CEDAR RAPIDS — It started as a humorous suggestion from her fiance, then a challenge to prove others wrong, then as an inspiration for herself and her daughter.
It ended with her naked in the wilderness, a runaway storm bearing down on her.
You can watch Cedar Rapids resident Amal Alyassiri, 34, take on all the challenges Mother Nature can think to throw at her and her also bareskinned competition partner, Duke Brady, on the season premiere of “Naked and Afraid” on the Discovery Channel. The episode airs at 9 p.m. Sunday Iowa time.
Now entering into its ninth season, “Naked and Afraid” belongs to the survivalist genre of reality television shows that pit participants against harsh environments, except this show has a twist. According to the show’s website, for “21 days, one man and one woman — meeting for the first time in the nude — are paired and tasked to survive in some of the world’s most extreme environments ... with no food, water or clothes.”
The episode was recorded back in September, and Alyassiri can’t wait for people to see it.
“I’ve been really nervous and excited just because I’ve been waiting for so long. Even though it’s only been five months (since the recording) it’s felt like a year,” she said in an interview with The Gazette, safely back home in Cedar Rapids. “I’m really happy with the way I represented Iowa, and I feel like (Iowan viewers) are going to be happy with it, too.”
Alyassiri said she has been a fan of “Naked and Afraid” for years. One day her fiance, somewhat in jest, challenged her to apply to be on the show. To her surprise, she made the cut.
“There were a lot of different reactions: excitement, fear, nervousness, happiness,” she said.
Alyassiri said she was motivated to ultimately do the show for a variety of reasons: to show her oldest son that he was wrong that she would last only a few days, to show her daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to, and to show the world that a Muslim woman was not limited by modesty or tradition.
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“I feel like a lot of people think that a Muslim woman is supposed to act a certain way and do certain things, and I wanted to step out of that box and I wanted to show others that that’s not how it has to be — that we are able to make our own decisions, we are able to do what we want to do,” she said.
Although she said she wants to do so to put the achievements of women and Muslims in a positive light, she stressed she took on the show as a personal challenge and not as a representation of how she feels how others should have to live.
That doesn’t mean that she hasn’t received some negative feedback from both internet strangers and even family members who disapprove of her violating their view of how a Muslim woman should behave.
However, despite some of these negative reactions, Alyassiri said she’s excited to see what her friends, family members and fellow Iowans think as she is shown dealing with hunger, loneliness, angry bears, some particularly unfriendly yellow jackets, and (spoiler alert) a hurricane surging toward their location in Florida.
Alyassiri said that going through this challenge is something she’ll take with her for the rest of her life.
“I went into this wanting to prove so many people wrong, and what happened is I ended up proving myself right, and to me that was more important than anything else,” she said. “It taught me to never question myself again.”