SAN ANTONIO — Born and raised in south San Antonio, Malorie Romero immersed herself in places like the Medina River Natural Area and Calaveras Lake, fostering a passion for all things outdoors in a city where the most popular outdoors activity is enjoying a margarita on the River Walk.
But all those local excursions could only go so far to prepare her for the summer of 2022, when she left her gear at home, boarded a plane and flew for 16 hours to Argentina. There, she endured a nightmare challenge that sounded to her like a dream: Twenty-one days of surviving nature's worst, teamed up with someone she'd never met, starting out with nothing but the skin on their backs.
"Everything on there is real," Romero says. "I will post pictures so you can see the aftermath; I have the scars on my body to prove it is real."
Romero will be featured on Sunday's episode of Discovery's long-running reality show "Naked and Afraid," starting at 7 p.m. CT (it will also be available to stream on Discovery+). A program that makes "Survivor" look like a luxury vacation, "Naked and Afraid" leaves its participants as vulnerable as they can possibly be, forcing them to dig as deep as they ever have for three weeks.
As grueling as the attempt to survive 21 days in a remote Argentinean forest might have been for Romero, the nine months since might have been even tougher. It wasn't until January that Discovery told her when the episode would air, and she could start sharing some of her experience. For most of the past year, only her closest relatives even knew she was involved with "Naked and Afraid."
"I've had friends say, 'What? What do you mean you were there?'" she says. "I was like, 'Remember that month were I didn't post anything? It's because I wasn't in the country.'"
Between her hunting skills and clear comfort with animals others would shrink away from (she proudly owns two pet pythons, a bearded dragon and a Black Widow, in addition to dogs and a guinea pig), Romero fits the bill for a "Naked and Afraid" participant—so much so that the Discovery Channel came to her.
Despite her grandfather being a big fan, she had never watched a full episode, and wasn't entirely sure the whole thing wasn't a joke until she was in the air heading from South Texas to South America.
"I was like, 'Man, if this is real, I'm doing it. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it,'" Romero says. "I feel like I was born for something like this."
Scroll through through her TikTok and you're able to see why. Her feed is an archive of late-night fishing trips, navigating gator-infested waters, archery practice... you get the idea.
Her grandparents were outdoorspeople in their own right. Romero recalls helping her grandfather to skin and process the meat he gathered.
Discovery was interested in putting her passion to the test, and months after undergoing extensive interviews, medical tests and psychological evaluations in the fall of 2021, they rang her up: Could she make plans to leave in 11 days' time for the challenge of her life?
"I was like, 'I think so. Let me see what I can do.'"
It was the farthest she had ever been from home, and Romero didn't have so much as a small backpack of supplies upon arriving for what she said was a "majority psychological" test. She teases some things about what audiences will see Sunday evening, like the points where morale was low and others where her personality was on full display.
And don't get her started on the bugs.
"I've seen the bugs attack people (on the show)," she said. "Seeing it and feeling it was a whole different story. That was the most miserable thing. I'm OK with bugs, I'm just not OK with them eating me alive."
Regardless, some San Antonio businesses are organizing watch parties to watch her get eaten alive and likely worse, including at Burleson Yard Beer Garden.
Nine months after returning from Argentina for the shoot, Romero reflects on why she felt compelled to do the show in the first place—stress, bugs, storms and all.
"I wanted to see what I had in me," she said. "I'm a single mom, I have two kids, I work two jobs. There are some days where I wake up and... I just feel like the world's too much. I did this to prove to myself that no matter what life throws at me, I can handle it."
>TRENDING ON KENS 5 YOUTUBE: