Woman uses Goliad County upbringing on survivalist show (w/video)
March 28, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 27, 2014 at 10:28 p.m.
Alana Barfield was on a beach in Fiji - but not the kind of powdery-white beach you'd see plastered on the cover of a travel magazine.
Her bare feet were callused and raw as she trekked across the shore, which was made up of crushed coral that felt a lot like glass.
She was hunting an elusive crab skirting across the shore.
She caught it, but it flitted out of her hands in the direction of a stoic cameraman bent on capturing her struggle for food.
When the crab reached his foot, he did not move to stop it.
"All he had to do was kick it, and I could have had it," Barfield, a Goliad County native, said Thursday.
But the Discovery Channel's "Naked and Afraid" doesn't work that way.
The show, now in its second season, drops one man and one woman off in an exotic, uninhabited location without even the clothes on their backs.
The strangers are allowed to bring one tool.
They must survive without food or water, and at the end of 21 days, no one wins or is handed a big check.
And Barfield, whose episode with Keith Busch, 46, of Seattle, Wash., premieres Sunday, said surviving is prize enough.
Now a makeup artist living in Houston, Barfield, 35, signed up knowing very little about the show. A friend called her and urged her to turn on the TV.
Barfield became so engrossed by the show, she hopped online to learn more. Then, she found the casting link.
"I think I was drinking too much wine," Barfield said, jokingly. "It was more out of curiosity. I kind of just wanted to see what questions they would ask."
She finished the questionnaire in about 20 minutes, and the producers called the next day. It wasn't until she underwent a battery of health tests and received dozens of vaccines and a flight itinerary that reality set in.
That's not to say she hadn't prepared. Barfield, who played tennis, volleyball and ran track at Goliad High School, ran barefoot on an asphalt track to acclimate herself to a harsh terrain in the days leading up to her departure.
When she learned her destination, she researched in vain its plants and wildlife, but each of the estimated 300 Fijian islands are unique.
The South Texas girl was mostly scared of the opening scene of the show, in which she would meet Busch naked.
"I'm a girl who doesn't even like to wear low-cut tops or shorts," Barfield said, "but after you're out there for five minutes, and you realize there's nothing you can do about it, you get over it pretty quickly."
And the two were naked for about a week until a producer asked them to try to cover up or else they'd spend hours in the editing booth.
The participants' nakedness is blurred out during the broadcast.
Barfield then found a bag that had drifted ashore. She dreamt of turning it into a dress but had to get creative with leaves and vines instead when producers snatched it away.
"They want to make the show about human spirit and its tenacity or lack of it in some cases," Barfield said. "It was very Adam and Eve."
Busch is an Eagle Scout who enlisted in the Army. He's studying to become a black belt in karate, so when he learned about Barfield's background, he wasn't sure she could pull her weight, she said.
"I could almost hear him give up," Barfield said. "He learned pretty quickly that I was a team player though. I wasn't there to be taken care of or to be a helpless damsel in distress."
Barfield's family lives between Fannin and Schroeder, where she grew up fishing and hunting. She's chopped wood, built fires and can spot edible plants.
"I had a much better time with it than he did because I was exposed to it so early. It was something that came naturally rather than something I had to remember how to do or force myself to do," she said.
Barfield lost 18 pounds during her stay on the island. The ocean was their only food source. It was the rainy season there, so it was hot one minute and dropped 20 degrees the next.
She said without hesitation that she would do it again. Now seeking a bachelor's degree in emergency and disaster management, she appreciates the small things in life, like soft chairs, baked goods and running water.
"I am just so happy every time I turn on my tap and water comes out. It's like magic," she said. "I've never been in a situation that difficult. . It was a chance to learn something about myself."
Barfield's mother, Cynthia Barfield, plans to tune in. She said her only child has always been adventurous and curious about the world.
"We sent her to sea camp down in Galveston at Texas A&M. She went every summer for two- to three-week sessions through junior high and high school," her mother said. "We just encouraged her in everything to make her a more well-rounded person."
Busch and Barfield exchanged turkey dinners for crabs and coconuts, but filming wrapped up before Christmas.
They will reunite for the first time in Los Angeles on Sunday for a live after show.
"We're really excited to see what each other looks like with clothes on," Barfield said, chuckling. "Maybe we'll go out to dinner and have real food."