Melissa Miller, 28, knew it was going to be tough to survive a three-week survival challenge in an unknown destination, stripped of all her clothing and every bare necessity, including shelter, food and water.
She just didn’t know exactly how tough it would be, or whether she would actually survive it.
The premise of “Naked and Afraid,” a popular Discovery Channel reality show in its seventh season, is that two complete strangers, usually a man and a woman, are stranded together in a very dangerous, desolate location.
They are without food or water, and they are completely naked. They’re provided with only one survival item each and a canvas bag that covers very little of their nudity. The competitors quickly get to know each other and their surroundings, hoping that their instincts, survival skills and “intestinal fortitude” will serve them well.
“About 50 percent make it and 50 percent don’t,” said Miller, who’s sworn to secrecy about the show’s location and ending. “These are all extreme survivalists or ex-military. Some have to be medically airlifted out.”
TV viewers won’t know the outcome until they watch Miller and her male counterpart on the show, debuting this Sunday, May 21 at 9 p.m. She’ll be hosting an Episode-Viewing Party beginning at 8:30 p.m. at Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Fenton.
“I’m really nervous about how I’ll be portrayed,” admitted Miller. “It’s terrifying.”
But that’s not nearly as scary as shedding clothes for the first time on the show. “I don’t even like wearing a bathing suit,” she said. “Getting nude was really scary.”
But she found out right away that being nude in the rainforest wasn’t provocative or sexual. It was all about survival.
“Being naked is just so hard,” said Miller. “It was the number one thing that made the experience so difficult. It’s such a miserable experience. You’re exposed to the sun, bugs, thorns and flesh-eating parasites in a tropical rainforest where the bugs were relentless.”
After the first day of the challenge, you don’t even care that you’re nude, according to Miller.
“Your body goes into full survival mode. You’re hungry and dehydrated. You have to get all your own food and water, make a fire. I hunted, fished and foraged for food. Physically and mentally, it was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
It’s truly the epitome of living in the moment, day by day, she said. “Time does not exist; it’s sunup to sundown. You focus all your energy on survival. By the end, you become very animalistic. Your senses become very sharp. You learn to embrace the misery and fall in love with the environment. The human body is so amazing. We can adapt so fast. After awhile, you start to get in the groove and learn what to do.”
It was seven days before she got to eat anything, she said. “I lost 20 pounds, and I was already thin before. I looked emaciated.”
She admits to having some drama with her TV reality partner. “He was a solo-type person. There was definitely drama and disagreements, but in the end, we had such respect for each other. We will be lifelong friends.”
Miller, the daughter of Bill and Maggie Miller of Argentine Township, graduated from Fenton High School in 2007. She has always been a lover of the outdoors and has been into survival tactics in the past few years.
In her real life, Miller is an environmental educator at For-Mar Nature Preserve in Burton. Later this summer, she’ll be teaching survival in the French Alpine Mountains, at the border of France and Switzerland. She’ll also be working for a survival school, producing survival tutorials on YouTube.
“There’s something about this, overcoming the discomfort,” said Miller. “I had hundreds of thorns on my feet, scars from the bug bites and an open wound for three weeks. But I would do it all again if I’m asked. It changed me for the better. It taught me about myself and made me grateful for the tiniest thing. I missed my bed, a sheet over my body at night.”
Do contestants on Naked and Afraid get paid for their misery?
According to their contract outlined on Starcasm.com, successful participants each receive a $5,000 Grand Prize.
“Naked and Afraid,’’ an episode starring local woman Melissa Miller,
airs this Sunday, May 21 at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.
Miller will be hosting an Episode Viewing Party at 8:30 p.m. at Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Fenton.