Marietta’s Melissa LeEllen on ‘Naked & Afraid’ April 23

This was originally posted Sunday, April 23, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk

Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid” led to a handful of other shows using nudity as the twist (VH1’s “Dating Naked, TLC’s “Buying Naked”). But those shows came and went. This one endures in its seventh season because it deftly blends the challenges of survivalist spectacle with the salaciousness of blurred private parts.

Marietta’s Melissa LeEllen is the latest person to take part on the April 23rd episode, sure to be repeated numerous times..

With an ex-Marine Geoff Wilson, she faced constant downpours, cabin fever, threats from predators, lack of sleep and extreme hunger in the Panamanian jungle. Does she make it 21 days?

“I wouldn’t consider myself a trained survivalist,” she said in an interview Friday. “I was very outdoorsy when I was young. I was always backpacking and camping, always out in nature, surfing and skydiving. This is my own personal challenge. That’s why I did it.”

Though the 34 year old is single now, she said when she has kids and grandkids, she can’t wait to show the show to them, to prove what a “bada***” she was.

This was actually taped almost two years ago. “It’s been awhile,” she said. “I’m so excited. I had to keep this secret a long time.”

Her public Facebook profile photo

She was working for a marketing company at the time of the taping and now owns her own marketing company and modeling and talent agency called Always a Bridesmaid in Duluth.

Entering the show, she did her best to be physically prepared and fully hydrated going in. She even consumed coconut oil to build an extra layer of fat. She wasn’t sleeping all that much because she was so excited.

Like a lot of the folks on the “Naked and Afraid” shows, she said her initial meeting with her male counterpart was super awkward but the need to survive superseded the nudity very quickly. “We had to find somewhere to sleep, we were starting to get hungry,” she said. “We had work to do.” Modesty went out the window, though she did try to create a leaf skirt at some point.

The mental challenge was just as tough. “You have to keep your skills in your brain at all times,” she said. “It’s a hard situation. I never let my guard down. You never know when a puma might attack you!”

She knew from previous “Naked and Afraid” episodes to avoid the temptation to eat anything suspect or drink something not fully heated up. That could often cause you to get sick and force an early medical departure. “I did not want to tap myself out,” she said.

Melissa said the entire experience made her realize how powerful she was. “Sometimes we forget how strong we are as humans,” she said. “I learned how strong my mind is and how thankful I am for life, for experiences. We get used to first world life, the comfortable life. You take that all away, you’re just left with yourself and what’s valuable to you. That’s my biggest takeaway.”

Returning from the taping, she said she got super sick for three days. But once she got over that illness, she bounced back surprisingly quickly. “It made me stronger,” she said. “And I’m not nearly as afraid of snakes and spiders!”

Plus, camping clothed and with all the necessary accessories “is now such a breeze. Camping was not hard but now, holy crap, I can do this in my sleep!”

TV PREVIEW

“Naked and Afraid,” 9 p.m. Sundays, Discovery

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