› What: ‘Kicking & Screaming’
› When: 9 p.m. Thursdays
› Where: Fox network
Nakeisha Turk is a self-described "high-maintenance, girly girl" who likes to "keep up my looks, shop and get my nails done."
So imagine the culture shock when this pampered National Basketball Association cheerleader was dropped — kicking and screaming — into the jungles of Fiji last May to survive the toughest month of her life. No cellphone. No bed. No mani-pedis or hot rollers. Just old-fashioned ingenuity.
"All my friends and family were shocked or they just busted out laughing. They know that Nakeisha and the outdoors DO NOT mix," says the 26-year-old.
Turk is one of 10 divas paired with 10 survivalists to test their stamina in the jungles and swamps of the South Pacific islands. Their adventures — and misadventures — were filmed for a new, unscripted reality show on Fox, "Kicking & Screaming." The premiere of the eight-week series airs Thursday at 9 p.m.
"You will definitely see 10 divas who have traded in their lavish lifestyles to be dropped into the jungle. You can expect a lot of laughs as I know that our partner introductions and us getting adjusted to our new living arrangement is hilarious," says the contestant.
Another not-ready-for-it contestant is Elaine Swann, self-described "etiquette expert" and author of "Let Crazy Be Crazy." In a press release, she said that, like Turk, she's also all about "luxury, being pampered and everything girly."
Swann said she stuck with a personal mantra during the competition: "In order for us to grow, sometimes we have to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation and challenge ourselves to do things we wouldn't normally do in order to achieve success."
Turk is a Knoxville native who received a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2012. While at UTC, she was a Mocs cheerleader. After graduation, she returned to Knoxville for two years before moving to Atlanta in 2014 to attend graduate school.
She currently juggles three jobs: fitness instructor, cheerleader for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and a product specialist for various companies at trade shows.
She says a casting director for "Kicking & Screaming" contacted her on Instagram to see whether she'd consider taping the reality show. The audition process began with several phone and Skype interviews before finalists were flown to Los Angeles to meet with producers face-to-face, she says.
After the 10 cast members were chosen, they were dropped — literally by parachute — onto Fiji, where they were paired with a survivalist (ex-military personnel, outdoorsmen, etc.) The winning team will receive a cash prize of $500,000.
"I am partnered with Sgt. Maj. John McPhee. He is a former sniper and was in the group that captured Saddam Hussein," says Turk. "He was an extreme survivalist and knew everything about anything. I am so happy that he was my partner because he was legit!"
McPhee served with the Army's Special Operations, aka Delta Force, for more than 20 years before retiring in 2011, according to internet bios. Nicknamed "The Sheriff of Baghdad," McPhee served in multiple combat theaters from Bosnia and South America to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Kicking & Screaming" is the brainchild of executive producer Matt Kunitz, who created "Wipeout" and "Fear Factor." Combine those two ideas and it will be no surprise that the tougher the challenge on "Kicking & Screaming," the better the TV.
"I've always been fascinated by the survival space," Kunitz said in an interview with Variety.com, "so I am excited to infuse a touch of comedy into a traditionally dramatic genre."
Turk didn't find as much comedy in defending herself from wild animals, raging rivers, extreme weather and hunger.
"The toughest challenge is just surviving," says Turk. "You are hungry 24/7. You have to sleep on the ground. There are bugs everywhere! You are just completely out of your comfort zone. Getting through that and staying positive was very difficult."
She credits the physical fitness required of cheerleaders for instilling the confidence needed to overcome the show's endurance challenges.
"From being on this show, I now know that I can live without my phone — if I absolutely had to.
"We are all so blessed and shouldn't take simple things like a bed for granted. Most importantly, I realized that I am so much stronger than I thought; I mean, how many people can say they survived the jungle?"
And another perk of the experience: "Diets shouldn't be hard for me in the future because I obviously survived on an extremely low-to-no-calorie diet."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.