Reality Star Sues Nat Geo’s Life Below Zero, Alleging the Show Put Her in Danger to Get Better Footage

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Photo: National Geographic

Susan Aikens, a subsistence hunter who lives in a remote Alaskan wilderness camp and star of the National Geographic series Life Below Zero, is suing the show’s BBC Worldwide production crew after producers allegedly forced her to engage in extremely dangerous shoots in freezing temperatures, including an incident in which Aikens was made to drive a snow machine across a frozen river despite her grave safety concerns. The reality star was subsequently thrown from the machine and suffered a broken collarbone, among other injuries. Aikens alleges producer Aaron Mellman strong-armed her into a variety of hazardous scenarios for the sole purpose of creating drama for the show, in one incident requiring she expose her face despite a 72-degree-below-zero windchill because “the audience needed to see her better.” Aikens suffered frostbite as a result. In the aforementioned snow-machine accident, Aikens says after the production crew delayed her rescue to prioritize filming, she was taken to receive medical treatment on the back of a snow machine in sub-zero temperatures rather than via an emergency airlift. This decision was made, she alleges, due to cost concerns and because “that made for better footage.” While, as Variety points out, Aikens’s contract with the show states she will assume personal responsibility for injury or death during filming, the reality star says the contract is “unconscionable,” and has been repeatedly breached by the production crew’s decision to place her in hazardous situations against her will.

Life Below Zero Star Sues Over Life-Threatening Stunts