Saturday, October 21, 2006

Exclusive - Accusations Of Cover-up Over Safety On Reality Series MOMS ON THE ROAD AFRICA

Safety Concerns And Fears Of Being Sexually Assaulted During Filming Of One Episode

Two Moms Left Alone With Child And No Security Anywhere Where Strange Men Were Coming In And Out Of The Area In The Darkness With Comments That Sounded To Be Of A Lewd Nature

In An Exclusive Blog - One Of The Eight Moms (Jackie Nova) Tells Her Side Of The Story

A major controversy seems to have erupted over Thursday night′s showing of the reality TV show MOMS ON THE ROAD AFRICA on The Travel Channel.

In this adventurous reality series, MOMS ON THE ROAD: AFRICA, the Travel Channel sent eight moms away from the comfort of their homes in the United States on a journey that changed their lives. For the next six weeks, the women abandon their family lives and set out across four countries in southern Africa - from Cape Town to Victoria Falls.

In an exclusive blog written by one of the eight moms from the show, Jackie Nova, an actress from California has stated to that the producers of the show have edited Thursday night′s episode " cover their butts..." over the accusations that two moms were put in possible danger while filming the series for Travel Channel (Discovery Communications). Ms. Nova is also indicating that parts of her blogs and interviews on the official show´s website ( have been removed to help with the possible cover-up of what happened during that episode.

(Editors Note: Attempts to reach representatives from Travel Channel and Discovery Communications for their comment over the accusations where unsuccessful prior to publication)

"Staged Moms" Put In Danger For "Not So Real" Television
By Jackie Nova
(One Of The Eight Moms From The Series)

I woke up Friday morning and opened up my email box to find 97 "hate emails"! This is definitely a first for me!

I missed the MOMS ON THE ROAD show Thursday night because I was on set doing a film, but I made sure to set my VCR Thursday morning before I left. After reading half of these hate emails, I couldn′t resist and I immediately hit rewind to check it out. Amazingly the show last night was filled with STAGED outbursts, slickly edited manipulations of the truth, and very calculated OMISSIONS of things. So much for "reality TV". It′s not really so much what they showed - but what they DIDN′T show. Interestingly, there are oddly a few days MISSING from my DIARY on the show′s website also ( I wrote an entry for EVERY DAY, but my entries for the days of this episode are "mysteriously" not there!

The climax of the show centered around a 15 year old girl that Amy O. (one of the mothers) and I were supposed to stay with. All of the mothers were paired off with various "families" to stay with for an evening. In our situation, there happened to not be any bed in the room we were supposed to stay. Just a concrete floor. Here is where the "staging" started. (At our guide Madla′s suggestion, we actually DID go back to stay with the girl with our tent, sleeping bags and flashlights, but we eventually were taken out by a Discovery Channel employee because we were in an unsafe situation!!! More on this in a moment).

While Petronella (our 15 year old host) was OUT OF THE ROOM, Elaine, our director, told us to speak candidly about how we felt about the conditions there. She told us not to worry, because Petronella didn′t understand English, and that she wouldn′t understand us, and she encouraged us while the girl was outside to really let loose and speak our minds about how we felt about sleeping there. Petronella did come in the room just as we finished, and in retrospect, I think I should have spoken more sensitively, even though the girl wasn′t there in the room when we were saying it, and even though our director said she didn't understand English. But, I am accustomed to giving directors what they ask for, (it′s what I do) so when Elaine asked for that, I gave it to her.

My jaw almost hit the floor when I watched the episode! They edited it to look like Petronella was IN the room with us at one point when she wasn′t, and like we were talking to her- by inserting a shot of her on camera in the middle of what we said, as if she was there listening to us. If you TIVO′d or recorded it on VHS, play that part over again and look carefully - you can sort of see the edit as the shot changes. And you may also notice there is no "two shot" of all of us together at that particular moment. Later on, there were other things we said that WERE in front of the girl, some of which I regret even though she didn′t speak English, but again this was actually encouraged by the director, who insisted we should be as vocal as possible about our feelings, and that the little girl would not understand what we were saying. Still, I made sure to smile when I spoke in front of the girl, hoping that would translate as me being happy there with her. I really was happy there with her, and I felt terrible about the situation she was in.

What you DIDN′T see in the episode is that AFTER Julianna (one of our guides, and the woman who cooked for us a lot of the time) yelled at us, we had decided to STAY, and we actually got our sleeping bags and our tent (Madla′s suggestion), and we WENT BACK intending to stay, just not in that room. None of this was filmed. It was starting to get dark. As we were about to set up the tent, there were some strange men that came by. They began to stare at us, and waved us over to come towards them. They spoke in a language we didn′t understand, but gestured in a manner that made us feel uncomfortable, especially since there was no "adult" from Petronella′s family supervising, and no cell phone or any way to contact the crew. We both felt threatened in this situation. Some sort of liquor store operation was being run by Petronella′s mom out of the house. Some of the men purchasing these goods passed by again and made several comments that sounded to be of a lewd nature. One of them motioned for me to follow him towards some bushes. I have come very close to being sexually assaulted a few times in my life, and this situation honestly made my hairs stand on end with fear for my safety. This had nothing to do with being in "Africa" of course, I could have been ANYWHERE on earth, and the same situation would have "spooked me out" like that.

The bottom line is all I could think of was my son, and what would happen to him if something happened to me!

