One of the Good Guys - Carolina Country

One of the Good Guys

TV survivalist Wes Harper is putting positivity into the world

By Jacob Brooks

One of the Good Guys
Photo courtesy of Marlana Semenza

I tell you what, North Carolina, you just never know who’s going to come your way over here at Carolina Country magazine.

All my friends across rural NC, please meet a new old friend of mine: Wes “The Assassin” Harper. Wes is a member of Halifax EMC, as well as a family man, successful business owner and survivalist on Discovery’s hit reality television show “Naked and Afraid.”

We sat down to talk about his success on the show, his new cookbook, his forthcoming novel, seeking higher truths and being a good man.

When asked how he originally embarked on this journey he recalls, “My wife and I were watching the show, and a few drinks later, she signed me up.”

“Did y’all have a bet on how many days you’d ‘survive’?” I ask. “Was there an over/under between y’all?”

Wes laughs. “Oh no. I knew I had to go all 21 days or she wouldn’t let me come home. Mostly because she knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t see it through.”

Survive he did. He’s now appeared in approximately 40 episodes of the show and has earned legend status from fans across the country.

When asked about the bond formed with fellow contestants, Wes notes his friendship with Gwen, his first partner in South Africa.

“At first, they were embarrassed about my butt being on TV. Now they have friends over and host watch parties.”

“We clicked the first 30 seconds together. Similar life experiences — both of us married with five kids. We knew we’d have shortcomings and challenges, but knew we would figure it out. We’re now lifelong friends and vacation together.”
Waylon, Wes’ son (and fellow App State Mountaineer, as it happens), got a taste of the survivalist life. “The show did a 14-day challenge for kids of former contestants,” Wes says.

“And how’d he like it?” I ask.

Wes takes a beat and responds with a smile. “‘Never again, Dad. This is your bag.’” While his kids may not join him in the jungles or plains on rough terrains, they do cheer him on from the couch. “At first, they were embarrassed about my butt being on TV. Now they have friends over and host watch parties.”

Wes is hanging up his “Naked and Afraid” boots (or lack thereof) this year. He’s embarking on a new journey in publishing.

“I’ve got a cookbook out. It’s easy to follow, has a ton of great recipes in it and plenty of pictures (see Carolina Bookshelf on page 26). I’m also working on publishing a murder mystery novel.”

Twenty-five minutes into our conversation, I can tell Wes and I are cut from a similar cloth. I ask him what kind of mark he’s trying to leave on the world.

Wes takes a deep breath. “I know this may sound silly, but I believe good guys exists. Good dads. Good husbands. People who want to do good. They’re out there. We don’t hear about them as much because these stories don’t get many clicks or likes, but they’re out there.”

As for where he gets that inspiration?

“You know, my folks were always quick to help people, and I saw that,” he says. “They were encouragers in our home and community. And, most importantly, they were quick to encourage me to encourage someone else. So I really give them a lot of credit.”

Our conversation hangs on a real note. “I’m also a cancer survivor. I had prostate cancer. And, in being open about it, I’ve had tons of men reach out seeking advice or guidance while they go through it. So I think the mark I’m trying to leave is to put a little more light in the world and be one of the good guys.”

Learn more about Naked and Afraid legend Wes Harper. Video courtesy of Everything 101

About the Author

Jacob Brooks of Alleghany County, who represented electric cooperatives as the 2010 national Youth Leadership Council spokesman, heads to Appalachian State University as a sophomore this fall.

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