INTERVIEW: Sue Aikens is back, but with uncertainty ahead

Photo: Sue Aikens pours fresh water from the frozen river outside her cabin on Life Below Zero. Photo courtesy of BBC Worldwide / Provided by Nat Geo Pressroom with permission.


Sue Aikens is arguably one of the most popular reality TV stars of all time. Her adventures on Life Below Zero, the hit series from National Geographic, have riveted viewers for a number of years, and those adventures show no sign of stopping.

Aikens lives an unusual, but fulfilling life. She resides at Kavik River Camp near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northern reaches of Alaska. In other words, there is no one else around except the foxes, bears, caribou and a camera team documenting her every move as she survives and thrives against the elements.

“I’m doing my life,” Aikens said in a recent phone interview. “I’m a bull in a china shop on a good day.”

This mother and grandmother has a way with words and always has since season one of the reality series. In previous interviews with Hollywood Soapbox, she has offered some verbal goldmines: “So my brain is a little bit fried, but I’m doing good.” — “I’m one of those people: peace-love-granola-hippie-ish in my own way.” — “I am a curious little monkey, kind of a raven personality, something shiny, something interesting, something new. If it captures my attention, and I can sit in the dirt and make sand castles, I’m going to be there for a while.”

[Take a look: Can’t get enough of Hollywood Soapbox’s coverage of Sue Aikens and Life Below Zero? Well, then, click here for more revealing interviews with the reality star.]

On the new season of Life Below Zero, which kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m., the life she has led for quite a few years is starting to catch up with her. For starters, she may lose Kavik, so she has a backup plan, which is a cabin many miles away, just waiting for her if the need arises. There’s also the physical toll of living in the Arctic; her body was struggling to withstand the daily pressures, so she has taken to training and exercise.

“You see, me, I’ve had multiple things happen to my body,” she said, referencing in particular the time she was attacked by a bear, an incident viewers will know quite well.

Sue Aikens assesses the snow on her roof on Life Below Zero. Photo courtesy of BBC Worldwide/Patrick Fox / Provided by Nat Geo Pressroom with permission.

Aikens said the state of Alaska and the federal government are always going to be interested in picking up the lease for Kavik, and she has no real rights when it comes to the land. She only owns the equipment and improvements she has made to the camp, which are considerable.

“I don’t know when the hammer will fall at Kavik,” she said with almost a despondent air.

However, purchasing and maintaining the new cabin, although certainly not a Kavik-like property, has kept her busy. She is fixing items on the new building by hand and taking her time, ensuring she’s in shape if she ever has to make the trek from Kavik to the cabin for a more permanent stay.

In fact, her cleaning up of the cabin mirrors what she did with the Kavik land way back when. She said that when she first arrived at Kavik, the camp had a lot of garbage thrown around, and the bears were feasting all the time.

“At that moment one of the bears — Marty — came charging through the fog,” she remembers about those early days at Kavik. “So I saw the challenge of cleaning it up.”

Make no mistake about it, Aikens would like to stay at Kavik, but she realizes that she needs a backup plan. TV viewers of Life Below Zero will know many of these motivations and developments because she is extremely open with the camera, and has been for several years, detailing how she is overcoming the expected and unexpected obstacles of this remote life.

One of the chief draws to the Kavik property are the 12-15 foxes that populate the local area. She called the animals her friends, and she teared up during the interview when thinking about not seeing them anymore.

“I try to be the best me,” she said.

Sue Aikens looks to the horizon in the northern reaches of Alaska. Photo courtesy of 2012 BBC Worldwide Ltd. “All Rights Reserved”

Having spent so many years near the top part of planet Earth, Aikens has a unique take on the seasons of the year. For her, winter extends into late May, and she doesn’t think about warmth until the sun returns on the horizon.

She loves how the light can play visual dances for her, a one-woman audience. She commented on the “1 million acres blanketed with the most brilliant colors — a myriad of colors.”

