Hairy Survival

06Feb08

Survivor ChicksAny schmoe’ll tell you reality shows are staged. People on dating shows are asked to repeat themselves, sit a certain way, look in a specific direction. No one’s fooled by a sense of intimacy on the “Real World”—especially when we consider the camera crew tagging along. And a recent National Enquirer went behind the scenes with one contestant from the Swan and her horrible post-show dramatics.

So why should we be surprised that women on “Survivor” never grow hair? Here are a few questions posed to Andy Dehnart, msnbc.com’s television editor:

Q: On “Survivor,” I have noticed the women’s legs, underarms and eyebrows never grow crazy (like the men’s beards). Do they give them razors and allow them to shave for TV purposes? — Dawn-Marie B., Commack, N.Y.
Q: On “Survivor,” are the women allowed to take personal hygiene items for “that time of the month”? — Melissa
Q: Almost every “Survivor” show has started with the contestants learning that they have to go with whatever they are wearing. Why in the world do they wear such skimpy dresses? And this season they were all given bathing suits and tennis shoes? Why was that? — Debbie, Louisville, Ky.

Dehnart’s response after the jump:

A.The contestants do not have access to razors, nor do they shave during their time on the island. Any lack of growth you notice probably has to do with waxing or laser procedures, or the quality of the footage on your TV screen.
“Survivor” host Jeff Probst was actually thrilled to answer that very question when a reporter asked it during a conference call last week, as the host said even his mother asks him if the contestants get makeup before Tribal Council or other TV-friendly cosmetic procedures.
His answer was a definite no on all accounts. “There is absolutely nothing, nothing,” he said. “They are given exactly what we say they have.” He noted he wasn’t sure why some contestants appear to look fresh and seem clean-shaven all the time. As to their hairiness, he said, “I think some of the people get a laser procedure that will go in a little deeper than a shave will go.”
Probst added that the show’s “women have more hair than you can see” because “they don’t have tweezers, they don’t shave. The guys don’t get anything.”
As always, the cast members do receive essential items such as tampons and condoms, and he said that birth control comes into play soon, as there are “love affairs this season, plural,” including “some of the most intimate footage we’ve ever had.”
Regarding their clothing, cast members’ clothes are essentially selected by producers to make sure their clothes work on TV (e.g., don’t have logos or odd stripes) and meet their other needs. Last season, contestants received shoes before a challenge when they needed them, and got their own bathing suits in tree mail one day, perhaps because their underwear was getting too ratty and skimpy and making the censors work overtime.
Probst said producers “strip-search them before the show,” and “control all of” what they bring with them in their bags. That’s why contestants don’t wear, as Probst said, “three pairs of underwear” or bring better clothes along. And producers make decisions about what else to offer contestants, like the swimsuits that appeared during “Survivor: China.”



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