In this article, I am going to respond to the most common questions I get asked regarding the conditions, rules, and facts about "Exatlón Estados Unidos." This english version of the article is ever-so-slightly different from the spanish one, as I'm assuming that many reading this are just wondering where the heck I disappeared to for 4 months. I will be posting a second article soon addressing more personal questions regarding how I felt, memories from the show, my opinions on things, et all.
What is Exatlón?
Exatlón is a reality television series in which two teams, the "Contendientes" and the "Famosos," compete 6 days a week in obstacle course races with precision throw tests for different prizes. There are weekly eliminations and only one winner at the end, who takes home a grand prize of $200,000. The show also incorporates elements of deprivation, giving the competitors small amounts of food and isolating them with no connection to the world outside throughout their time in the competition.
The two living quarters that the teams live in throughout the show are the "Fortaleza" (the good house) and the "Cabaña" (the bad house). The Fortaleza is a spacious concrete house with access to showers, soap, and beds. The Cabaña is a little wooden cabin with thin mats to sleep on... and that's about all it has. The two teams compete on a bi-weekly basis for the privilege of staying in the Fortaleza.
Exatlón is owned by Acun Medya, the same company that owns "Survivor." They have done Exatlón Turkey, Exatlón Greece, Exatlón Romania, Exatlón Brazil, Exatlón Colombia, Exatlón México, and now Exatlón United States. In order to produce and broadcast Exatlón in different countries, Acun Medya partners with a television network in each respective country. Acun Medya partnered with Telemundo to produce Exatlón Estados Unidos and broadcast it in the United States.
What was the food like?
First off, I'll say that the food situation for Exatlón Estados Unidos is a big improvement compared to the other Exatlón series that had come before, thanks to the involvement of Telemundo.
We were given two meals a day. Breakfast was generally at around 7:30am and dinner was in between 6:30pm and 7:00pm. They also gave us a slice of pineapple and a banana before and after every game, as well as one electrolyte beverage per game. We always had access to clean drinking water. The food in the cabaña was much less in quantity than the food of the fortaleza, especially at first. During the show, the amount of food given at the cabaña improved a little bit. The most typical breakfast given at the cabaña resembles a traditional Turkish breakfast: 2-3 hard boiled eggs, 2 slice of tomato and cucumber, 1 slice of bread, and a few olives. The most common dinners we were given were rice and lentils, rice and broccoli, and rice with mashed potatoes (seriously). It was really rare to have any decent sources of protein at the cabaña. The food in the fortaleza was greater in quantity, more varied, and generally prepared with more flavor. And yes, the production also took vegetarian/vegan diets and food allergies into consideration. They gave the appropriate foods to participants with special dietary needs.
Raquel requested to not be given eggs and sometimes they replaced them with fruit 😂
Did you guys feel hungry?
In general, like I said, the food was much better than Exatlons of the past but it still was not enough nutrition (especially in the cabaña). The quantity of food we were given changed a few times during the show, and yes, there were many times where we had to deal with considerable levels of hunger. Enough to make some people cry 😂(I laugh now but it sure wasn't funny then!) I drank a lot of water and chewed very slowly in order to feel more full when I ate.
Could you guys bathe in the cabaña?
The cabaña has a toilet and a sink, so we could toss some water on ourselves. Soap was forbidden in the cabaña. Adrian already posted the photos of the shower he built for us in the cabaña, so that's not a secret anymore either. It was INCREDIBLE! Check out the details in his post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bq5Pq1sl9pc/
All of that soap was contraband 😂
Why didn't you do more parkour in the obstacle courses? What happened to your jumps? Every obstacle course (they call them "circuits" in the show) had really strict rules on how each obstacle was supposed to be done, and doing them any differently resulted in either a repetition of the point or an automatic point loss. Every circuit that had obstacles that could be jumped across had rules that dictated that we had to touch the ground with at least one foot in between each obstacle or that we had to step on every obstacle and were not allowed to skip any in a jump.
Do the Exatlons of different countries all film in the same place?
Yes! All of the Exatlons film in Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic and they use the same circuits. The various countries shooting take turns using the different circuit setups, and it was common for more than one country to film on the same circuit in the same day in order to save time setting up camera equipment. Sometimes we would see competitors from other countries like Romania and Mexico from our bus on the way to our games and we'd always greet them!
Why do you have photos from inside Exatlon if you weren't allowed to have cellphones?
We had reporters that took some photos of us during the show on their own cellphones. They've been sending us those photos since the show has ended.
What are “reporters?”
