Doomsday Castle star Ashley recently sat down with Off The Grid News to discuss her experiences on the new National Geographic television series. Ashley has been dubbed the “girly girl prepper” and perhaps struggled the most when dropped in the middle of nowhere to embark on a massive castle constructing project. Although Ashley knew very little about weapons and tools when the Doomsday Preppers spin-off began, her skillset enhanced significantly as the season moves along.
OTG: How do you feel about being labeled the girly girl prepper of your dad’s big brood?
Ashley: You know, I think that was a great label for the beginning of adventure of Doomsday Castle, but you know, by the end of this journey, I am becoming a different person, one with purpose. People adapt to environment, and I do as well, kind of like a chameleon. I learn very quickly and like to be as well-rounded as possible as an individual. I went into the experience kind of unsure of myself — in that type of environment. So I stuck to want I knew, girl stuff — while trying to define my role in the new atmosphere.
Well, what is crazy is that we are a family, so we all are alike in some ways but also very different in other ways. So of course me and Dawn Marie, for example, are going to have some similarities; the age difference, maturity level, and the way I deal with certain situations. I am calm and laid back and think things through. At her age people are naturally more reactionary, so that is part of her personality right now. I’m not saying either way is right or wrong, just calling it how it is.
OTG: I would think that it would be difficult for younger siblings to accept direction from their older peers when the most experience on a given task is held in the hands of the younger offspring, and for older brothers and sisters to accept the leadership of their younger relatives, as well.
Ashley: I think you are exactly right. Just like my dad, he is older, but he has experience. Not to say I have more experience than Dawn Marie, for example. She has always worked at the castle and been involved in outdoor pursuits, I readily give her this compliment. She has definitely always been the outdoorsy girl, the wild child monkey. That is a big difference between me and her that viewers can easily see while watching Doomsday Castle. But, I think at handling situations, like outdoor stuff, for Dawn Marie it comes naturally. To me, it turned into something different, a true learning experience.
OTG: Although you did not appear to like getting your hands dirty during the first two episodes, you ultimately jumped right in, got sweaty, and helped complete the prepping tasks by episode three. As the season evolves, should the audience expect to see major changes in both your approach and skill level in relation to castle tasks and training?
Ashley: I don’t know everything that they are going to include into the show, but my experience in the beginning was like a baby looking at a whole new world. When seeing the catapult, that was the scariest thing I had ever seen. I think I ended up using every heavy duty tool Home Depot carries. I hurt myself very badly early on. I really struggled with that, scared I wouldn’t get it done, wondering, “What if I got hurt again?” Being in nature and learning how to be more self-reliant adds value to your life. Out there you quickly realize every step you take serves as a counterweight for your future steps. I definitely become a lot more cautious and aware of the surroundings by the end of the season. I am a lot more comfortable with power tools now. I want to use the skills I learned to help at the castle, and in my life in general.
At first, I guess, I had a hard transition to go through. But like every life lesson, you must grow, and I now have a new appreciation for both nature and preppers. During the first week, the first month honestly, I was just kind of lost. I hadn’t been in that type of environment for that long of a period of time before. I was basically in a type of culture shock. I did not know how to react or what to do. There are wild animals out there [chuckles] and I didn’t know what I was doing. As soon as I found a way to bring my girly girl side out in a way that could help the family and the project, I felt on firmer footing.
OTG: Female preppers face issue which often go unnoticed and are not typically addressed by men in the preparedness movement?
Ashley: I am not sure if they are going to show this part on the show, but I learned even more about herbal plants and how they can be used not just to make organic make-up as morale boosters for the ladies in the group, but to help with all types of ailments and health issues. I love plants and gardening and was attracted to that aspect of preparedness in particular. I thought that using fruit for organic skin needs and for make-up was amazing because one of the scariest things I wondered about was, ‘How am I still going to be a girl out here?’ But I found a way to do that. Because of that experience, I now have a healthier way of living. I am very appreciative of the fact that you can stay who you are and still be a prepper. It really is amazing at what earth already offers us in a healthier and inexpensive way.
