Contestants on Naked and Afraid are dropped in the wilderness with nothing but their survival skills and their partners to rely on. Suzanne Zeta survived a 21-day challenge in Brazil and then partook in a 40-day group challenge in South Africa for Naked and Afraid XL. The reality show contestant was brought back for a grueling 60-day challenge, as she was among the 12 “legends” of the series asked to compete in Naked and Afraid XL, which was filmed stateside. As described on Discovery’s website, the show was filmed “in Louisiana’s infamous Atchafalaya Basin,” which included predators such as alligators and cottonmouth snakes.
This was a departure from Suzanne’s time in Africa, which seemed to be majestic. “Who wouldn’t want to wake up each morning and feel like you’re in the middle of The Lion King?” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in August 2020. However, the beautiful landscape and exotic wildlife was not all Suzanne encountered, as she braved the harsh elements. “It was so hot, you couldn’t even sweat. The environment would suck the moisture right out of you,” she recalled to the Times-Dispatch.
Prior to her time in Africa, Suzanne traveled to Brazil for her first appearance on the hit show. In preparation for the physically demanding challenge, the survivalist had packed on extra muscle in case she struggled to secure food. “You’re free to fail. Nobody is going to stop you if you make a really dumb decision,” Suzanne told NBC12 in August 2018. Keep reading to see how a difficult childhood inspired Suzanne on and off the show.
Inside Suzanne Zeta's biggest fear about being on 'Naked and Afraid XL'
Suzanne Zeta has impressed viewers with her survival skills on Naked and Afraid XL, but her professional life is just as impressive. As covered by NBC12, she dropped out of high school at 16 years old, and received a GED. Eventually, she returned to school and earned a Ph.D. in occupational therapy. The reality show star has opened up about the abuse she endured during childhood, and told NBC12 that it helped her on the show. “My childhood prepared me for this episode,” Suzanne said. “My mother had a strong imprint on my life but in a very negative fashion.”
The Naked and Afraid XL contestant divorced and remarried between her appearances on the show, and she is the mother of four boys who were her inspiration to audition for the show. “My boys wanted me to take on this challenge,” she revealed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch in May 2018. But Suzanne’s biggest fear going on the show had nothing to do with the natural predators or the brutal elements. “The most difficult part for me was worrying about potential ‘haters’ judging me on my decisions and actions,” she told the outlet.
Suzanne not only wanted to impress her children, but she wanted to impress her younger self, too. “But would that little girl be proud of the adult me?” she said to the Times-Dispatch. “Am I still as independent and resourceful? Or did I go soft?” It’s fair to assume that a young Suzanne would be proud of all that she has accomplished.
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