: </strong>24 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Doctor <strong>Lives:</strong> London, UK Born in Northern Ireland, Leah now lives in London and is kept busy by her work as a practising doctor. She is passionate about medicine and health and says her friends would describe her as caring, kind and professional, though she can be too ambitious. <strong>She says:</strong> “I’m very hard working and feel I can bring youth, vibrancy, enthusiasm and a touch of class to any business I’m part of.”

  • Jason Leech

    <strong>Age:</strong> 29 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Historian and Property Entrepreneur <strong>Lives:</strong> London, UK Born in Athens, Jason says he has never been ‘formally employed’, instead remaining self-employed and a student throughout his career to date. His hobbies include gardening and croquet and he lists his passions as knowledge and language. He cites himself as a devotee of Question Time and says that the brands he has the most respect for are John Lewis/Waitrose and American Express, as they stand for quality and high-standard customer service. <strong>He says:</strong> “Some people might come to this process with a game plan. I just feel my effortless superiority will take me all the way.”

  • Sophie Lau

    <strong>Age:</strong> 22 <strong>Occupation: </strong>Restaurateur <strong>Lives:</strong> Bristol, UK Malaysian-born Sophie says her greatest strengths are creativity and the ability to ‘think outside the box’, but her weakness is mental arithmetic. She first worked as a catering company waitress and at the age of 19, began running her own restaurant whilst still studying as a student. She is passionate about food and describes herself as innovative and intelligent. <strong>She says:</strong> “I don’t have a multi-million pound business but what I do have is the raw talent, the drive and the competitive streak.”

  • Jordan Poulton

    <strong>Age:</strong> 26 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Business Analyst <strong>Lives:</strong> London, UK Jordan says his first experience in business was at the age of six, selling his family’s litter of kittens in the playground. He describes himself as optimistic, charismatic and calm under pressure, though he thinks he can also be unforgiving and finds it difficult to ask for help. He enjoys going to technology events and recording his own podcasts and is passionate about encouraging young people to start their own businesses. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’ve worked in third world countries and first world countries. I know what it’s like to struggle to feed kids and I know what it’s like to fly in a private jet.”

  • Natalie Panayi

    <strong>Age:</strong> 30 <strong>Occupation: </strong>Recruitment Manager <strong>Lives:</strong> Rickmansworth, UK Natalie’s first job was as a pub waitress and says her dad is her business inspiration, as he built his success from nothing through his strong work ethic. Her passions include fashion and money and she is also a trained jazz singer and qualified make-up artist. She says her friends would describe her as headstrong, determined and caring, though one of her most annoying habits can be interrupting people. <strong>She says:</strong> “When it comes to business, I am the complete package and when it comes to sales, I’m the best.”

  • Myles Mordaunt

    <strong>Age:</strong> 39 <strong>Occupation: </strong>Marketing Company Co-Founder <strong>Lives:</strong> Monaco, Monaco Myles has lived in Monaco for the past 10 years and says that people would describe him as passionate, charming and determined, but he can be too much of a perfectionist. He was a professional racing driving for a short period of time and he now works in luxury brand marketing. He says the business figures that most inspire him are Bernie Ecclestone and Richard Branson, for their vision and commercial power. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’m business perfection personified.”

  • Uzma Yakoob

    <strong>Age:</strong> 32 <strong>Occupation: </strong>Entrepreneur and Make-Up Brand Owner <strong>Lives: </strong>London, UK Uzma describes herself as confident, creative and spiritual, though says she can lack patience. She has set up a non-profit organisation to help women reach out to one another in times of need and lists being nominated for an Asian Women of Achievement Awards as one of her greatest business achievements. She says the brand she is most inspired by is MAC, because they have created a product that most women think they can’t live without. <strong>She says: </strong>“If I believe in something, I will go to the end to make sure it’s done.”

  • Neil Clough

    <strong>Age:</strong> 32 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Regional Manager – Soccer Centres <strong>Lives:</strong> Altrincham, UK Neil says he would be described as focussed, determined and driven by those that know him well, though his weaknesses include being overly competitive and very opinionated. He is a Manchester United supporter and plays football regularly in an amateur league, having played semi-professionally in the past. One of his first jobs was in telesales, which he cites as the role that kicked off his career. <strong>He says:</strong> “I’m here to win. If that means being tough and making tough decisions, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

  • Rebecca Slater

    <strong>Age:</strong> 35 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Medical Rep <strong>Lives: </strong>Wigan, UK Rebecca would describe herself as authentic, generous and adventurous, though says she can be very impatient. Now working in medical sales, her first job was in a Post Office shop. She lists Alex Polizzi and Mary Portas as business figures that inspire her because they are willing to take on any challenge. <strong>She says:</strong> “I’m a pretty tough person. I don’t let people walk all over me in life or in business. And if somebody crosses me, it’s game over.”

  • Tim Stillwell

    <strong>Age:</strong> 23 <strong>Occupation:</strong> Mexican Food Entrepreneur <strong>Lives:</strong> Birmingham, UK Tim lists his passions in life as food, travel, business and money, and the achievement he is most proud of is launching a business while still studying in his final year at university. He describes himself as happy-go-lucky, energetic and with a ‘never give up’ attitude, though admits he can lack focus. Moving up from his first job on a paper round to starting a leaflet distribution service before founding his catering company, Tim now wants to use business as a vehicle to bring new culinary experiences to people. <strong>He says: </strong>“I’m definitely a team player. I’m not a lone ranger in any sense of the word.”

The brand new series of 'The Apprentice' returns to BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 7 May

MORE 'APPRENTICE' PICTURES...

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  • The Apprentice girls

  • Myles Mordaunt

  • Myles Mordaunt

  • Kurt Wilson

  • Kurt Wilson

  • Jordan Poulton

  • Jordan Poulton

  • Jason Leech

  • Jason Leech

  • Zeeshaan Shah

  • Zeeshaan Shah

  • Alex Mills

  • Alex Mills

  • Neil Clough

  • Neil Clough

  • Tim Stillwell

  • Tim Stillwell

  • Natalie Panayi

  • Natalie Panayi

  • Francesca MacDuff-Varley

  • Francesca MacDuff-Varley

  • Rebecca Slater

  • Rebecca Slater

  • Sophie Lau

  • Sophie Lau

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr

  • Leah Totton

  • Leah Totton

  • Uzma Yakoob

  • Uzma Yakoob

  • Luisa Zissman

  • Luisa Zissman

  • The Apprentice contestants

  • The male Apprentices

  • Karren Brady

  • Nick Hewer

  • The Apprentice team

  • Lord sugar and his Apprentices

  • Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar and Karren Brady

  • Karren Brady, Lord Sugar and Nick Hewer

  • Lord Sugar

  • Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar and Karren Brady