During the midwife episode, we learn a lot about herbal treatments, especially about those which can help us during our monthly. When I was at the Doomsday Castle, I did not have my Advil to take anymore. I recall thinking, “I’m in a horrible mood and don’t want to be around anyone,” during that time of the month. But then I learned about an herbal plant which would help the symptoms many women struggle with, and in an organic manner. All things I was depending on so much, we can actually get for free. Preppers in general, they create a community, for a family or pregnant woman, how to utilize herbs and plants to take care of your needs is very good to know. I think for women, the prepper mentality can be a very sexy thing. Forget being excited about a man who can make dinner, I want one who can help grow a survival garden!
OTG: During a recent interview with your dad, he discussed what he termed basically a nervous breakdown in an upcoming episode. What was that extremely emotional part of filming like for you and your siblings?
Ashley: It really was a nervous breakdown, that entire scenario was real and honest. We were all overly taxed emotionally and extremely tired. I do feel like he was pushed very far, this quote, I use it a lot: “It’s going to get bad before it gets better” really applies. We were all broken down, it is incredible to see someone go through that. But we were built right back up. Yeah, it was hard to see dad like that. That night I was crying, everyone was crying, it was an emotional roller-coaster. It was just one of those things that sometimes you go through with your family during tense situations, you can’t fake it, — you just can’t fake that kind stuff. Those four or five months were the hardest of my entire life. It was unlike anything and everything I had ever gone through. The episode you mentioned was one of the hardest. We had been pushed to the max, I even got sick sometimes from so much stress, just the burdens of it all — the gang ups, the clicks that evolved between the siblings. It was like a small community, it was like we had our own laws, our own city, ad rules. So there were clicks that developed once we started to live together and get to know each other better. We ultimately began to collaborate easier. My mindset is a lot different than the other two girls. We had always gotten together for family meetings, holidays, shopping, and stuff. It was always fine, until once we started living together. We are very different, even though we are sisters, we are very different.
OTG: I only have two older brothers and cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to camp out with them for weeks on end and take orders – or how they would react if they had to take orders from me. The first few episodes capture all of the frustration one would expect from a big family crammed together working on a big task, but will we see the siblings come to terms and become extremely close-knit by the end of the season?
Ashley: In the beginning the sisters were close, but it shifted. I got really close with Brent II, and I never really saw him or spent time with him much before the show. It was crazy how dynamics changed. Through it all, I realized even more that family will always be there for you. Certain people gravitated towards each other. Those with similar mindsets, personalities and lifestyles before the show spent more time together. It kind of felt like high school again – drama-filled life out there. When you are in quarters that close quarters, it becomes a real roller-coaster ride. Again, it gets bad before it gets better. As far as us getting closer, I can’t say. I don’t know how it feels to everyone else, but as far as I go, this experience really showed me a lot. I am now working even harder on myself and my career.
OTG: In addition to being a bartender by trade, you are also embarking on a modeling career before Doomsday Castle. How is that aspect of your resume progressing?
Ashley: Before the show I was starting up a skin care company. I have bartended and did do that for a while, as well as other things in sales and some commercial work. I also already had a music career and had been modeling. When the show came along, I jumped on for the ride. Doomsday Castle has given me the opportunity to create a better work ethic within myself. While at the castle, Dad got us up at 6:30 am after working until midnight, so that part has really given me a better work ethic. Since the show, I have received more offers, and looked at more agencies to continue the modeling work.
In one episode me and my brother we wrote a song called “Castle in the Sky.” I play the guitar and taught Michael how to play earlier so I would have someone to play with. The song we wrote was really a tribute to dad and about our struggles and experiences at the castle. We will be recording it professionally and it will be available on iTunes by the end of the season. I sing in church, at talent shows and in competitions. Growing up, I moved out at 16, I am very independent, and I wrote a lot of songs about the struggles I was going through. I would take out my emotions on my music, it was a real stress reliever. I love singing and playing, I really enjoy it and have been recording more since the show. The Doomsday Castle experience taught me that our days are numbered, we shouldn’t sit around and do nothing, not just messing around with technology and other silly things every minute of the day. Working on survival skills that you will need later is part of my changed mindset.
OTG: Several of your other siblings that are not regular cast members will appear sometime during the season. How have your non-regular cast member siblings and your mother reacted to the show?
