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Silver Creek grad takes challenge of 'Naked and Afraid XL'

A Western New York native is in the current edition of the Discovery Channel reality series "Naked and Afraid XL."

Shannon Kulpa is naked, I'm afraid for her.

In the series, which airs new episodes at 10 p.m. May 7, nine contestants roam the Amazon jungle without clothes, shoes, food, water or shelter. They navigate a jungle full of spiders, tarantulas, snakes and all kinds of dangerous animals that would frighten the daylights out of most viewers.

I'm pretty certain the spiders would frighten Channel 2 meteorologist Patrick Hammer, who recently received some national viral attention involving a spider during one newscast.

However, Kulpa is so unfazed that she is in her second "Naked and Afraid" series. She previously braved the elements in a series set in Trinidad that was shot in November of 2015 and aired in the middle of March. The current edition was shot in October and November of 2016.

As regular readers realize, I get easily afraid. I'm frightened every time I look at the roster of reality show contestants. My fear is I will have to watch their shows.

Kulpa was under the radar because she is identified on the program as being a stone mason from Ogden, Utah. However, she reached out and explained she actually is from Sheridan, New York and graduated from Silver Creek High School.

"With Facebook and social media, everybody in Silver Creek is talking, there is a buzz," said Kulpa in a telephone interview.

She added she took a year aboard and isn't sure if she was considered in is the 1995 or 1996 class when she believes she was voted most likely to succeed.

She succeeded in getting me to watch an episode. After about 15 minutes, I was itching at the sight of all the bugs in the Amazon. You see, I'm about as wimpy as Hammer.

Kulpa got the itch – pun intended – to be on the program while seeing snakes on a plane. She doesn't own a television so she first saw the program while on an airplane when she was returning from a surfing vacation with her two children.

"I thought it looked amazing," explained Kulpa. "The first time I saw it, I thought 'what is this? This is awesome. I could totally do this,'" explained Kulpa. "This is just an amazing thing that people are doing."

She is described as a "bad ass" by one of the other contestants. He didn't mean it literally.

The nudity in the program isn't exploitative or gratuitous. Private parts are blurred by the cameras, though a rear end is seen from time to time. That's usually just to show all the bug bites on it.

"It is not about the visual nudity," explained Kulpa. "It is more about how being naked and stripped of your protective clothing layer and how that really makes survival extremely difficult.  It is not meant to be weird. It is more meant to take you down to your raw state."

She added it is not sexual "in any way at all."

But she acknowledged that contestants can be uncomfortable and self-conscious.

"That is definitely not the case with me," said Kulpa. "Some people are more awkward about it than others. It depends on the person. I don't get offended very easily about that sort of thing so it doesn't bother me."

Nor does she get scared. The camera footage of all the bugs, snakes and wild animals is enough to scare most viewers into thinking lives are in jeopardy.

"You are definitely scared going into it because it is something you've never done before. For me, I quit being scared pretty quickly," explained Kulpa. "You just kind of realize that nothing wants to get you that bad. The longer you are in a camp the less likely that something is going to want to approach your camp. They are not out looking at humans as prey."

"There is definitely reason to be fearful out there. You can't be stupid. There wasn't anything really super scary. I'm a very light sleeper. And when I closed my eyes, I would have these terrible night visions, night terrors, one of the reasons I couldn't sleep at night. That was about it. I was pretty comfortable out there in the jungle to be honest."

She was comfortable and excited, but not jumping for joy.

"I was definitely not happy to be there," she said.

She doubted that her parents back in WNY, Mary Ann and John, were surprised by her or frightened for her.

"I don't think they were really that shocked," said Kulpa. "I'm definitely adventurous. I just go out and do things I want to do. I think they were excited. 'Oh, you are going to be on TV, holy cow.'"

The episode I saw didn't give many details about her life, though there was a photograph of her with her two children. In my interview, she explained that in high school she was "kind of a band geek, ran cross country and was kind of a hippy" and a Grateful Dead follower.

The exposure – pun intended – isn’t the only thing the contestants receive. They also receive what Kulpa described as a "decent paycheck" that covers the six or seven weeks that people have to take from their jobs to be on the program.

But there is no $1 million check for the winner like there is for "Survivor," the granddaddy of all reality shows. Kulpa hasn't seen it.

"The thing you win is you've done the challenge basically," said Kulpa. "You prove to yourself you can do something that is difficult. It is a challenge like no other. There is nothing like it on the planet.  It's for your own accomplishment."

You could say by appearing on "Naked and Afraid XL," Kulpa also has fulfilled the high school promise of being the most likely to succeed.


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