The prospect of appearing completely naked in public — let alone with TV cameras and millions of viewers watching — would have most of us waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
But the latest series of Channel 4 dating show Naked Attraction, in which single contestants pick a prospective partner from a line-up of nude people, had thousands of people applying to take part.
If you didn’t cop an eyeful of series one last summer, here’s how it works: there are six pods, behind which stand six nude singletons.
Their bodies are revealed bit by bit, starting in round one when their feet up to their waists are revealed.
In each round, one person is eliminated based on who the picker finds least physically attractive at that stage.
At the end, the picker also gets naked, and the pair head off for a — fully clothed — date.
It’s blush-inducing TV to say the least, and leaves you wondering what possesses the participants to take part. Are they brave? Attention- seeking? Or just plain mad?
Host Anna Richardson insists the contestants weren’t just there to show off their gym-honed bodies or grab their 15 minutes of fame.
“We’re not only making entertaining television, we’re also changing lives,” she says.
“Everyone who came on the show was genuinely looking for a partner, having been disillusioned by online dating.”
This series is “bigger and bolder” than the first instalment, says Richardson, and promises some “proper water cooler moments”.
In episode one we meet Dom from Hampshire, who’s been nominated by his mother, in the hopes of improving his disappointing dating record.
“Some guys are really good at the whole dating game. I am horrendous. I’ve been on a grand total of two dates,” the clean-cut 21-year-old reveals.
There’s also psychology student Izzy, 22, who likes “feminism, eggs and gin” and is open to dating any gender.
“Meeting someone naked, it’s going to be really interesting to see who I’m most attracted to. Because I’m pansexual, that’s a lot of options really,” says Izzy, who is presented with men, women, and transgender people in the pods.
Richardson was proud the show included trans contestants. “Identity is a huge conversation. It’s good to be challenging this and our preconceptions — even making sure we were getting the pronoun right when describing them, it’s not just he or she,” she says. “It’s really fascinating.”
With her warmth and good humour, Richardson is the perfect host for the “dating in reverse” show.
The Shropshire-born vicar’s daughter also has a track record in making no-holds-barred documentaries including Secret Eaters and The Sex Education Show, when she had an STI screening on air.
“My role is to guide the singletons through the picking process. They really do go on a bit of a journey as I think we challenge and question their notion of what they find attractive.
“Sometimes they’d surprise themselves with the decisions that they made.”
There’s also something psychologically interesting about meeting a potential partner for the first time naked, Richardson adds.
“Our contributors felt they had no inhibitions or insecurities getting in the way at the start of their relationship.”
Camaraderie also developed between the “bodies in the pods”, competing against each other for a date. “I think all of our contributors genuinely found the studio filming a liberating and positive experience,” says the host.
At home, 46-year-old Richardson is happy to wander around nude, and even ran into the sea to celebrate her body on the show Supersize vs Superskinny, but wouldn’t be up for baring all on the show.
Besides, she is happily coupled up with comedian and former Great British Bake Off host Sue Perkins.
The pair have been dating since meeting at a party in 2013, and Richardson has described Perkins as an “extraordinary person” and “endlessly interesting”.
Richardson reportedly turned down a presenting role on the newly revamped Bake Off out of loyalty to Perkins, who quit when the show moved from BBC One to Channel 4.
Would they ever present together on screen? Richardson isn’t sure how it would work: “We both love the spotlight,” she quips. “We’re two middle-aged women who love to talk...”
She admits to finding the ageing process challenging, and jokes that she hopes to emulate the age-defying shoulder-pad fan and ex-Dragons’ Den star Hilary Devey.
Back to Naked Attraction, and Richardson isn’t giving anything away about whether any of the contestants found lasting love.
“We’ve had a number of stand-out stories from this series. You’ll have to watch and see. But I can tell you at least one couple have already been on holiday together.”
So no Naked Attraction weddings in the pipeline just yet — though Richardson admits the prospect would tickle her.
“Wouldn’t that be great! A nude wedding with the guests only wearing hats...”
- Naked Attraction returns to Channel 4 on tomorrow at 10pm