BRATTLEBORO — Kaila Cumings, a veteran contestant of the Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” show, recently participated in a new challenge. This time, she braved it alone, deep in a jungle of Mexico, in a spin-off called “Naked and Afraid: Solo.”
“This challenge was super difficult for me,” said Cumings, who lives in Brattleboro and has a knifemaking studio in Keene, N.H.
After appearing in last year’s ”Naked and Afraid XL” in which she partnered up with two rookies to take on the Amazon Rainforest of Peru, Cumings wasn’t sure she wanted something like that again. When she was told she’d be alone, she recounted, “I was like, absolutely. I just thought this would be super challenging for me.”
This latest challenge for the Discovery shows will mark her fourth. She participated in “Naked and Afraid” challenges that brought her to Colombia for 21 days in 2015, Africa for 40 days in 2017 and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru for six days in 2021. She didn’t complete the latter.
Cumings said she can’t disclose if she lasted the entire challenge in Mexico. She encourages viewers to tune in March 12 when the series airs but did say the challenge returned her confidence after tapping out in Peru, calling it “my redemption and way to get back out there.”
“This one was way harder because I’m all by myself so it’s double the workload,” she said, considering it the best challenge so far. “I had more time to think. I got to showcase more of my survival skills.”
Cumings said she usually likes to showcase her partners’ skills. This time around, she had to build a shelter, start fires and search for food on her own.
“I swear I have PTSD from all my other challenges,” she said, “making sure all the fires didn’t go out.”
In Mexico, Cumings had to contend with extreme heat. She also faced what she called “some really crazy storms” that put her in life-or-death situations.
Her lean-to was “basic but strong and sturdy,” she said. She consciously tried not to exert too much energy on the project, acknowledging it’s much more difficult without a partner.
“I built a pretty cool shelter,” she said. “I’m excited for everyone to see.”
Regarding the hunt for food, Cumings said she killed “something out there that was pretty crazy for me.” She encountered fer-de-lance snakes, which she described as the deadliest in the world.
Luckily, she’s not afraid of snakes. Spiders are more of a weakness for her.
While Cumings was alone in the challenge, there was a film crew but they aren’t allowed to speak with participants at all. At times, she was truly alone and given a camera to produce her own video diaries.
So bored from not being able to leave the shelter due to the heat some days, Cumings would try to have a conversation with crew members.
“I would be like, ‘You can be my therapist,’” she said. “It’s so awkward because you are completely by yourself.”
With a partner, she could bounce ideas off them and talk.
In the video diaries, Cumings daydreams about foods she craved. Viewers will get to see what she ate to persist through the challenge.
During the previous challenge, Cumings experienced personal hardships that made it more difficult. This time around, she was processing feelings about her mother having Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was very therapeutic for me,” she said, although it hit her that her mother would no longer be taking care of her in ways she had before. “She’s always been an inspiration. It made me sad.”