11 Behind-The-Scenes Things That Shocked Me After Spending 36 Hours In The I’m A Celeb Camp

Have you ever watched a reality show like I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and wondered how much of it was real? You know, whether the celebs really did go without their morning coffee, camp out in the rain and ingest the zebra balls they’re chewing on — or is it just TV magic? Well, after spending 36 hours in the jungle participating in the same challenges as the stars did in the Season 10 premiere of I’m A Celeb, I can assure you that there’s no smoke and mirrors here, folks, it is just as fucked as it seems on screen.

Ahead of the Season 10 premiere of I’m A Celeb, I travelled to South Africa for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what really happens on set.

You see, a few days before the series premiere, the production team does a dry run with stand-ins (read: out of work actors) to make sure everything runs smoothly when the real celebs are carted into the jungle. This year, I was one of the stand ins.

As a result, I got to experience first-hand what it’s like in the jungle and discover what you’re not seeing when I’m A Celeb airs.


Still on a high from being flown to the other side of the world to cover a TV show, we were fucking stoked. But despite covering the show in an Entertainment Reporter capacity for years, I had no idea how gruelling and anxiety-inducing the once-in-a-lifetime experience would turn out to be. So, here are the behind-the-scenes facts that rattled me — a gal who thinks she knows all the tips and tricks of reality TV.

9 behind-the-scenes facts about I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here

1. The celebs have absolutely no control

From the moment we set foot on set, we relinquished all control. We were all separated and ushered into individual holding tents to wait to be brought one by one to the first challenge.

As I hid alone in my tent, the production team had already begun a highly secretive operation putting every celebrity — or in this case, a mismatched bunch of actors and stand-ins — into waiting areas and taking their personal belongings from them.

Then, one by one, we’re taken to the first challenge to meet the other “celebs” and get the show on the road. 

2. The waiting is where the TV magic comes from

Although this doesn’t sound very confronting, as an inherently anxious girlie-pop, being left alone with my thoughts and pondering over what fucked up challenges were waiting for me really freaked me out.  

And, as I was dubbed Celebrity #2, I was the second to be carted off to the challenge. In front of me was KIIS Fm’s Intern Pete, and as I waited, I was certain I heard him screaming. At the time I was positive that he’d already been covered in spiders as he walked in, but I later found out the screaming was actually a baboon.

Aside from my personal experience of waiting, I know it affected the current I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here cast too. Before they head into the jungle, they’re all separated into different accommodations. They’re not allowed to leave and only really enjoy the company of a handler who is there to make sure they stay put. When I rocked up to do some interviews, they were already bored and fanging for a chat and it didn’t feel like they wanted us to leave.

3. It’s incredibly safe, but you’ll still feel fucking terrified

Hours later when we finally made it to the challenge site — a makeshift train station named Damned Central Station — I was excited to get this show on the road. When the hosts Robert Irwin and Julia Morris rocked up, it all felt very, very real. 

The first challenge was what I like to call a reverse glory hole — when you stick your hand into a mystery box with no idea what terror awaits you inside to collect a star fragment. On I’m A Celeb, every challenge sees the celebs attempt to collect stars. The more stars they get, the more food they get for their jungle camp.

Meanwhile, news.com.au’s Lexie Cartwright was stuck in a ticket booth having hissing cockroaches and mealworms thrown on her until we retrieved all the fragments. 

Naturally, I was nervous. In previous seasons, this challenge resulted in celebs copping snake bites, insect stings and generally a lot of screaming. However, although the other stand-ins had to rummage around eels, snakes, fish and lizards, I reckon I got off easy. When I put my hand into the box, I could feel soft fur and a bunch of slithery tails. It was just a bunch of rats.

With cameras in all the boxes, production keeps a close eye on your hand and the animals. So, I kept my cool (which is rare for me) and retrieved the star fragment to the calming sound of Lexie’s screams. 

The next challenge was when things went from zero to 100.

Three of us were selected to partake in a water-based challenge where we were put in a giant tank with stars bolted to perspex glass. To get them, we had to find the corresponding wrench and unscrew the bolt.

But it wasn’t that simple: as we hustled, the water in the tank would fill up. We had an unlimited amount of time to complete the challenge until someone either said “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here”, made a cut symbol or pushed the bars above our heads.