Aikens said based on who she is and how she’s lived her life, her soul has had the chance to live. She often uses the metaphor of being a lighthouse keeper at the top of the world, and talking about those 9-to-5er’s down below, she had this to say: “They think about wanderlust, but I live wanderlust.”

Ditto for the animals she encounters on an almost daily basis. She can get quite close to them, both physically and emotionally, and she sees something special in their eyes, perhaps something others might see in Aikens’ own eyes. “I think with animals you can see the history of the wild in their eyes,” she said. “You can see the wisdom.”

She added: “It’s about accepting that there’s an ecosystem, and I have a place in it.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Life Below Zero, featuring Sue Aikens, returns Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

44 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: Sue Aikens is back, but with uncertainty ahead

  • October 1, 2019 at 9:25 pm
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    I believe sue is one of the bravest women I’ve seen besides my mother who is always the greatest women I’ve even knowni would’ve extremely grateful and in awe if I’ve ever had the chance to met sue ———–

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    • January 20, 2020 at 9:18 am
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      Sue, you are a VERY unique individual and my wife and I enjoy watching you every episode . I’m sure you will be very sad when you leave Kavik but you will enter a new beginning with new experiences. God bless you lady.

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      • April 10, 2020 at 7:20 pm
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        Will you marry me

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    • January 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm
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      Sue does a mans work! she is awesome! Unbelievable, Not all are meant to be where she is, & love it~ I have never heard her complain about the cold, or the work, it is a always an adventure for her, & she dives in..just looking at the series i get cold, & I love the winter more than summers..my hat off to Kate, & the new gal Denise, who is with Andy now! don’t know prior series, as i just tuned in 2019, & love it! Sue it right since the government
      can claim that property which she has made famous! And with all the work she has put into the land, they can claim it at anytime, & Sue will be out searching..glad she has a back up plan! SMART LADY!

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    • May 13, 2020 at 7:42 pm
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      Down to earth and straight from the hip, wonderful to hear talk and with such good advice, for those that are Willing to learn. More power to you sue

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    • July 11, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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      She sucks very uninteresting

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  • October 15, 2019 at 5:59 pm
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    I love her love for where she is. Sue is content. I’ll compare but I really can’t..I live in Florida near woods and daily I see a myriad of animals. 7 does, 2 younger bucks, 20 raccoons, 2 foxes and birds, possums etc.
    I love them all so I get it Sue.

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  • October 22, 2019 at 9:59 pm
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    I can’t stand this woman. She thinks she needs to explain everything like she’s talking to a bunch of idiots. Fact is she doesn’t know a whole lot, and I love seeing things go wrong for her. The snowmobile wreck was particularly entertaining.

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    • November 6, 2019 at 1:02 am
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      Larry.
      Karma sucks. What a terrible thing for you to say. Wishing someone ill will.

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      • January 19, 2020 at 1:19 pm
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        I agree wow that’s just wrong

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    • November 16, 2019 at 9:05 pm
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      Larry if you haven’t noticed sue is having to explain everything because you’re the most biggest idiot I have ever seen. Wishing harm on another person, I hope karma comes back and bites you in the ass. Your just jealous of sue because she can do more physically and mentally than you can. It’s people like you that gives humanity a bad name

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      • January 8, 2020 at 2:46 am
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        Thankyou Pam. You took the words right out of my mouth

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    • December 31, 2019 at 3:58 am
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      You really are sick I wonder how long you would survive in those conditions in that remote dark place, alone and a woman. This is someone who had to figure everything out for herself from a young age. Obviously your heart is frozen and your brain rotten.

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    • January 8, 2020 at 2:45 am
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      That’s an awfull thing to say. Of course your a man so your thinking doesnt surprise me. Sad!

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      • February 11, 2020 at 1:50 pm
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        I love Sue Aikens, her determination and her attitude about life. What a character… I’d love to spend a week with her just to see if I could keep up! Also, congrat’s to National Geographic’s for presenting a worthwhile educational program.