Ashley: Some just weren’t available to do the show for an entire season. My brother Keith and sister Brittany will both be in a few episodes. Brittany is pregnant and will be featured in the midwife episode. Keith is a contractor and helped get the roof and the castle and will be in those episodes closer to the end of the season. Mom didn’t want us to do Doomsday Castle at first, but once it got started, she was alright with it. Dad is tougher than mom and can handle it. But now she is proud of us, she was just worried about us and always wants the best for us. As long as it is good for our lives and our careers, then she is all for it. She was a lot more worried than excited when the idea for a series came about.
OTG: How is brother Brent II? He has been very open about the fact that he struggled with some addiction issues and viewed the time at the castle as a type of therapy or natural rehab experience?
Ashley: Brent is doing really good and I’m very proud of him. He definitely was humbled by this experience, and became more of a man. As far as the biggest transformation goes, as you said earlier, you felt like maybe that title would go to me. I really have gone through a lot of changes since filming began. But, if it is not me, it is definitely Brent II. He is in a really good place now.
OTG: How would you respond to critics of Doomsday Castle when they voice doubts that the family is real preppers?
Ashley: I think the public has their own kind of set definitions about what a prepper is. I’m here to change the definition of what a prepper is. When I put myself in that pool, I think we are making a new outlook about what a prepper is. I think everyone has a little prepper in them. Anyone who buys a weeks’ worth of food, sends their kid to school with a small first aid kit – isn’t that preparedness? Having prepping involves having the proper mindset and that is much more a focus for me now. I am living organically now, my lifestyle is really more fitness-oriented, the whole time I was out there, I kept having to think about what I could wear that would be functional, comfortable and still me. The girly girl attire I usually wear surely isn’t comfortable when working on the castle in the middle of the woods. I found that athletic wear was the best way to go.
I might come out with own line of fitness wear. I have looked around as I got more into fitness and athletic wear is often so plain and boring, no fashion in it. Since I am a fashionista and now also the outdoors type and planning on going back out to castle and helping finish it, I want to be comfortable and still feel like me. So hopefully you guys will see that coming out.
OTG: What advice would you give to other girly girl preppers?
Ashley: I would say prepping isn’t just for men or adults. It is therapy for the soul, it’s what our ancestors did. If you lose those fundamentals of life, you also lose your inner being, the link back to the beginning of time. Women stronger than what we used to be, we are getting to back to our roots while still achieving modern successes. You don’t choose your family, but you do choose the person you want to be if you want to succeed in life going. I used to fight nature and bugs, but since I accepted and embraced the wonders of nature, I understand its value and have a whole new appreciation for the outdoors and the bounty the earth has to offer.
Survivor Jane, a longtime friend of OTG News, has also been dubbed a girly girl prepper, a trailblazer for females who are focused on preparedness as much as their male peers. Ashley and Survivor Jane met at a recent Doomsday Castle event. During our interview, Ashley shared the lady preppers meeting of the minds. When I stated that the NatGeo star reminded me of a younger version of Jane, she wholeheartedly agreed and considered the comparison a great compliment.
Survivor Jane had this to say about Doomsday Castle’s Ashley:
“Ashley and I spoke for quite a while. I mentioned to her I was in the process of writing a book ‘Where there is no Cosmetic Counter’ which is a book on how to used items from your food storage and gardens to create beauty products for your face, hands, body and hair. She loved it. We talked about using blueberries for eye liner and other creative natural items, and how women were beautiful long before Este Lauder hit the shelves. Look at the women of Mesopotamia and even Cleopatra … they used natural beauty products from trees, clay, plants, etc. Women still need to feel like a woman even if and when the poo does hit the fan. By having key elements in your food storage and garden you can look and feel great all the time. The end of the world as we know it does not have to mean the end of looking good as we know it. I think more women would be more apt to jump on board with preparedness if they knew they didn’t have to give up their ‘woman-ness’ — this was the motivation for my book — letting women know that they can still be gorgeous and prepared. It’s like the saying shooting two birds with one stone. Your food storage and garden can be used for preparedness and beauty regimen.”