The slay before the storm.

At first, it was fine. Intern Pete, a campmate named Joe and I did the best we could to unscrew four out of the six stars. But, as the water filled up the eight-foot tank, it was taking more and more effort to get to the bottom. In a last-ditch effort, I dived down to get the wrenches on the floor but when I came up, water was lapping the top of the tank.

“hey, you guys wanna play mermaids?”

The only way I could breathe was to grab the bars on the top of the tank and crane my neck back. As Pete and Joe splashed around, it became harder and harder to get a good breath. I’d had enough, but as I tried to lift the bars above me to end the challenge, someone in the tank was pulling them down.

Suddenly, despite the huge crew of people watching on, I started to feel genuinely panicked. I lowered myself down into the water, gesturing wildly for them to stop. Instantly, the safety people pulled on two levers, unleashing the water from the tank and sending it gushing out onto the set below. 

My heart pounding in my ears was the only thing I could hear as we sunk down with the lowering water levels. 

Us ft. our new trauma.

What is wild about this challenge is that I knew with every logical brain cell that I was completely safe but for a second, I was genuinely scared. Even now when I watch the footage back, hearing people yelling to get us out of the tank from behind the scenes makes me feel a bit queasy.

If you want to see me — the gal with the big hair and no chill — splash around and look like an ass, check out the video below.

4. The food challenges are created by extremely talented chefs

It’s no secret that the food challenges on I’m A Celeb are fucking horrendous. It’s not just offal, bugs and zebra testicles, which under the right circumstances, can taste quite good. The food is expertly put together to taste bad, challenging both your taste buds and sense of (gastronomical) adventure.

After doing my own food challenge — which I can’t talk about juuuusssst yet because a celeb will be doing the exact same one — I discovered that even though the ingredients within these challenges sound yucky, it’s actually really difficult to make them genuinely taste bad.

I’m A Celeb‘s chef Caro Gardener told me the secret method to making food taste bad uses the same principles as making food taste good: trial and error.

You can read more about her process HERE.

I can’t wait to show you the fucked up shit I had to eat but in the meantime, please enjoy a compilation of my face as I gagged through a food trial.

5. The crew test absolutely everything before the stand-ins and celebs do

No matter what task or challenge is done on the show, you can rest assured that the cast behind the scenes has already given it a go.
For the food challenges, the production team figures out pre-show how much to make of each dish, and where to place it on the “mildly yucky” to “vomit-worthy disgusting” scale. However, for the riskier challenges, this is a pretty intense way of guaranteeing that what they’ve created is entirely safe.

Although there is a specific safety team on set at all times to ensure everyone on the cast and crew are well looked after — it’s particularly spooky for the crew to watch their friends and colleagues prepare to jump off a mountain knowing their pal’s lives are in their hands. Some crew members find the testing period particularly anxiety-inducing, even though they know for sure that all safety messages have been checked multiple times.

Interestingly there is an unofficial system amongst the crew where to be eligible to try the cooler, more exciting challenges, you have to participate in some of the yuckier food challenges. One guy I spoke to had tested out 11 food trials over the 10 seasons he’d worked on.

What a good sport!!! One food trial was enough for me, thanks.

6. Sneaking contraband into camp is great for the producers

I know rules are there for a reason but with just shy of two days in camp, I wanted to make an impact. Unfortunately, after turning into a shell of my former self (I’ll get to that later), I really didn’t bring the impact with witty quips and one-liners. Instead, my influence on the camp was the significant amount of contraband I smuggled in via all means I could think of… well, excluding nature’s pocket.

Heading into the jungle, I managed to smuggle 12 packets of coffee — a selection of black and white, of course — a bag of biltong, vitamin C lollies, sugar, salt, pepper and tea. I tried to be as creative as I could, braiding the coffee sachets into my hair, stuffing my bra, my pants and my socks with as much gear as I could.

Incidentally, I didn’t even get to drink the coffee as our call time for the next day’s challenge was 3:45am. Bummer!

That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of instant coffee.

