‘Naked and Afraid’ has quickly become one of the Discovery Channel’s most popular reality shows. The premise is simple. One man and one woman must survive in a remote location for 21 days without clothes, food, or shelter provided to them.
The show was so popular that an all star version was almost inevitable. So here we are, three season and counting into ‘Naked and Afraid XL’. This version takes anywhere between 10 and 12 popular former participants and seriously ups the ante.
Instead of 21 days, they must survive for 40. Instead of just one partner, they must all work together. This means more opportunities for team work. It also means more opportunities for drama and clashing personalities. The bigger head count also means that finding enough food and protection for everyone can be difficult.
Whether the show is entirely real or not, the experience is a scarring one. As survivalists, many contestants enter the show with baggage. Even those that had simple lives before hand do not leave unscathed. Though it strips them of their clothes, the show cannot strip them of their humanity.
Here, we’re taking look at 22 Secrets Behind ‘Naked And Afraid XL’.
22. Matt was in the hospital for 7 days after he left
Matt Wright is a born survivalist. He became a hunting guide at the ages of 15. He started his own survival business when he was in his twenties. He even spent two years in the air force. Needless, to say, he was excited to return to Naked and Afraid XL.
During his second go around, he thrived. He caught a wild boar very early on. He kept morale up and fighting to a minimum. It seemed like nothing could go wrong.
Soon his foot began to hurt. At first he thought it was a bug bit or a cut from spiky black palm. It quickly became obvious that it was something far worse, and he had to be evacuated. After he left the group, he had to stay in a hospital in Ecuador for seven days while doctors fought the rare bacteria in his foot.
21. They Invited Honora Bowen Back To Keep Her Quiet
It’s well documented that Honora Bowen was not pleased with her time spent on Naked and Afraid. She didn’t like the way her episode made her come across. She didn’t appreciate the way she was treated. She even says one of the producers touched her inappropriately.
So why would she go back?
After her first experience, she took to social media. She began sharing everything that had happened. She didn’t hold back on naming people either – producer Jim Morton was a frequent target of hers.
Discovery responded to this by silencing her and shaming her in a special segment. In a panic, she wrote them asking for a truce. Their response was an invitation to return for the more intense challenge. She accepted for fear of further humiliation and backlash from the network.
20. They Were Allegedly Mean To Honora On XL
As it turns out, Honora’s return was not met amicably. Obviously, in terms of natural challenges, she knew what to expect. She gained extra weight to prepare for lack of fats. She went into full detox mode.
Generally, the show allows basic needs for their contestants. It’s not shown on screen, but women are allowed tampons, for example. Her former partner had been allowed amphetamines. Because of this, she believed her simple prescription of salt and electrolytes would fly.
Though other contestants during her season were allowed simple medicines, Honora says she was denied this privilege.
Honora also says she was told at the last second she would not be allowed to bring her fire starter. This is strange, as we’ve seen many contestants use this very tool in the past. Instead she was given a bow drill. Definitely useful, but not nearly as crucial an implement.
19. Most of the contestants are pretty insecure around people
A survivalist is someone who loves nature. Not only that, but they feel a deep connection towards it. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, then, that the biggest challenge faced by many of the contestants is learning to work with strangers.
Much has been made of the drama shown on camera.
Though many decry the show for editing shots in order to make it look more intense, most of the contestants have said in interviews that the fighting and disagreeing is at least partially real.
The real shocker comes in the revelation that most of them don’t even like getting undressed in front of other people. After the first day or so the embarrassment obviously fades, but most of the challengers are very uncomfortable when first confronting an unclothed stranger.
18. The editing might be sketchy
Depending on who you ask, the editing on the show may or may not paint the events as they actually happen. In Honora Bowen’s blog, she says she was unfairly portrayed as lazy and erratic.
If you ask EJ Snyder or Jeff Zausch, they’ll tell you that the experience is 100% authentic. According to a rant Jeff posted on social media, what you see is exactly what happened. He acknowledges that his group was painted in a good light, but says that’s just how it was.