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    • January 19, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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      Larry, I agree. I have been there in Kavik. Nothing like the TV would have you think. A LOT of stuff is staged, lot of people around and you are correct, she is a french-fry short of a Happy Meal.

      Reply
    • January 22, 2020 at 4:34 pm
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      She does have to explain everything..she cannot be silent before a camera! They all describe what they are doing! and she is positive about everything, & never sits down to scratch her head, as of..what now? She plunges right in! a hard working gal!! love it!
      Wish you the best Sue Aikens, many people can’t do 1 hour of the work you put in!!

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    • February 4, 2020 at 10:16 pm
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      You are one sick person.. You go live up there by yourself and have to do everything yourself see how you do. Wishing harm on someone else is just sickening. Have you ever heard of karma???

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    • February 29, 2020 at 1:10 am
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      Larry, you are a horrible human. She could run circles around 90% of the men and women anywhere. She my not know everything but she finds ways to fix things that professionals would struggle with. The crew directs many if the unsafe things that happen ie: snowmobile wreck. You jerk!!!!!!!

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    • April 21, 2020 at 7:34 am
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      She talks a little different than a girly girl but at least she can survive on her own. You’re talking 40 below 0 degrees everyday!! She knows everything she has to do and does it herself. —————————————-. You don’t like it that women can do all this and men like you call “women’s work” too. Sorry Larry, those days are gone if you want to be a man act like one!

      Reply
    • June 8, 2020 at 6:12 pm
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      I agree and I have no idea why people think she is this cheery, youthful woman. It’s been on marathons during the quarantine and I love the show until she comes on. Then it’s negative Sue to work. Complain, complain, and more complaining. She put herself in this situation and at times I feel like she proves she loves it there. But damn, you gotta listen to her tell you everything sucks and is life threatening. No help, making gross jokes about bathing, and you’d think she’s running a busy airport the way she talks. Probably is slightly busy for 3-4 months and she has to get her supplies gathered and outside maintenance done.

      Maybe it’s just her realizing she’s too old to keep it up a lot longer. Whatever it is I can’t stand it.

      Reply
    • July 11, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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      I completely agree!!!

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  • October 23, 2019 at 8:17 pm
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    Wonderful lady,so in touch with mother earth. Thank you Sue ,for letting us share your life.

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  • October 28, 2019 at 4:02 am
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    I must fast forward as soon Ms. Aikens appears. How she lasted as long as she did 500 miles from the nearest town baffles me. She completes fails at everything she does even storing water. She is a simpleton and a boring one at that. She gets stuck in two feet of snow with chains driving her Cat home, she get stuck in the middle Winter in the red thing without the Winter treads on, I am surprised she was not found a popsicle one Winter. The clincher for me was when she sued saying she was without her helmet on when she crashed her mobile, but when I played it back she most certainly had on her helmet. What a piece of work.

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    • December 31, 2019 at 4:14 am
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      She sued because the producers of the show kept pushing her to do things that were dangerous. They mocked her, like you are. She did not want to go up that snowbank but they insisted. She went against her better judgement and endedup with a broken collar bone & metal pins which failed. It was a nightmare for her and this is a woman who needs to be able to shoot straight . I can’t stand people who live in nastiness.

      Reply
    • January 20, 2020 at 9:08 pm
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      Well, if you think you can do better you should hurry up and apply to be her replacement. Can’t wait to see that!

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      • January 20, 2020 at 9:13 pm
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        This comment was for “Jimmy”

        Reply
    • April 15, 2020 at 1:06 pm
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      How many of those things she “fails at” are dictated by the show in order to make it interesting? I did read her lawsuit and it claims that the damage caused by them forcing (by contract) her into the snowmobile wreck negatively impacted her ability to shoot.

      Reply
  • October 31, 2019 at 2:44 am
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    Interesting that the 2 negative comments are from men. I admire Sue’s willpower to continue on even while making mistakes, which she readily admits. I think she’s pretty amazing.

