How could the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid ever not have been a hit? It involves two people – one man, one woman – being dropped into the wilderness completely nude and having to survive for 21 days. In short, it’s reality TV gold, and, to date, it has run for seven seasons. But despite how much is on display for all to see, there’s still a lot that audiences may not realize about what goes on behind the scenes.
20. Contestants are given medicine if they need it
No reality show (at least not yet) wants to actually kill off its contestants. So, if a Naked participant gets sick, of course they’re given help… it just happens off-camera and is never mentioned. When Kim Shelton got ill after eating turtle meat, for example, producers were on hand to hook her up to IVs. But audiences were none the wiser…
19. Honora Bowen didn’t really carry her dad’s magnifying glass
Contestant Honora Bowen had some pretty harsh things to say about Naked and Afraid once her time on the show was over. On her blog, she informed readers that once the show’s producers learned of her father’s death, they told her to refer to the magnifying glass they’d given her as her dad’s, even though it wasn’t.
18. One Millions Moms protested the show
The campaign group One Millions Moms hate Naked and Afraid with a passion. Why? The clue’s in the title. “Discovery Channel has lost its moral compass and should be ashamed to air nudity and call it entertainment,” the group wrote on its website. And in 2017 it succeeded in getting Pedigree and Delta Faucet to drop sponsorship of the show.
17. Contestants have had some pretty disgusting things happen to them
One unfortunate Naked and Afraid participant, Jeff Zausch, suffered through one of the grossest survival situations imaginable: he ended up with maggots stuck in one of his most intimate parts. As Zausch later detailed on his blog, somehow he’d gotten his butt-crack burned and flies had laid eggs in it… which then eventually hatched. Gross.
16. The producers claim to have named the show after a Bible quote
Who would have thought that a reality TV show featuring so much nudity and ickiness was titled after a line from the Bible? But that’s what the producers claimed on a TV panel in 2014. And, indeed, a famous line from Genesis 3:10 reads, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked.”
15. Contestants get an emergency radio
After his stint on the show in 2015, Charlie Frattini revealed all to The Journal News. He explained that the camera crew weren’t allowed to help contestants out, but they did provide resources in case of real emergency. “You do get an emergency radio when they leave, but it could take something like an hour to get to you,” Frattini said. Not so reassuring…
14. Not everyone feels like they were edited fairly
Both Shane Lewis and Honora Bowen have taken issue with the way the show made them look. Lewis complained to the Daily Mail in 2013 that the show not revealing to viewers that he’d fractured three toes made him appear “pathetic.” And Bowen claimed on her blog that editors manipulated footage to make her look lazy and unpleasant.
13. Contestants don’t hook up
And there’s a good reason for it. Despite the nakedness, contestants usually have other things on their mind besides sex – like, you know, surviving. Fans of the show do wonder, though. “That’s the biggest question I get,” Naked and Afraid XL participant Alyssa Ballestero told People in 2016. “The answer is no. Everyone is dirty and tired; it doesn’t really happen.”
12. A husband and wife duo blur out the nakedness
A team known as the Blur Man Group have the task of censoring NSFW material from the show. Among their ranks are a married couple, Shaun O’Steen and Ilgin Esemenli. “[People ask] ‘Don’t you feel weird about your wife looking at naked men all day?’” O’Steen told the The Seattle Times in 2016. “Well, I look at naked women all day,” is his deft reply.
11. YouTuber AliSpags was once meant to appear on the show
As filming for the seventh season of Naked and Afraid got underway in February 2017, YouTube star Ali Spagnola (a.k.a. AliSpags) announced that she was going to participate in an upcoming episode. Indeed, she got as far as undergoing survival training, but she was eventually forbidden for taking part due to medical reasons. In fact, she has a kidney condition.
10. Contestants don’t always become friends
Spending 21 days naked in the wilderness will either make people best friends for life or best enemies for life. And Forrest Galante, who competed on the show’s first season, definitely didn’t stay friends with Cassie DePecol. In fact, he slammed her in a 2014 Reddit AMA as “not the best” and “slightly delusional.”
9. One of the producers was bitten by a poisonous snake
Before Naked and Afraid made it to air, the makers went out to scout locations – and it nearly cost producer Steve Rankin his life. He was bitten by a Fer-de-Lance, a deadly snake, and was rushed to hospital. In fact, he had to have a part of his foot removed in the end, but at least he survived to tell the tale.
8. Contestants do get compensated with cash
Show producers insist that none of the show’s winners ever get prize money and play the survival game for bragging rights and nothing else. However, participants do actually get compensated for lost earnings. They receive $5,000 each… probably not enough for what they actually go through, though!
7. The women are allowed sanitary products
The idea of having to live in the jungle while menstruating is a pretty unpleasant one, so the producers of Naked do make one concession for ladies. “The show does allow us to have tampons. It’s not only a sanitary hazard, but it’s a safety hazard, because you don’t want to attract predators,” contestant Alyssa Ballestero told People in 2016.
6. Seth Rogan and James Franco appeared on the show
Hollywood actors Seth Rogan and James Franco popped up on a Naked and Afraid minisode in 2014 in order to promote their new film, The Interview. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they weren’t expected to do the difficult survivalist stuff like finding food and shelter, but they did both very much get naked.
5. A contestant on the show caught dengue fever
Manu Toigo came dangerously close to death while competing on Naked and Afraid in 2013. In fact, she was bitten by a mosquito and caught a potentially fatal strain of dengue fever. After a fortnight in the hospital and a lot of physical therapy, she eventually returned to her old self. However, she doesn’t regret going on the show one little bit.
4. Sometimes the men make a specific request
A handful of ex-contestants from Naked and Afraid appeared on the TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014 to answer a few questions about the show’s famous nudity. Turned out that most guys were fine with walking around naked, but they wanted the pixels that blurred out their crotches to be made bigger. For obvious reasons.
3. The show isn’t necessarily filmed far away from civilization
In one of her blog posts about the show, Honora Bowen wrote that, contrary to what the editing made it look like, she and her show partner were never far away from the nearest town. She could even hear loud music from parties playing when she was supposed to be in the middle of nowhere.
2. The producers have said it’s a family show
At the TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014, the producers of the show shared some thoughts, and they weren’t necessarily what Naked and Afraid viewers would expect. “This is a family show because it’s not about the nudity. It’s about the surviving. It’s a relationship show between a man and a woman,” executive producer David Garfinkle said.
1. The show was the Discovery Channel’s most-watched premiere ever
Naked and Afraid was a hit right from the very beginning. Indeed, it was the most-watched series premiere on the whole of the Discovery Channel, and over four million viewers tuned into the first season. And when its spin-off series Naked and Afraid XL launched in 2015, it too achieved impressive ratings.