Melissa Miller is in a word, a badass. She’s more comfortable being uncomfortable than any other outdoors person I’ve ever met. She’s appeared on two seasons of Discovery Channel’s primitive survival challenge show, Naked and Afraid. First, she survived for three weeks in the Amazon Jungle with literally nothing but some fishing line, her knife, and a fire starter. Then on Naked and Afraid XL Melissa had to survive for forty days in the Selati Basin of South Africa.
Melissa Miller began practicing primitive skills in college. In addition to being a star on Naked and Afraid, she is an environmental educator in Michigan’s largest park system and an advisor to several outdoor gear companies. Melissa is skilled in primitive trapping, shelter making, fire making, and foraging. She’s also a traditional bowhunter. HuntTested was fortunate to have the chance to sit down and chat with Melissa.
HuntTested: First off, how did you tough it out all that time? After a week in elk camp, I’m ready for a real bed and a shower.
Melissa Miller: It’s all about attitude and staying positive, clearing your mentality and focusing on all the good things that happen. Going out I knew it was going to be miserable from the start, and you really don’t have any moment of true comfort being so exposed. In that type of situation, you just need to remain totally positive. If you are soaking wet you need to be grateful for the spot on your body that is still dry. It applies to many things in life if you maintain a good outlook and keep pushing forward eventually you will make it to the end.
HT: How long did it take to get past the fact that you’re naked with strangers?
MM: I was over the whole naked aspect within the first day, which honestly was really surprising for me. Before I had to undress for the show, I nearly cried because I am a modest person. People think that just because you’re on that show you’re some sort of nudist or exhibitionist which is 100% False.
Nudity is what makes it such a hard challenge and what makes it completely primitive. Clothing is your number one shelter from bugs, sunburn, and cold, many people don’t realize that. The naked aspect of the show is not to exploit people but rather to make it that much more difficult.
HT: What special training or preparation did you do to be able to survive with no food, water, gear or clothes in the wilderness for over a month?
MM: I immersed myself in the outdoors 24:7, I was out in the woods with only a knife learning how to prepare and survive in a minimalist way. My approach has always been less is more. I was doing everything to get ready mentally and physically. Some days I would build shelters on no food or water to get a feel for what that would be like.
HT: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about the show?
MM: There are two major ones. One is that the show uses nudity for exploitative purposes when that is not the case at all. The challenge is it is supposed to be completely primitive and not having clothing makes protection from the sun, bug bites, and the cold very hard to achieve. Not having shoes is the hardest part, go camp naked for a day and see how it feels.
Not everyone on the show is a nudist, I definitely am not. One of the most nerve-racking parts of the show for me was the nudity part. I did not want people to judge me for taking my clothes off on camera but I wanted them to understand the purpose behind it and how it created such a difficult challenge.
Second that it’s fake. It really sucks going through a challenge like that and working so hard to and then see that people think that the show is fake. We all have bug bite and thorn scars, fractured bones, and some get untreatable diseases. There is nothing fake about it.
HT: What was the hardest part of being in an extended wilderness survival situation?
MM: So many things to name that it’s really hard. Not once out there do you feel totally comfortable and that is why there are so many hard factors. Even if your belly is full, you’re still on the hard cold ground exposed to bugs. I have gained a new thankfulness for my bed and blankets because of that show.