Stacey Osorio and Alyssa Ballestero have backed this up stating that aside from a few minor things, like women being allowed tampons while on their periods, what you see is what you get. They also shot down the idea that there is any romance going on behind the scenes, saying that when you’re tired and starving there is no libido to be found.
17. Dani Julien’s troubled past
Many survivalists find a passion for nature at a young age. Often it’s a family thing. Sometimes it comes from a very personal place. This was the case for Dani Julien. Her predisposition for action over talking led her to be disliked on both Naked and Afraid and the XL version.
As it turns out, these challenges were not the toughest thing this young woman has had to face in her life. Before she discovered her love of nature, she was living in Tanzania and volunteering at an orphanage. While she was there, she was the victim of a violent home invasion. She was okay but her roommate was killed.
16. The first time Jeff went hunting he broke his own gun
Like most of his family, Jeff learned to hunt at a young age. Jeff struck out into the wild to hunt his first prey when he was 12. As luck would have it, he happened upon a female deer. He took a shot, but it went too high and only injured the animal.
He gave chase. In his excitement, he didn’t make sure that his Winchester rifle was securely on its rack. As he plummeted down a hill in his small vehicle, the gun came loose and fell to the ground. Gravity and momentum played their roles, and the truck broke the gun in half.
This turned into a hilarious in joke for the Zausch family. In his grandfather’s house, next to trophies from every other member of his family, the two pieces of the now defunct Winchester are mounted on the wall. The plaque aptly reads “Jeff’s First kill.”
15. EJ and Jeff hosting Dual Survival was not well received
Jeff and EJ were certainly popular on Naked and Afraid XL. They did so well and, as they both boast considerable experience from outside of the show, they seemed like a natural fit to co-host one of Discovery’s other outdoor shows Dual Survival.
Dual Survival is similar to Naked and Afraid, but not as extreme.
It puts the two cast members in survival situations where they have to rely on the land and each other to find their way to safety. The major difference, of course, being that here they get to wear clothes.
This is not the first time the show has introduced new hosts, but the pair are the most poorly received to date. Many of the complaints come from their explanations feeling too scripted. If the trend continues, we may see yet another cast rotation before too long.
14. Most of it isn’t very exciting
The biggest challenge for the crew of Naked and Afraid is filtering down 21 days worth of filming into a mere 40 minutes. While the Naked and Afraid XL challenge has a little more room to breathe with 40 days spread out over eight or nine episodes, it still means a lot has to be left on the cutting room floor.
During all three seasons we’ve seen so far, the sun during the day has been far too hot to actually accomplish anything.
90% of the actual time is spent simply sitting and waiting.
Hunting happens in the wee hours of the morning and food preparation happens later on. During the day, there might be shots of people weaving baskets and blankets. The truth is there just isn’t all that much action to be had when the weather barely allows you to move.
13. Alana Barfield was deeply affected by the experience
Alana Barfield’s time on Naked and Afraid XL was, like many others, full of drama. Though she made it through the 40 days, she did not make it out unscathed. She is a frequent guest on the In the Rabbit Hole podcast where she opened up about her first few weeks home after the challenge was finished.
After 21 days, the readjustment to society was fairly quick. After 40 days, it’s an entirely different story.
She compared the effects of the longer challenge to PTSD, saying that even combat veterans who lived through the challenge were daunted.
She says she would snap at everyone in her life, including her boyfriend. She didn’t want to tell her best friends about the experience. She says she consumed peanut butter to the point of being in pain. It took her a solid couple of months before actually wanting to leave the house.
12. Jeff’s father’s experimental heart surgery
As previously mentioned, Jeff Zausch is not the first survival-minded member of his family. His will to conquer and overcome was deeply rooted in him by his father.
Jeff’s father is a classic miracle story.
