Seven stars from the show Naked Attraction discuss their reasons for baring it all on the show.
What type of individual participates in Naked Attraction? This was the initial thought of Steven Barrett upon watching the dating show, where participants gradually expose their nude bodies to potential romantic interests. Barrett, a 50-year-old from Essex, has since been featured on the show twice.
In 2016, Naked Attraction debuted with an episode that displayed 378 images of genitalia in only 48 minutes, leading to nearly 100 complaints to the UK regulatory agency Ofcom. In September, the show was released in the US for the first time, sparking anger. Melissa Henson, vice-president of advocacy group the Parents Television and Media Council, stated, “The show exploits its participants, manipulating them to believe that their exploitation for dating purposes is acceptable and beneficial.”
Why would someone choose to appear on Naked Attraction? With less than 60 episodes aired and an average of 14 guests per episode (excluding repeats), over 700 individuals have exposed themselves on television. Without compensation, what motivates these participants? What do they gain and lose from this experience? And most importantly, how do they explain it to their parents?
Barrett, who is 83 years old, revealed that his mother was aware of his participation in the show but did not watch it. He decided to apply for the show after the end of a difficult relationship, during which he experienced a midlife crisis. In his 40s at the time, he felt the urge to do something completely unexpected and out of the ordinary.
The producer of Naked Attraction, Darrell Olsen, wants to assure viewers that the show does not exploit people in vulnerable situations. He emphasizes that thorough measures are taken to ensure the well-being of participants, including psychological evaluations and background checks. Olsen has been involved with the show since its third season and acknowledges that some people do drop out, but he and the team prioritize the comfort and consent of all involved.
During the process of selecting participants, individuals are encouraged to inform their relatives, friends, and employers that they will be featured on the program. The producers stress that episodes will have a significant online presence. In their audition, applicants are required to remove their clothing, which according to Barrett, was more uncomfortable and surreal than being on the actual show. He shares, “I had to undress in front of two strangers and discuss dating. It was just a small office with closed blinds.” In some instances, auditionees are asked to dance, pose, or wink while naked. After completing all of these preparations, Olsen notes that contestants “enter the show with full awareness and without any clothing.”
Olsen acknowledges that it can be challenging to find the right cast for the show. Although there are many individuals applying, there is an overabundance of straight men. In order to showcase a diverse group of people, the producers frequently search for potential candidates on social media.
Hayley Cosgrove, a 29-year-old product specialist at Ann Summers in Plymouth, received a message from the casters. With over 1,000 followers on Instagram, she shares content related to lingerie, sexual confidence, and raising awareness for cerebral palsy. Cosgrove was interested in being a guest on the show and had thought about applying beforehand.
She expressed that her involvement on the show was a perfect fit for her and her identity. She also mentioned that being on the show was empowering and not at all stressful. She believes that she made a positive impact for individuals who may not fit society’s conventional standards of beauty, as she is both disabled and plus-sized.
In addition to approaching individuals directly, the producers of Naked Attraction also post requests online, sometimes using a strategic approach by initially withholding the name of the show. A twentysomething named Lindsay (pseudonym) shares her experience of being matched with a producer on Tinder who was looking for someone to participate in a dating show. Lindsay, who has appeared on Naked Attraction three times, was initially unsure about the show but ultimately decided to take a chance and participate.
While you might think it would be soul-destroying to have your body scrutinised by a stranger, the production team helps guide feedback so that no one’s feelings are too hurt. “We’ve always said that it can never be belittling,” says the host, Anna Richardson, explaining that if a “picker” says they think a naked person is too fat or too thin, “we will stop and reframe it and ask them to couch it in a more supportive, positive way.”
Numerous participants express contentment with the feedback they received during the program. Lindsay explains, “If you were to hook up with a guy, they wouldn’t spend 10 to 15 minutes complimenting your body.” She adds, “Therefore, receiving compliments from someone is a pleasant experience.” Barrett was eliminated after revealing his face, but was uplifted by the support of strangers who stated they would have chosen him after the episode aired.
