Reasons Why Naked And Afraid Is Fake

Let's be honest here: The whole concept of "Naked and Afraid" is a little weird. Look at it this way. How much did it hurt the last time you accidentally walked across a stone driveway while barefoot? Ran outside to get the mail in the freezing temperatures without grabbing a coat? Stepped on a Lego? That's bad enough, but what contestants go through for a grueling 21 days? That's a big ol' yikes, and any armchair cowboys who think they can definitely do that, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, need an equally big reality check.

That said, it's a completely legitimate question to wonder just how real this so-called reality television show is. Everyone knows that there are plenty of chances for some off-camera magic in any of these shows, but does it happen?

According to what some contestants have said in post-show interviews, what viewers see unfolding on the screen isn't necessarily what happened. In some cases, it's completely understandable: There are some things that are done with health and safety in mind, and it's only the most cold-hearted people who would argue against something like that. But should those things be disclosed to the audience in the name of honesty? That's the thing that's up for debate here, so let's talk about some of the things that "Naked and Afraid" isn't entirely straightforward about.

The first day is entirely scripted

"Naked and Afraid" contestant Blair Braverman wrote an extensive, in-depth story for Outside, sharing some behind-the-scenes secrets from her time on the show. She and her husband both did it, and although he was sent to Honduras, she found herself out in the hostile heat of South Africa. She revealed that she'd known where she was going and had been able to study up on things like dangerous animals and poisonous plants. 

When it came time to film her first foray into the wilderness and her meet-and-greet with the person who would be her partner for the next three weeks, Braverman said it didn't happen at all like it does on the show ... not precisely. Her directions came from a member of the production team named Rachel, and she said that it was very clear what was expected of her.

"... Rachel had warned me, that the first day was 'television,'" Braverman wrote. "I'd follow the script, if not by words then by action: two people remove their clothes, walk to a landmark, meet each other, and offer whatever joke or earnest greeting they've rehearsed. They find burlap bags, which disguise their microphone transmitters, and a map, which always looks like it was made with Kid Pix." Braverman also said that she was required to strip down twice, to make sure the cameras got all the angles they needed.

Broken weapons and tools can be fixed off-camera

In an interview with The Fayetteville Observer, "Naked and Afraid" contestant Hakim Isler shared his interesting take on the show. He said that it isn't as off-the-wall and unnecessary as it might seem, and cited friends and family who had gone through natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy as being very real-world examples of when survival skills might come in really handy. 

His partner, Phaedra Brothers, also spoke about working with him. She told Channel Guide that when it came time for her to choose what tool she was going to bring with her, she decided to opt for a firestarter and take the chance that her partner would opt for a blade. He did — and it was one that he had made himself. "The fact that my partner had invented it himself was impressive because he had taken the time to research what was needed to survive," she shared. "So when I first saw the tool, I was very excited about it."

She also shared, though, that as brilliant as it was, the cameras didn't show it breaking just four days into their 21-day ordeal. It was modified, and Brothers said that it worked much better afterward.

How do contestants deal with periods?

There's a question that might be front and center in the minds of many viewers, which is simply to wonder just how contestants deal with the fact that the arrival of their periods is bound to happen during the 21 days they're out in the wild. When People spoke with former contestants Stacey Lee Osorio (pictured) and Alyssa Ballestero, they asked that incredibly personal question. Osorio confirmed: "Everyone wants to know what we do when we're on our period! 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."

Alison Teal said the same thing in a Reddit AMA, and her comment that "the only emergency item I was finally allowed to use was a tampon ..." suggested that she was sort of left on her own to deal with the inevitable other consequences of menstruation.

Interestingly, this might not be a given in every situation and every episode. Ballestero said that cycles often get disrupted when contestants are dumped out in the middle of the wilderness, and added that means "it's not really a big deal." So, what's going on here? USC Fertility confirms that there are a number of reasons that a regular monthly period might be skipped, and chief among those are things that contestants are definitely dealing with. Extreme exercise, situations that result in the release of stress hormones, and starvation-level diets can all just put a temporary stop to periods.

