'Teen Mom' star Maci Bookout says getting naked on 'Naked and Afraid' led her to 'brink of insanity'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment


If you were just watching Naked and Afraid, yes, that was Teen Mom’s Maci Bookout.

The 26-year-old mother of three is a self-professed superfan of the show, telling Yahoo Entertainment, “I’ve seen every episode four times.” At first, “it didn’t cross my mind to attempt being on it,” she said, but the more “obsessed” she became, “in my own head, it became not such a far reach.”

Her husband, Taylor McKinney, was the one who persuaded her to reach out to the Discovery Channel to see if it would consider her for a challenge. “I guess he was sick of me talking about it and said: ‘Maci, either try it or stop talking about it.” So she called her agent to inquire, assuming it would be a no or that there would be a long waiting list, and a couple of days later she heard back. “He was like, ‘Yes. Discovery is all about it if you want to try it.'” That’s when her nerves first kicked in: “I said, ‘I was hoping you were going to call me back and tell me it wasn’t going to happen.'” She adds with a laugh, “Now that I’ve done it, I’m not sure that many people are dying to be on the show.”

Watch an exclusive clip of Bookout’s episode:

There were a few months between getting the green light and being whisked off to Nicaragua for the expected 14-day endurance test of surviving without food, water, shelter, and undergarments, so in the meantime Bookout spent a lot of time practicing at home with her three children: Bentley, 9; Jayde, 3; and Maverick, 2. “It was a lot of practice and training and researching and more practice,” she says. And not at the gym. “In my backyard. I built a shelter and made fires constantly.”

Her two older children were her biggest helpers. “Bentley is older, so he could use the fire starter and things like that,” she says. “He helped me with my shelter. Jayde can actually use the fire starter too. We called the fire a ‘fire baby’ because once you make a fire on your own,” sans matches,
“it’s literally your baby. You don’t want to put it out. You don’t want it to go out. So, I always said that’s my fire baby. Now any time Jayde wants to go outside and do survival stuff, she’ll say, ‘Let’s go make our fire baby.'”

As the episode showed, when Bookout arrived ashore in the Central American country known for its volcanoes and beaches, she was nervous and had anxiety. In addition to the survival part, the nude factor weighed on her. “Oh, yeah — that was definitely one of the things I was extremely anxious about,” she says. “I’m a pretty modest person; I knew I was going to be really nervous about that part. Before I went, I told myself: Either way, you’re going to do it, so when the time comes just do it. Get it over with and forget about it. It was very, very nerve-racking. But I guess because of adrenaline and excitement, it wasn’t as big of a deal as I was expecting it to be.”

Bookout shared a photo from the episode, showing her with fellow survivalist Justin Tuell, an ICU nurse:

How long did it take for her to feel comfortable in her own, um, skin? “I’d say mentally comfortable probably about an hour or so,” she says. “Then there’s the other factor of not having shoes on. So when your feet hurt and you want to sit down, you don’t have any clothes on and you don’t have anything to sit on.” So the nudity “plays a part the whole time. You don’t know until you experience something like it, but it’s pretty insane the comfort that wearing clothes gives you for your mentality. Without them, you feel extremely vulnerable because you don’t have any protection.”

While the challenge was a challengewatch the video to see how it turned out — she was happy to have been matched up with Justin Tuell, an ICU nurse as they encountered hungry predators, venomous reptiles, and hyper-aggressive howler monkeys. “Honestly, I don’t think I could have picked a better partner,” she says. “That was one of the things I was worried about because I’m pretty independent, strong, and not opinionated but I know how I like to do things. … So many times on the show I saw partners that don’t get along. I was afraid I would get a partner who was just a complete A-hole or who tried to undermine me because I’m a woman. That was my biggest fear.” Luckily, Tuell was “very positive” with a “great attitude.”

But, again, the challenge was a challenge for Bookout — and her participation was brief. “Anybody that signs up for this challenge is a freaking badass,” she says. “And anybody that can finish it — I don’t even care if they finish it — anybody that tries this is awesome. I am proud of myself. It’s no freaking joke. It’s for sure the most amazing — and the most terrible thing — I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

How did Bookout’s fam do while she was gone? “Honestly, they were fine. They survived. I was like: OK, I’m going to survive in a jungle naked, but Taylor is going to be surviving three kids by himself. Hopefully I’ll come home and he’ll be alive too,” she says, laughing. She recalls how the little ones asked McKinney every day when she would be home, but Bentley did well, in part thanks to a couple of fun things she ordered and had delivered while she was away. “That definitely helped.”

Bookout with her crew: Taylor McKinney and kids Bentley, Jade, and Maverick:

Bookout says her anxiety about the show didn’t end when the taping did. As the air date approached, she was nervous about how it was going to play out onscreen. Of course, after nearly 10 years of Teen Mom, she knows how things get edited — and under the conditions she was in, some moments she was lacking clarity. “I am so anxious about seeing it because I’m exhausted, thirsty, hungry. You’re pretty much on the brink of insanity, You’re delirious. I’m like: What did I do or say that I don’t remember? I hope I kept it together.”

Now that the experience is over, we wondered if she’d commemorate it with a tattoo. As seen in the episode, she has a lot of ’em on her back and arms, including “Bulletproof,” the name of her book, and more whimsical ones — a cupcake, a clock, and so on. “Probably,” she says. “I’ve thought about it and I want to, but I’m just not sure what I’ll get. I definitely do want to though.”

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