Alison Teal may have been a contestant on Discovery Channel's Naked And Afraid, but she "never wanted to be known as the naked girl on TV".
"I've always wanted to be a role model for children, for them to see the magic and beauty of the world. Going naked on national TV probably wasn't the best way to start that kind of career," the bubbly 29-year-old says with a laugh in a recent telephone interview with Life!.
Naked And Afraid is a TV series that premiered on Discovery Channel in Singapore in December last year and features completely nude boy-girl pairings trying to survive living in the wilderness for 21 days.
Clever of Teal to use her newfound celebrity from the show as a launch pad to promote herself in a way that she does feel proud of, then.
After all, she is speaking to Life! to plug her new online video series Alison's Adventures, where she documents her travels to places such as Australia, New Zealand and the Grand Canyon. The videos are available on YouTube and her website (www.alisonsadventures.com).
"I want these videos to inspire kids to know that the world is full of magic and intrigue. It's kind of like Disney, except that these wonderful people I meet on my travels are like real people."
The confident and sprightly woman's star is certainly rising of late.
Her Twitter account (@alisonadventure) has already amassed more than 24,000 followers, while her Instagram account (@alisonadventures) has more than 55,000 followers. "People are calling me the Oprah of adventure and I think that's cool. This is what I set out to do - to be the girl who inspires children."
She was a lot less sure of herself when the Discovery Channel first approached her to tackle Naked And Afraid though. In fact, her hesitancy led her to reject the channel's offer to join the show at first.
"They called me to see if I was interested and my first reaction was like, 'What? No way.' Growing up, my nickname was 'the nun'. My parents were travelling hippies but they instilled in me good morals and I'm not the type to get naked with strangers," she says.
Her father David Blehert is an adventure-photographer whose works have been used by the National Geographic as well as outdoor sportswear companies such as Teva and Patagonia, while her mother Deborah Koehn, is a famed yoga instructor.
"But a year later, they asked again and I thought, okay, why not? It's a learning experience and it's something I'll never get to do again."
That, plus the fact that she realised the show is hardly the sleazy kind of programming that most would associate with a series with such a title.
"Initially, you think, 'Oh, everyone's naked', and you laugh. But through the show, audiences learn pertinent skills for survival. After the show aired, people were coming up to talk to me about how to make a fire, how to survive. The show is not a joke."
Teal, who was marooned on an island in the Maldives alongside ex-Marine Jonathan Klay, 36, is not kidding about how serious the show is.
"Jonathan and I had a conversation on about day 16, about who on the crew we were going to eat because we were just so hungry. We're not just chilling on an island, you know. It was crazy."
Naked And Afraid, which premiered in the US last June, was a runaway hit, with many episodes taking the top spot in ratings for a cable show during its time slot.
Teal also emerged as the contestant with the highest "primitive survival rating", which means that she has the highest level of survival fitness skills.
That is perhaps unsurprising, given her upbringing.
Ever since she was born, the Hawaii native and only child has been uprooted by her parents to live in rural locations around the world, such as the remote coasts of Brazil, the deserts of Rajasthan, India, and the highest peaks in Peru.
The family's base is an off- the-grid, 100 per cent sustainable house on Hawaii's Big Island, which Teal describes to be "like a Swiss Robinson Family home".
"I was a real Tarzan child and I was taught from young about sustainability and green living. I never took a real survival course, but I guess my whole life, I had been sort of prepared for Naked And Afraid in some way. It's like Survival 101 my entire life."
She adds that though many people deem her life "the dream life", all the homeschooler wanted to do as a child was to "take the yellow school bus and go to a real school".
She finally got a taste of "real school" when she was in her late teens and attended Hawaii Preparatory Academy for two years of high school.
"Have you seen the movie Mean Girls? That's pretty much my story," she says, referring to the 2004 comedy where actress Lindsay Lohan plays a girl who has to adjust to attending an American high school for the first time after having grown up in the wilds of Africa.
Still, it was clear she took to the education system easily, snagging straight As.
"I remember the first time I got an A and I ran home and was like, 'Mum, I promise I wasn't absent'. And she was like, 'That's not what the A stands for'."
She went on to attend University of California, Berkeley, and then film school at the University of Southern California, where she graduated summa cum laude.
She hopes to make more adventure- type videos and host her own adventure travel show on TV.
"I want to be the female Indiana Jones, an icon that promotes adventure, sustainability and a love for life."
This article was first published on JUNE 23, 2014.
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