The reporters of Exatlon are the bridge between the production and the participants. They're basically with us at all times and they're the ones that direct our interviews, guide reality content, watch over us, give us food, and take care of things we need. On top of all that, they were our trusted friends and sources of advice and support.
How did you keep posting on social media while you were in the show?
🤦♀️We all had people outside that we left in charge of posting on our social media accounts while we were in Exatlon. I left control of my accounts to my agency "KMR Talent" as well as my parents. I also left a dropbox folder full of photos and videos with pre-prepared descriptions for them to periodically post while I was gone, so they posted from that and created some new content as well.
How did you get into Exatlon? The Telemundo team contacted me through the contact form on my website Lorenaparkour.com, but I know that Raquel and a few others on my team filled out the application on the Exatlon webpage!
What could you bring with you to Exatlon?
3 shorts, 3 shirts, 2 pants or leggings, 2-3 sports bras, 2 longsleeve shirts, 2-3 swimsuits, 3 sets of underwear, 1 pair of shoes, and two formal outfits for prizes. Upon arriving in the Dominican Republic to begin the show, the production gave us a black backpack for our belongings and took our luggage with the formal attire. We could also bring medication that we had prescriptions for and the women were allowed to bring tampons and pads as well. We weren't allowed to bring anything else regarding personal hygiene.
Could you brush your teeth? Yes! We were given a toothbrush and toothpaste.
My bathroom bag from Exatlon!
Did you guys have deodorant or did you really smell bad?
Zero deodorant! We smelled horrible! I didn't even know I was actually capable of smelling that bad.
What did the women do when they were on their periods?
The production provided us with tampons and pads!
Did you have makeup?
No, unless someone managed to sneak it into the show from the beginning. I thought I wouldn't care about not having makeup but I sure as hell did when I got a massive pimple on my forehead! It's not fun to get breakouts while being constantly filmed for an audience of thousands of people! 😂
Was "X" person's injury real? YES. ALL OF THE INJURIES WERE REAL. Yarishna did tear a ligament in her knee, Kenny did get salmonella, Raquel did wreck her shoulder, Sebastian did strain his tricep, and I did strain my bicep. I can understand the lack of trust people may have towards the show because of it's "reality" format, but believe me when I say that all of the injuries and illnesses were real. Personally, I think that assuming and saying otherwise is very disrespectful to the athletes that gave their all on those circuits. Pretty much all of us left the show with injuries.
♫ Hello darkness, my old friend... ♪
Was the cabaña really as bad as they made it look?
The first cabaña sucked because it didn't have any mosquito nets on the windows and there was sand everywhere, but it was also pretty nice because it was on the beach and had lots of space to roam around.
The second cabaña was in a hilly area that was much more difficult to roam around. The worst part about it's location for me was the mud. We stayed in the cabaña several times during the rainy season and the mud made it incredibly uncomfortable to practice our precision throws. It was also basically impossible to dry our shoes and clothes there. Literally. Like, 3 days could go by and our clothes would be just as wet as the first. But all of those complaints pale in comparison to the cabaña's food. Like I said before, we were given much less to eat there than at the fortaleza, and honestly that's what impacted us the most. At least the second cabaña had mosquito nets though.
But that's it. As a parkour athlete that travels often, I was pretty unbothered by the sleeping situation given the fact that I've had to sleep in much more uncomfortable places before. I didn't really care about the short, cold showers, eating on the floor, or dealing with the wildlife (mainly frogs and toads) either.
Did you have access to technology at the fortaleza? Noooooo zero technology and zero contact to the outside world. There was a fridge and we had ac units. The ac units were small electric fans in the bedrooms, and they each had a little remote control with a digital screen. I figured out how to program the time on the remote and carried it around with me as though it were my watch. 😂 (Part of the "reality" was that we were technically not allowed to know what time it was)
What did the guys do to cut their hair and shave? And did the women have a way to remove their body hair? The production gave us each a basic razor so that we wouldn't grow a jungle out of our pits but the men were not allowed to shave their beards. I have no idea how Tommy managed to cut his hair but unless the guys won a prize at a barbershop no one was allowed to cut their hair. All the guys on my team ended up with crazy wild hair at the end (Kenny looked like a Saiyan). And as for me- I prefer to wax in real life so in Exatlon I opted to pluck my armpit hairs one by one and just let my leg hair grow. They also gave tweezers to the women so that we wouldn't be Frida Kahlo-ing 😂. What did you guys do in your downtime?