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    • January 19, 2020 at 4:14 pm
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      Yeah well you should see the number of men there supporting her…….. what color is the sky in your world???

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      • July 4, 2020 at 8:47 pm
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        Sue is totally awesome. She is my favorite. I don’t agree with her religious beliefs, but I respect what she does. I’ve never seen a woman as brave as her. I can’t imagine living out in the middle of nowhere after getting attacked by a bear. I would go visit her if I was invited.

        Reply
  • November 5, 2019 at 11:03 pm
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    Sue Atkin’s cabin shown on 11/5/2019 show certainly does not look like the one she was working on on previous shows.
    In one segment the interior the cabin is not the same as in the next shot which looks much nicer and more up to date. And all this is supposed
    to be happening in sequence. The cabin exterior is totally different in several segments. What gives?
    I hope this is not another Brown hoax.

    Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 3:53 pm
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      There are two cabins on the property. The main cabin, which is in pretty good condition, and a “bunkhouse” cabin that had a lot of rodent damage and needed to be gutted and redone.

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    • April 21, 2020 at 7:40 am
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      It’s not. She bought it when she sold the belongs and upgrades on the Kavik airport. Made 500,000, paid off what she owed…she did good. She found this abandoned property on this land and bought it outright…fixed it up and now lives there. She said she was sore and also tiring from the work and previous injuries. She’s now 55 so it’s getting harder for her. She also said she could never own the land there because of the runway. So it was time to look for her own place. I read this in an article on an interview she did. Her dog also died.

      Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 2:32 am
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    Come on guys! If you are going to pick something apart or don’t like it just do not watch it so you won’t be able to post about it. Did you never learn if you don’t have something nice to say about something don’t say anything at all? The world is too full of negativity.
    At least Sue is working to improve things and help people which is more than I can say for you.

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  • November 11, 2019 at 1:24 am
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    So I have to ask: what is with her hair? One scene, it’s short. Next one it’s luxuriously thick and dark brown. And then there are five more incarnations…AND she looks like she has lost weight. Anyone else notice? I mean, I haven’t been so taken by constantly changing hairstyles since Hillary was in the White House and the medi kept us all distracted (they hoped) by hyping her latest style!

    Reply
    • November 11, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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      (I am not asking the above question to be critical but to point out the poor editing – as someone also noted in the “new cabin” sequences). And, she DOES look diferent in recent episodes!

      I actually get a real kick out of Sue (“if the bears don’t get me” is still one of my favorite expressions!) and admire her creativity and bullheaded bravery.

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    • January 8, 2020 at 2:49 am
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      I’ve noticed she lost weight

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  • January 20, 2020 at 5:50 pm
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    I am amazed by her tenacity to stay in the remote part of North America. She has more energy than most people to put in a full days work and try to stay same . Age will catch up with her but until that time, YOUR GO GIRL

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  • January 20, 2020 at 9:04 pm
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    You know what? Sue is Sue. Let her be. She is greater than you and greater than I am. So be it.

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  • January 29, 2020 at 4:43 pm
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    I am a 76 year young Man, & I love” Sue”. She is one tough Lady. I Ranched in Wyoming for 14 years & fed cattle many Days when temps. were 35 Below 0, If Anyone thinks its easy to function in those conditions I wish They would try it themselves. Sue You keep us envolved in Your Life Story, Most of Us Love It. Albert T

    Reply
  • April 29, 2020 at 12:00 am
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    You Larry are the idiot.l doubt very seriously if you could live a day in this woman’s shoes.

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  • May 7, 2020 at 8:19 pm
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    Sue’s my hero…I love watching her and wish I had 1/2 of her gusto for life! I pray she’s around for a long time!!

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  • July 11, 2020 at 1:36 pm
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    Sue Aikens is a waste of film. I fast forward thru every second of her. She sounds like a kindergarten teacher. Can’t hunt, can’t fish all she can do is work on equipment which is good but not for this show maybe popular mechanics.

    Reply

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