One contestant claimed her food poisoning was wildly misrepresented

When Phaedra Brothers sat down to speak with Channel Guide about her experience on "Naked and Afraid," she had some pretty shocking allegations to make. Those who watched the episode featuring her and partner Hakim Isler would have seen her getting incredibly sick. The story the show gave was that she had gotten sick after drinking bad water, and clips of her drinking were featured a few times. That, however, is not even close to what Brothers said actually happened.

According to her, the luggage she'd filled with food for the trip to the Himalayan Mountains where they were going to be filming was lost, and one of the crewmembers made her a meal of chicken curry. Within hours, she said she was suffering from food poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, yet was told to carry on with the schedule as planned.

Brothers said that it wasn't a matter of poor editing or an easily-misunderstood story but blatant misrepresentation, and claimed that when she protested, Discovery made it very clear that they were sticking to their version of events. "They said that if I said anything other than the storyline they picked, they would delete my comments," she claimed. "They decide the storyline. But in that particular incidence, I think they thought it would be a better, more dramatic story ... but it wasn't the truth."

What do the producers have to say?

When two of the producers of "Naked and Afraid" spoke with Reality Blurred, they stressed the effort that's made in telling a truthful story. That said, though, they also confirmed that there are times when the crew steps in and influences events in a way that typically ends up on the cutting room floor.

And some of it's completely understandable. Executive producer Steve Rankin (pictured) confirmed that yes, contestants have not only emergency radio equipment, but walkie-talkies and whistles, too. And it makes sense: They are, after all, out there on their own at night. Rankin says that one of their most important rules is to interfere as little as possible, which is pretty much what the show depicts. There are, however, times when they get involved — and it's not just when there's a medical emergency.

Rankin also admitted that when it comes time for contestants to head to the extraction point, "... if they go off track during that walk, they might just have a little nudge from the producers." Supervising producer Mathilde Bittner says that doesn't happen often, but what does happen is that she'll sometimes step in for a pep talk: "If you lose your mental strength or your motivation, it's over. A big part of what I do is to remind them — when they're having these lows, when they're like, 'I don't want to do this anymore,' — remind them why they're there ... what you signed up for, and you have it in you."

Honora Bowen claimed medication was handed out unfairly

In an extensive blog post, "Naked and Afraid" contestant Honora Bowen detailed her time on the show, and started by saying that she was told to start the anti-malarial medication Malarone before getting on the plane to Brazil. She further explained that the severe side effects included things like increased sensitivity to the sun and light, mood swings, nightmares, nausea, and dizziness, and she went on to say that her partner not only wasn't taking Malarone, but wasn't dealing with those debilitating side effects.

She claimed that he was allowed to keep taking his prescription for Adderall, and while it seems like continuing prescription medications is a no-brainer, she said that wasn't the case for her. Bowen went as far as to take a polygraph test, in which she said she was forbidden from taking prescription kidney medication.

Bowen said that she was told that she absolutely could stop taking Malarone, as long as she filmed something saying that she was stopping the medication of her own free will. She declined, saying, "I do see an obvious gross oversight that my partner was never told to take Malarone while I was." Bowen also claimed that the side effects she suffered led to some of the conflicts between her and her partner, and she further alleged that another contestant was allowed to take his homemade mixture of alcohol, insect-repellent, and vitamins "at-will, as it was always in our camp's dry bag, off-camera."

Those tools might not always be their idea

Honora Bowen has had a number of criticisms about the way she was treated on "Naked and Afraid," and according to what she wrote on her blog, it was way more scripted than anyone watching it might think. She wrote about the survival items they were asked to bring, and said that she had shown up with several knives and a water filter. The production team would get the final say over what she was going to bring, and she says they asked her if she would be open to taking something that would serve as a firestarter.

"I agreed and said that my father had recommended a magnifying glass right before he passed away," she wrote. "The producers loved this concept, as well as the potential story line that they could then follow. So they sent a production assistant to town to find a magnifying glass. The PA returned with one ..."

That was what she was seen using on the show, but Bowen says that she was regularly instructed to refer to it as her father's magnifying glass, instead of just any old prop someone has just found at a store. "So to me, I was appeasing the producers by showing them what a good actor I was," she wrote. At the same time, though, she said it was an incredibly hard lie to tell, "as my father's death was so recent and I was still deeply in mourning."

