Times readers first met the force of nature that is former model turned shepherdess Natalie Redding back in a 2011 Image section profile of the Southern California resident and her one-woman artisanal wool-gathering operation.
Now a wider audience will get a chance to meet Redding -- along with the various and sundry two-legged and four-legged members of flock and family -- when “Shear Madness,” a reality show centered on her Temecula-based Namaste Farms premieres on National Geographic’s Nat Geo Wild channel March 1.
After screening a rough cut of the first episode -- titled “Totally Flocked,” which found her and her family (husband Sean and a brood of five children that ranges from 6-year-old Roanie to 22-year-old Connery) dealing with the possibility of a disease outbreak within their flock of small ruminants -- not to mention side projects that included sheep-shearing, goat-castrating and bull-wrangling -- we dialed Redding to find out about her experience adding the zoo-like atmosphere of a Hollywood reality TV crew to her already wild and woolly bleating hearts club.
Based on the first episode, it looks like the show was filmed in warmer weather than we have currently have. What time frame does it cover?
Basically it’s the period of June through October of 2013.
How did you end up working with National Geographic and the Nat Geo Wild channel?
I’ve been writing to people and sharing my story for a long time -- remember that’s how we first met -- and there have been several [TV] producers that have come here and been interested in doing a show. But they wanted to sell me like one of those vapid “Housewives” [shows].
After about the fourth time a producer told me I had a great story and a great family but saw [the story] as “an Orange County housewife who also farms” I kind of abandoned the idea.
Right after that, Cheri Sundae Productions -- the company that ended up producing the show -- came to me and said that Nat Geo Wild wanted to do a show. And I said: "Only if you don’t make me [look] worse than I am or better than I am -- only if you just let me be me." They promised that Nat Geo wanted me just the way I was.
Do you feel the final cut of the episodes is an accurate portrayal of you, your farm and your family? I know from past conversations that you were adamant the show be 100% unscripted, but I also know that reality TV shows can accomplish all kinds of storytelling through artful editing.
Honestly, I haven’t actually looked at [any of the final episodes]. ... The one thing I will say is that this is the most unproduced show anyone on the crew says they’ve ever been on. It’s literally not “produced.” They’re just filming me doing what I do, and everything just unfolds. You don’t get to retake [a shot] of something dying.
That’s good to know since a lot of the people on the show, your family members included, look like they could’ve come right out of Central Casting. You’re helped out by a cute girlfriend named Tara who lives down the street, your husband has dreads, and even your veterinarian -- Leah Feldman -- is gorgeous.
[Leah's] something, right? She’s 6-foot-1. We were in college together.
Was there anything about filming the show that surprised you at all?
What surprised me the most was that when we had our one day a week off [from filming] and I was like: “I wish they were here.” I loved sharing [our lives] and having the crew be amazed at what we were doing. They’d see what I was doing, and they’d be like: “Natalie, you’re a badass.” I can’t tell you how many times they told me that. And just saying it made me want to work through the 120-degree heat. It was like the kind of high a comedian gets after the first laugh. You just want to keep telling more jokes and be funnier and funnier.”
I know from the first time I interviewed you that you’re also a fashion fan. I’m wondering if there was anything in your closet you splurged on as a result of the show, or that you convinced yourself you needed? You know, for things like the Television Critics Assn. events or press tours.
Boots are really my thing. Guys like watches and cars, but I’m a boot person. So if I can scrape together any money, that’s what I’m going to buy. And, yes, I did buy a pair of Stuart Weitzman boots -- and a pair of Prada boots. Because if I can distract from the way my hands look ... actually if I could wear boots on my hands, that be awesome.
Something else I’m really digging are these jeans that have the waxed coating that makes them look really leathery. Paige Denim has them, and Hudson has them. And I’m really into under-bust corsets so that’s my big thing. It’s sexy in an age-appropriate way without being over-the-top and vapid-looking. So I started going crazy with under-bust corsets and would wear them with peasant blouses to all these TCA interview sessions. I looked like a pirate almost every day there.
What do you hope viewers will take away from “Shear Madness” when they’ve finished watching the season?
I was told by some of the people who first approached me about doing a show that nobody would want to see a show about a woman doing men’s work -- I’m not lying -- and that nobody would want to see a show primarily about animals. And that angered me so much.
I want people to understand that women can work extraordinarily hard and be on television. We can look fashionable, we can be sensuous and we can work really hard but still be a good mother -- that we can throw down and drink beer.
I hope people see what I do as being tremendously valuable and that they support it.
And I want to be a positive role model -- that’s what I want.
“Shear Madness” premieres March 1, 2014, at 7 PM PST on Nat Geo Wild.