You’re going to be seeing a lot of Jeremy Upshaw on television.
The Tulsa-born Upshaw, a Stillwater High School graduate who lives in Enid, will bare it all in an upcoming episode of “Naked and Afraid.” The episode is scheduled to air 7 p.m. Sunday, May 12.
A Discovery Channel reality series, “Naked and Afraid” documents the experiences of a male and female who are plopped into the wilderness for 21 days, and they must scavenge for whatever resources they can find to survive. Per the series’ title, the survivalists tackle the challenge minus clothing.
It was pointed out to Upshaw during a recent phone interview that he could have kept his clothes on if he appeared on a reality show like “The Voice.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t sing,” he said.
So, instead of trying to carry a tune, Upshaw will carry a satchel around in the woods (he’s not permitted to say where he and his partner were sent) and be as naked as the day he was born at Hillcrest.
When not on TV, you’ll find a fully clothed Upshaw managing a professional apparel store. The Uniform Stop has locations in Stillwater and Enid. Said Upshaw: “I don’t think the irony hit me until I got on location and I thought, ‘You know, here is a guy that sells and makes clothing for a living and I’m about to lose it all right now.’ ”
Who has the guts to be naked in the wild?
Upshaw admits to being an adrenaline junkie. He said he does a lot of adventuring, specifically alpine climbing and long-distance kayaking (he has navigated the Arkansas River almost top to bottom).
Upshaw said he climbed Colorado’s Mount Elbert a few years ago and got trapped in a winter storm for about a day and a half. A complication contributed to him getting stuck: He came down with strep. “Strep at altitude, it was pretty intense,” he said. “It kind of drug me down. Being up there alone was pretty tough. I had a lot of time to sit in a bag and wiggle my toes and fingers and wait for the snow to blow over.”
Upshaw’s nose, toes and fingers suffered frostbite, but he lived to tell about it, so that’s a victory.
Now, he’s going from strep to strip.
“I think it boils down to life is short and I’m here to have fun and do as much as I can and see as much as I can,” Upshaw said. “If I can make people proud in the process or learn a new skill or get to see a new place, then I’m game.”
Asked what family and friends thought of his decision to be on “Naked and Afraid,” he said some were supportive and his mother was probably the most flabbergasted. He cited the naked-on-TV thing.
“We have watched the franchise from its beginning, so we were really familiar with the show,” he said. “I think in my mom’s mind it was great as a novelty. And then I think reality hit her in the face when I said ‘I’m going to be on the show.’ She never thought I would be on that side of it and I really didn’t either.”
Upshaw did not pursue “Naked and Afraid.” The show found him. He said he doesn’t have a huge presence on social media, but he wonders if climbing/kayaking posts on Facebook or Instagram caught the eye of a “Naked and Afraid” headhunter.
“It was random,” he said. “It was kind of gratifying, though. It was something that I wanted to do that I didn’t know I wanted to do. That’s the best way I can put it. If I hadn’t had that nudge, I can’t say I ever would have gone out and said ‘hey, pick me.’”
Natalie Munio, a publicity coordinator for Discovery Inc., said it’s a rigorous process to locate survivalists for the show. “We find people from both videos they submit, as well as an ongoing nationwide, even worldwide, search,” she said. “Once they are under consideration, the candidates go through a thorough evaluation process that looks at their primitive survival skills, physical abilities and mental toughness.”
There is no jackpot at the end of the rainbow. “Naked and Afraid” participants don’t get a jillion dollars or a Hollywood contract if they complete the test. The appeal is the challenge.
“The big reward is coming back,” Upshaw said. “It’s taking those lessons or bringing back whatever you picked up out there. Whether it’s physical or mental or spiritual, you come back and, whether people say they are or not, everybody who goes through that has to be changed in some way.”
There are so many questions that can be asked about this:
What did Upshaw miss most about civilization during three weeks in the wild? He missed his family. But one of the things he missed most was his shorkie, Teaspoon. “I thought, I would give a lot to be able to come home and have my dog lick my face.”
Upshaw, comfortable with his body, isn’t afraid of being naked. What is he afraid of? “Everybody has fears and kind of preconceived superstitions. I can’t speak for anybody else. But I know, for myself, I honestly didn’t know what I was afraid of until I got out there. It’s kind of eye-opening because a lot of the monsters under the bed that you think you are worried about back home, when you are stripped down and you are in the wild and you are fighting for your life, a lot of that stuff goes out the window and the fear just becomes staying alive. I think in a way it humbles a person and in another sense it shows that a lot of the stuff that you are afraid of back home during the 9-to-5 is not really that bad. It could be worse.”
What’s the worst part of being naked in the wild? The elements. “When you have clothes on, at a very minimal level, you are kind of wearing your shelter on you. When you strip down and you are in a foreign environment, everything is more intense. The cold is more intense. The heat, the sunlight, is more intense. And then, of course, you have outside forces, bugs and things like that. Every raindrop, every ray of sun, you are feeling it and it is just permeating your body. Everything is just intensified.”
Sound fun? Upshaw said it was almost bittersweet when his “Naked and Afraid” time was over, but he’s ready to go again on a moment’s notice.
Upshaw prepared for the show by doing a lot of fasting, which was tough because he’s a borderline foodie. And he hit walking/hiking trails barefoot because he wanted to toughen up his feet.
“I got a lot of weird looks,” he said. “People sitting at the fishing holes, they would see me run by barefoot, and then they would see me run back by barefoot. I would strip down about as bare as I could get and have a pair of running shorts on. That was more than they wanted to see. And I was thinking in my head, well, just wait until the show comes out. You will get even more of an eyeful.
Take a peek inside the National Weather Center in Norman.