Good question! How do you think we came up with those 25 cheers? In order to kill time we'd generally take naps, talk, sing, and sometimes play games like Pictionary- but more than anything we'd just count the hours left for the food to arrive 😂. At the beginning of the show ( and up to about the middle) we also exercised, but we stopped exercising as much as we approached the finale because we had to save our energy for the increasing amount of passes we were doing in the circuits. Did you film every day? Did you have any days off? What did you do? We filmed circuits 6 days a week and rested on Saturdays- but we had to film reality content on Saturdays so we actually worked every day of the week. The days off were also used to film most of the prizes. Days off were usually boring but we won so many activity prizes in the last few weeks that we spent most of our days off enjoying and filming them!
I think this was the only day off that we actually fully spent at the cabaña. It wasn't too bad!
Did you practice the precision throws?
Yes! All of us practiced the precision throws outside of the games. Yarishna and I were the ones who practiced the most. We'd wake up at sunrise every day to practice. Sometimes we'd take turns and sometimes we'd practice together. At first we had to make our own "toys" (that's what we'd call the throwing objects) out of things like shirts and hair-ties, rocks, coconuts, etc. After about a month, the production gave each team an official assortment of toys to practice with. The assortment included softballs, soccer balls, footballs, rings, sticks, and "empanadas" (the round sandbags 😂)
Were you allowed leave the fortaleza or cabaña? More or less. The first fortaleza was like a prison from which we couldn't step more than 10 feet outside the front door. The second fortaleza had an entrance to an open beach from its backyard and the second cabaña had a lot of trees and hills around that we could climb and explore. We would often leave the properties to hike on the hills or walk along the beach. The production would generally let us go as long as we informed them and the security guards were aware. Sometimes they'd even send cameras with us to film reality content of us climbing or swimming. Both the cabaña and fortaleza had security guards on the premises that would keep an eye on us and make sure we'd come back when we'd go out.
On top of a hill at the cabaña
Did you guys ever escape?
Yes. 😂 Some people escaped. Like I said, we were allowed to go out and walk from the cabaña and fortaleza. Thing is, both of the houses are very far away from anything and anyone so in those cases we'd generally go out just to walk, run, or talk away from the cameras. Someone on my team apparently snuck out and explored a whole city during one of our prizes and Jorge went suuuuuuuper far one of the times that he left the cabaña. At the end of the day, all of us were acutely aware of the fact that we had a massive fine in our contracts should we leave the show without permission, so we'd always return and sit tight. 😂 How was the relationship between the two teams? Our relationship with the opposing team was great! All of the athletes who competed in Exatlon are generally respectful and highly professional. That said, we didn't actually get many opportunities to spend time with them, especially at first. When the show first began, the production was very strict about not letting us converse or interact with our opponents. We would just talk to them anyways and the production eventually relaxed a bit on enforcing that. From then on we'd always talk to the Famosos during the setup for the game ceremonies, as well as during the games from bank to bank - which is something I've come to find out was edited out of the show and never aired on television. We'd also almost always greet and acknowledge our opponents before and after each race, another thing that I've come to learn was cut out and didn't air. Even so, all of that still wasn't enough time or interaction for us to really get to know the them. They all seem really cool though and I follow them all on social media. I feel like their fan 😂
Yeah sure the two teams look nice united like this together but LOOK AT PIÑA AND COCO!
What was the schedule like in Exatlon? How long did the games take to shoot?
The scheduled varied on a day-to-day basis and we almost never knew it in advance. Sometimes we'd start filming in the morning and we'd have to wake up early and eat quickly, and sometimes we'd start in the afternoon.
It usually took 4-5 hours to film a game on a circuit. The preparations for the before and after-game ceremonies could add another 2-3 hours on top of that. A normal shooting day from when we'd leave our house till when we'd return could be 8-10 hours, and that could vary depending on the duration of the game. And if we had to shoot a tablero after a game? Oh man we'd finish so late sometimes.
Do the competitors still keep in touch since the show has ended?
Yes! We keep in touch on social media and Whatsapp! The contendientes have a group chat and we actually talk to each other every day 💙
That's the backpack they gave us in Exatlon 😂
Did you get paid?
Yes, every athlete in Exatlon was paid a weekly "prize" for every Sunday in which they avoided elimination and remained in the competition. The money was enough to cover our bills outside (like rent, insurance, etc.) and save a bit.
Did you ever have access to your cellphones? No! Never! 😂
Overall, Exatlon has been the most incredible and the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I feel very proud of how far I made it in the show in spite of the insane pressure and intense conditions we were subject to. Thanks to Exatlon, I've discovered that I am a lot stronger than I previously thought, and I feel ready to tackle anything the world has to throw at me. I also feel immensely grateful for the big new family of incredible people that Exatlon has given me. Like I said, I'll be posting another article soon with more details regarding my personal experience and what I think of everything! Be on the lookout for that and thank you for reading!