BELMONT — Viewers who turn on the Discovery's show "Naked and Afraid" reality show might think it's just a show about attractive naked people in the woods.
And Belmont's Laura Zerra, one of the show's stars, understands that. The road to television stardom was an odd one for the Massachusetts native who made Belmont her home four years ago.
"One thing led to another and I found myself naked with a stranger in a jungle," Zerra says with a chuckle.
But in reality, Zerra, 28, was a perfect fit for the show, which limits the nudity of its contestants with blurring technology.
A double biology major at Connecticut College in New Haven, Conn., she studied anthropology and focused her education on human interaction with land and climate on the most basic levels.
"I knew where I wanted to go with my life, with survival training, and in school I tried to think of it in an academic way," she said.
After graduating, she took her education to private survival schools around the country. She was chosen by the show's producers after interviews with her former colleagues at the schools, she said.
When they found her, she was doing what she is still doing, holding down several jobs. She is a taxidermist, a farrier of horses, and a butcher. She cuts meat on a part-time basis at the Baker River Deer Farm in Wentworth.
The show is a "survival of the fittest" contest; each week, a new pair of complete and total strangers — one man and one woman — find themselves stranded in some of the world's most extreme environments.
Each duo is left with no food, no water, and no clothes. They must survive on their own for a full 21 days, with nothing but one personal item each. The only prize is their pride and sense of accomplishment, according to the show's description.
Zerra was featured in an episode of the show's first season last summer, taped in February of 2013 in Panama, and she was recently on one of this season's shows after spending 21 days in the Amazon jungle.
She loves survival training, so the show has its fun side.
"It can be amazing, you're doing everything, even starting fires with two pieces of wood," she said.
But the bad times during the show are "horrible," Zerra said. In her survivalist studies, she is at least able to wear clothes.
"Not having clothes takes everything up another level," she said. "Clothes are your first line of shelter. And 21 days may not seem like much, but when you're doing the 21 days, it seems like forever."
"It's really hard, but I hope they ask me to do it again," she said.