He was born with a rare heart condition and his prognosis was terminal. He underwent his first open heart surgery when he wasn’t even two months old. The surgery was one of the first of its kind.
Throughout his life, his heart continued to trouble him and he went through nine more open heart surgeries before finally succumbing to his illness. His legacy is still felt to this day on reality television. Through his lessons, his son lived to overcome two Naked and Afraid challenges and become the host of the Discovery show Dual Survival.
11. Producers Facebook stalk potential contestants
Laura Zerra already had quite a bit of survival experience before attempting the Naked and Afraid challenge. She’s actually a survival specialist. She travels around the world teaching subjects like taxidermy, tanning, plant identification, and fire-starting.
She never actually applied to be on the show.
Her name apparently came up while producers were throwing around ideas for possible contestants. After looking at her pictures and the rest of her Facebook profile, they sent her a message asking her if the challenge was something she would be interested in.
Because survivalists are so few and far between, many potential candidates perhaps don’t watch TV and are therefore unaware of the many opportunities in reality television. It may seem creepy, but the producers have to bring their cast together somehow.
10. Alyssa Ballestero had never seen the show
Alyssa Ballestero had no idea what she was getting into when she first applied to be a contestant on Naked and Afraid. This was during a time when not many people had heard of the show. Her mom and sister happened upon a commercial or it and encouraged her to apply because she enjoyed being outside.
It became kind of a joke in the family.
The next thing she knew, she was being flown to LA for an interview. It was only upon arriving that she actually decided it was probably time to check the show out.
Even after participating, there are elements of the show she is still unfamiliar with. According to her, she doesn’t put much stock in the popular PSR ratings. To her, they’re just numbers. She did mention that she was flattered that the show painted her in such a positive light.
9. Carrie was featured in Maxim magazine
Carrie Booze is not your typical Naked and Afraid contestant. Aside from being remarkably more feminine than most of the other women to feature, her resume also boasts some very different experience. She took part in a Maxim photoshoot and spent time working at Hooter’s.
A quick check of her Instagram shows that she is someone who is confident and proud of her body. During her first go around she was painted as erratic and unpredictable, and many fans thought she was only being brought back for her looks.
Even though she does have military experience, she didn’t make it past the first four days of the more extreme challenge. The lions and the heat were enough to drive her over the edge mentally, and she couldn’t get home fast enough.
8. Darren Reay doesn’t own a TV
Darrin Reay was unfamiliar with the concept of reality television in general. In fact, the only reason he ended up on the show in the first place was because a friend of his turned the offer down.
He was able to do extremely well on his 21 day challenge, but when it came to 40 days and an exponentially larger group he found himself at a bit of a social loss. Having spent the better part of 11 years without a television, Reay was not used to the interpersonal drama that comes with such disparate personalities. As an outdoor instructor, he simply expected people to listen when he gave advice.
It turned into a bit of an ego match, particularly between him and the hot-headed Steve. He earned a reputation as a know-it-all, even though he was just trying to make sure the rest of his tribe possessed the skills to survive.
7. Jake Nodar suffered serious damage from that fruit
During the second season of Naked and Afraid XL, Jake Nodar was practically forced to step up as the defacto leader of the tribe. While other big personalities in the group wanted their way or the highway, Jake’s calm and composed nature made him the obvious choice for people to turn to for support and guidance.
While making their way to another camp site, the group happened upon an abundance of fruit.
They didn’t realize that the fruit was lousy with bacteria.
While the illness caused a few others to tap out right away, Jake was stubborn and tried to stay as long as possible.
This resulted in an eight day stay at a nearby hospital, a severely damaged liver, and a total loss of 41 pounds. It took him a full six weeks after returning home for him to be able to resume his regular daily activities.
6. Ryan still really doesn’t like Steve
Ryan Holt, Steven Lee Hall Jr, and Angel Rodriguez all seemed delighted to find each other at the beginning of the second season of Naked and Afraid XL.
Ryan and Steve quickly began to butt heads.
Things only got worse when Angel tapped out because he wanted to go home and see his son. Ryan and Steve both proved to be capable during their first Naked and Afraid outings, although it became clear here that Steve’s brash nature far outweighed his actual survival knowledge.
The clashing eventually led to Ryan leaving the group and attempting to go solo. He ate some bad fruit and was forced to tap out. During an interview after he returned home, he made it clear that Steve was the kind of guy who always had to be right and was “kind of a big deal.”
5. They offer $23 500 for completing the challenge
Honora Bowen’s blog is a treasure trove of information about how the show is run. It doesn’t paint it in the best light, though. Like its simpler counterpart, Naked and Afraid XL runs on the pretense that there is no prize money. The survivalists fight to the last day simply to prove that they can.
Honora says something different. While listing explaining her reasoning for returning, she makes it very clear that cash played a big part. Though she saved up money to return, she has never been a wealthy person. She explicitly states that she was offered a sum of $23 500 if she could complete the challenge.
She doesn’t give any other information, but it’s safe to assume she wasn’t paid for tapping out early. For a show that presents itself as a challenge with no prize money, $23 500 certainly sounds like a sizable cashout.
4. Shannon Kulpa’s daughter suffered anxiety while she was away
The contestants on Naked and Afraid are people just like everyone else. When they accept the challenge, they choose to leave behind jobs, homes and families in order to brave the wilderness. Naked and Afraid XL’s third season contestant Shannon Kulpa is no exception.
Kulpa is a proud mother of two.
She has a 14 year old son and an 8 year old daughter. While she says her children were proud of her, she admits that it was hard to explain to the younger child exactly what she was doing.
She was away for over a month, and her daughter suffered anxiety. She developed two code words for the little girl to use. Every 10 days, the producers would come back to her and say either “goat” or “chicken.” If she heard the word “chicken” she would immediately tap out and head home to see her children.
3. Shane, Jeff and EJ stole food from production crew
There were a few things that were obvious about the first go around of Naked and Afraid XL. One of those things was that the Alpha team was undeniably doing better than the other team.
Shane Lewis shared a slightly different story in a Facebook message. According to him, he managed to steal two jars of peanut butter, eight packages of Oreos, a loaf of bread, six bags of chips, a mini box of Frosted Flakes, at least 12 packages of peanuts and a five pound bag of trail mix from the production crew before he left.
This may come across as cheating.
However, in a survival situation where food is the main priority, all bets are off. According to Jeff and EJ, they managed to make the stash last all the way up until day 38. At least no one can say that the opportunity was wasted.
2. Team alpha male and Gang of Six shared a lot more food than was shown
Here’s another example of a moment where the editors tried to make it look like there was more drama happening than there actually was. Throughout the latter half of the season, the alpha male team was shown to be thriving while the other team was depicted as starving for food. They were also shown to be mooching off of the more successful team. According to EJ, that’s not actually how things went down.
In a post on his Facebook page, EJ confessed that though the other team clearly were not doing as well, they were still able to contribute to the overall cause. What they lacked in hunting, they made up for in gathering edible fruits which they gladly shared with the other team. He specifically singled out Alanna and Dani for being particularly generous with their fruit rations.
1. Jeff was arrested for insurance fraud
Jeff Zausch may be an awesome survival expert. He may even be well on his way to reality television stardom.
He is most certainly not above the law.
Not long after returning from his Naked and Afraid XL challenge, Zausch was nabbed by authorities for insurance fraud. Apparently, he had been involved in a car accident. Instead of informing his provider GEICO immediately, he first called them to have his coverage changed from partial to full.
He pleaded guilty and was forced to perform 100 hours of community service. He was charged $376 in restitution to GEICO along with $1250 fine paid out to the state of Idaho. He was also forced to spend three years on probation.
Can you think of any dark secrets we might have missed from behind the scenes of Naked and Afraid XL? Let us know in the comments!
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