7. Getting your period in the jungle fucking sucks

After walking into the jungle, we entered a beautiful jungle enclosure complete with a gym, a drop toilet, and an ice-cold shower. It was actually quite lovely, but inside, I was dying. In a very unfortunate moment of bad luck, my period decided to rock up a few days early, leaving me in a jungle camp with one pair of underwear, and cramps that made me want to tear out my own uterus. 

Thankfully though, the medical team were there to save the day. After sneaking into the confessional hut — known as the TokToki — they gave me some tampons and a hefty dose of the good shit.

Also — just so you know — while the drop toilet is fine to piss in, I just couldn’t bring myself to take a shit in the jungle camp. Poo anxiety, I guess.

8. If you want to shower, the entire production team will see your tits

After a day filled with challenges, being soaked to the bone and burnt by the sun, getting my period and generally feeling a bit yuck, I was fanging for a shower. So much so that the idea of my campmates seeing me naked wasn’t even that much of a deterrent anymore. However, the one thing I didn’t really consider was the many people watching you from behind the scenes. I also didn’t realise that there was a camera right next to the shower nozzle. So, I guess you’re welcome?

In all seriousness, everyone on set is incredibly professional. In fact, insiders even told me that for the celebs on the show, showering naked is actually a great way to ensure that the footage isn’t played on television. You could have secret conversations and everything without the network being able to play them. It is a family show, after all.

Season Nine contestant Harry Garside went the nakie route too. (Image: Channel 10)

9. It’s either sleep in comfort or bugs

The South African jungle is hot and humid. When I was in there, there was no cooling breeze that came through at nightfall either. So when it’s time to go to bed — which is usually around 11pm to illicit as much conversation from the campmates as possible — you only have two choices: You can get into your sleeping bag and zip it up to ensure that no bugs, spiders or snakes will find their way but struggle with a hot slumber. Or, you can unzip and risk it all.

I ended up unzipping and having an absolutely delightful night’s sleep until our 3:45am wake-up call. But, as I found out later from production, others in the camp were tossing and turning, struggling with the heat and the mozzies.

10. You never know how you’ll act in the jungle

Look, I may be an introverted extrovert but I genuinely believed that during this dry run, I would be switching on the charm. I thought my Leo star sign and incessant need for validation would come shining through as I’d get to know my campmates and perform a casual, relaxed and hilarious tight five comedy routine.

That did not happen.

After a whole day of having to react to the hosts, gasbag in interviews with producers and do freaky challenges, I’d used up all of my extroverted energy. That, combined with period cramps, made me turn into a bit of a quiet, anti-social campmate. Sorry, dream team.

Just a bunch of jungle sweet peas ready for a shower and a glass of South Africa’s finest pinotage.

11. 36 hours felt like plenty, thank you very much

After my time in the jungle, I was pooped and very excited to sleep in a hotel bed and resume my job as a journo rather than a pseudo-celebrity on the show.

Sunburnt tomato princess reporting for duty!!!!!

The thing that sits with me the most after my fairly short time in the jungle is how tough the celebrities are. They’re genuinely in the jungle for a month with no secret snacks or hidden comforts like many people think. For them, it gets to a stage where they are so bored they are begging for the food trials and snake-infested challenges.

When they eventually leave the jungle, they reek of campfire and sweat from a month without hot water. It’s not pretty.

And while a month can go pretty quickly for us in our normal lives, it’s a bloody long time to be surrounded by the same people, in the same spot without family or creature comforts.

But the upside? With everything so stripped back, there’s no better way to form friendships and establish what is truly important to you. As the audience, we get a true insight into who these celebrities really are at their core. And inside the camp, they’re bonding through one of the most unique experiences they might ever have. Many celebs report that they have a new found clarity when they leave the jungle, too.

Going into the camp as a stand-in gave me a new appreciation for the celebs putting themselves in incredibly uncomfortable situations for their charities. I’ve always understood that going on a family show like I’m A Celeb is genuinely wonderful publicity, but it’s no easy feat. Certainly not the type of celebrity appearance that should be taken lightly.

So, amongst all of the chatter about what they’re all being paid to go on the show, I now reckon it’s great that the celebs are generally being paid a good amount of money to go on the show.

After all, no one on god’s green earth would willingly do this shit — and air it on national television — for free.

You can watch I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! live on Channel 10 or on-demand at 10Play.

Laura Masia travelled to South Africa on behalf of Channel 10.