Anyway, I think Petronella realized they were making us uncomfortable, and she said something to them that made them go away, but soon after another group of men passed by and began staring. We just didn′t feel safe there, but the crew had already left - so it was just Amy and me there, and there was no food, no parents within sight, only customers of the liquor business and Petronella and some other kids. We figured we were stuck there because the whole crew was gone, and there was no cell phone or way to contact them, so we pitched the tent, and got ready to share the sleeping bags with Petronella. She was excited about this.

By about 9:00 PM, it was dark, and Mashala (a manager of the Discovery Channel African Global Education Partnership) came to check on us, and he brought us a small bag of potatoes, canned beans and other things for the family. We told him we didn′t know where to cook these things, and that we couldn′t find any adult member of the family to communicate with. Petronella was as hungry as we were! He looked around, surveyed the situation, and acknowledged that the situation was bad, but explained that this was the way life was there. When we brought to his attention that the strange men were coming in and out of the area in the darkness, asking us to go with them, and that we were concerned for our safety, he said he understood, and that he didn′t want to leave us there if we felt that way, especially since there was no phone. He said he would bring us back to the hotel room.

At first, I just asked if he could leave us his cell phone but he said that he could not. Then I PLEADED with him to let us bring Petronella to the hotel with us! I told him she probably had never seen a hotel like that, and that the three of us might have such a nice time there together. He told us we could not take Petronella to the hotel with us, it was just not an option. I felt absolutely horrible. But my survival instinct still told me to leave this place. So Mashala brought us back to the hotel. When we got there, our director Elaine was so angry with us. She couldn′t believe we hadn′t stayed. She asked us what the big deal was. Fortunately, our field producer, Dean, was more understanding and recognized that because of the liquor store and the strange men there, Amy and my situation was significantly different and worse than that of all the other moms, and he said he understood our feelings.

Maybe nothing would have happened to us, but if it had, we would have had no way of getting help. I wonder what Discovery/Travel Channel would have done if one of us had been sexually assaulted in some way. It sure would have been tough to "spin" that one! I was so torn, because I knew how we had hurt Petronella, but I couldn′t get the image of my own son out of my head either, and what would happen to him if something happened to me.

Not only are my diary entries about all this MISSING on the show′s website, but none of my camera interviews about it were shown either. I brought it up in at least two camera interviews, and I didn′t see any of them!

I think that might be the show′s fatal flaw. This could have been such a great program, if it didn′t focus on all the little (and big) dramas in the women′s lives, and instead focused on Africa, as a tourism destination, and as a focus for foreign help and contribution. When Elaine, the director, came to my house last year prior to the journey, she swore up and down to my fiance and me that this was not going to be a "reality show" and that it was in fact a "documentary" that was being sponsored by the South African tourism board. I don′t buy it. They had this in mind all along.

Even so, I′ve done everything I could to help the ratings, telling every friend, colleague, family member and fellow mom to tune in and watch. I even have a flyer about the show posted on my website! Unfortunately, lots of them haven′t watched, and many that did only watched one or two episodes and then stopped because they felt the material in it was inappropriate. One mom stopped me at my son′s Kung Fu class and asked me why a show about "Moms" on the Travel Channel showed such graphic and adult subject matter with regard to sexuality and confrontation. I had no answer.

I′ll be honest. I′m IN "the business". As an actress, I fully recognize the need for a show to get and keep ratings, and compete in the cut throat market of television programming. While I was true to who I am on this trip, I definitely felt pressured to "perform" and "deliver" by the crew, and clearly many of the "outbursts" by people were encouraged, planned, calculated and even staged. For instance, it was the director, Elaine, who TOLD ME to go ask Julliana to wash my clothes, just prior to filming Julliana getting so upset about it. Prior to that I had been washing everything. Just plain silly! It′s all about the ratings, the controversy, the crying, the drama. These types of shows are just as "scripted" as any film or TV show I′ve ever been on - in a way, more so because the whole crew is in on it. Hopefully there will never be a situation in which this desire to get ratings and compete results in someone getting hurt or assaulted somewhere in the world. To their credit, they did get us out of there, but I guess they didn′t want to portray any of that on the show.

So they "assassinated" my character on the show instead. They made it look like Amy and I never went back there (which we did) and like we just left during that afternoon (which we didn′t). They made no mention of us pitching our tent with Petronella (which we did). They made no mention of the real reason we ended up at the hotel, or that Mashala wanted us to leave based on how we were made to feel by the men from the liquor store. They didn′t mention that I begged to stay, if they would just give me a cell phone, or that I begged them to let us bring Petronella back to the hotel with us. All that just didn′t suit their purpose, I guess. I′m a big girl. I can take it. So people are emailing me through my website with hate mail. Oh well! Life goes on. Shame on me for going along with the director′s request to speak my mind. And shame on me for not leaving the moment I realized it was a reality show! The experience with Petronella truly broke my heart, and affected me more than anything else on the trip. I will never forget her.

The one good thing that may have come out of last night′s episode is needed attention drawn to Petronella′s situation. I′ve already sent care packages to her with books, pencils, pens, clothing, shoes, sneakers and a necklace, but I think now more people will get involved. Additionally, Adrienne, Amy O., Amy W. and I have become involved with the "Keep A Child Alive" charity. Anyone interested in sending things to Petronella or the school can send packages care of the school through the Discovery Education Partnership in Namibia. The school is called the "Amutanga Combined School", Namibia, Africa.

Earlier this month released an article entitled Personal Diary of Jackie Nova From MOMS ON THE ROAD AFRICA which is available for reading going to

To learn more about Jackie Nova, please visit her website at

MOMS ON THE ROAD AFRICA is shown on the Travel Channel Thursdays evening at 10:00 pm EST.