They're not always as remote as it seems

Location is everything, but are "Naked and Afraid" contestants really in remote locations hundreds of miles from civilization? Not according to Honora Bowen, who wrote in a blog post that when she was on the show, they were actually so close to civilization that she was kept awake every night by the sound of a DJ holding a nearby block party. "The music never stopped before 4 am," she wrote.

Let's take the story of Lisa Theris, who wasn't on "Naked and Afraid." She did, however, get lost for a week in an area of Alabama that was used for a 2016 episode of the show. When she was rescued, she told a story of drinking from puddles and looking for signs of civilization. spoke to "Naked and Afraid" producer Jim Morton, whose family owned the land that the Alabama episode in question was shot on. He said that the area Theris disappeared in was just about 10 miles from his land, and he really doubted she couldn't have found her way back. "Even out there in the middle of stuff, you can hear power saws, you can hear all kinds of things. You run into fences out there in the middle of the woods, and I mean, Alabama Power is all over the place." He continued, saying of the show's contestants: "They don't want to wander off, but if they wanted to ... they wouldn't have to go far to find something that would lead them out."

Kim Shelton and Shane Lewis's varying medical care

When Kim Shelton found herself in Costa Rica, there was no way she could have predicted she would get so incredibly sick from eating a turtle ... although it is a little strange that devastating cases of food poisoning don't happen more often. According to what she and partner Shane Lewis told the Daily Mail, their issue wasn't so much with the food poisoning, but how their various medical emergencies were portrayed on the show.

While Shelton was given actual food and IV drips, that wasn't shown. All that was featured on the show was the fact that she was sick, and seemingly recovered. At the same time the show was edited to show her bouncing back from her illness, Lewis was seen to be exhausted and struggling with no real reason given.

Lewis later revealed that he had been incredibly upset by the way he was portrayed, and that the fact that he had broken three toes on just the fourth day of the challenge hadn't been mentioned. He told the Mail: "When I agreed to do the show I said to the producers that if you're going to do a real, raw show I will do it. They said they wanted to show the reality and how difficult it was, but they went for the ratings. They gave it the Hollywood treatment."

Some have claimed the crew helped out with food

While it might seem like the "naked" part of "Naked and Afraid" would be the most intimidating part, the prospect of going 21 days with only eating what you and your partner can forage, catch, and kill is pretty terrifying, too. Still, some contestants have alleged it wasn't exactly as desperate a situation as what's portrayed in a typical episode.

In her blog post exposing the inner workings of the show, Honora Bowen claimed that producers outright told her where — in the nearby lagoon — to find the coconuts that would become an invaluable food source. More than that, they seemed to invariably know where to find them: "I had to wonder how he knew, but it became obvious to me later as I repeatedly saw members of the crew with wet shorts."

In an interview with Empty Lighthouse Magazine, Bowen said that at one point, she left camp and made her way to a medic's tent, where she found some supplies — including Emergen-C electrolytes. She snagged them and took them back to camp, where they hid them from producers. She justified it as still being in the spirit of the show, saying, "It is still survival, you know?"

One contestant said she faked an injury to be allowed to leave

In an interview with Reality Blurred, "Naked and Afraid" producers Steve Rankin and Mathilde Bittner spoke about their role, and said that sometimes, one of the most important things they needed to do was give the occasional pep talk. Rankin explained, "When they've had enough, and they can't do it anymore, and you see them break, it's tragic, it's heartbreaking ... Every single one of them regrets it."

On her blog, Honora Bowen wrote that when she started considering tapping out, her episode's producer "informed me that if I consciously tapped out the story would be completely altered and would be, and I quote: 'that toad's story.' He warned me about this." She said that as the days went on and she started to lose control over her bodily functions, she knew something was gravely wrong and she had to leave. So, she said she faked falling unconscious.

"I pretended to be basically catatonic. I let my body go limp, because honestly it was pretty close to that point anyways. ... I was pretty close to going into a coma for real." She went on to say that medics were summoned and she was carried out on a stretcher, conscious the entire time but playing unconscious for the camera. She said that she had lost around 18 pounds in 16 days, suffered long-term consequences from her time on the show, and even took a polygraph test to support her testimony that her on-screen blackout was completely fake.