Lindsay, like several other contestants on Naked Attraction, was provided with accommodation in a hotel the night before filming in Manchester. She had the opportunity to meet and socialize with her fellow participants, staying up until 5am drinking with them. She describes it as a wild night and only had an hour of sleep before being woken up by producers for filming.
Conor, who is 31 years old and resides in Scotland, applied for a dating show without knowing it was Naked Attraction. He came across a Facebook post seeking contestants for a bold new dating show and impressed the producers during a phone interview. At the end of the call, they revealed the name of the show, but Conor decided to see where it would lead him since he had already made it that far.
Conor admits that he was feeling extremely nervous while waiting backstage in his robe before filming. However, the concept of Naked Attraction was not entirely unfamiliar to him. He has been selling nude photos of himself on OnlyFans for several years now, using the money to support his animal sanctuary.
Several other contestants from Naked Attraction have their own accounts on OnlyFans. After his appearance on the show, Barrett decided to start his own account and now makes a living from it. Hezron Stephenson, aged 28, also joined OnlyFans during lockdown due to financial struggles and his attractive physique. As a bar manager in Birmingham, he saw a significant increase in his profile after appearing on the show in 2022, earning him around 15,000 pounds.
According to Olsen, the show does not actively look for influencers or individuals who discuss sex on the internet. Instead, it focuses on sharing intriguing stories that have not yet been shared.
However, being featured on Naked Attraction is more likely to benefit rather than harm an OnlyFans creator’s career. What impact does it have on other participants?
After appearing on the show, Lindsay left her job at the bar and began a new career. She informed her new boss, “since it will still be broadcasted on TV, I don’t want her to unexpectedly see it”. However, her boss was understanding and she faced no consequences.
Craig, a pseudonym for a man in his 20s, believes that his appearance on the show may have limited his opportunities in certain professions. He specifically mentions teaching as a potential hurdle due to his appearance on the show. Despite landing a new job after his appearance, Craig chose not to mention it to anyone. However, a colleague happened to see a repeat of the show and shared it with others. Craig expresses some regret for this, but ultimately realizes that it didn’t have much of an impact. He had originally applied to be on the show as a joke, but was disappointed when he became the first contestant to be rejected on his episode.
Participating in the show can also impact the romantic relationships of contestants. Lindsay, for example, is now with a significant other who disapproves of her past involvement with Naked Attraction. “He’s never watched it. One of his friends mentioned, ‘I saw your girlfriend on TV,’ and he responded, ‘I don’t want to discuss it,’ so we haven’t addressed it.”
Jamie Leishman, a 34-year-old fire suppression engineer from Accrington, decided to apply for the show in 2020 for amusement. While he had a good time, it did have a negative impact on his dating life. According to Leishman, being honest about his appearance on the show can be met with disapproval from some individuals. This has caused strain in his relationship with his girlfriend who is uncomfortable with the public attention he receives for being on the show.
Friends and family can be more supportive (although some might feel a tad too much). “Me and my family, we all went to my cousin’s, got a takeaway, had a few bottles of wine and sat down to watch it. It was a good laugh,” Lindsay says.
Cosgrove, one of seven siblings, shared that her family was not surprised when she appeared on the show. She believes her purpose in life is to start conversations about nudity and body positivity. While her parents were more traditional, her dad faced some criticism at work. However, they ultimately reacted positively and even attended a viewing party for the episode.
The individuals who are most eager to discuss their participation in Naked Attraction are typically those who have had positive experiences. However, there may be some who are quietly upset after facing more severe consequences. Despite this, Richardson shares that every person who has come backstage has expressed gratitude and mentioned how much they have enjoyed the experience. According to Richardson, there is a unique and positive aspect to being on Naked Attraction.
She is also pleased with the show. She expresses, “I am thankful for the experience because I have seen everything and nothing surprises me anymore. It helps boost my self-esteem, especially as a 53-year-old woman. When I see some of those people, I can think to myself, ‘You know what, my butt is actually not bad!'”
Barrett does not regret his appearance on a show that initially confused him. He describes it as a freeing experience and believes that if he could handle that, he can handle anything.