Five minutes with.... Gladiators star Jet
Diane Youdale is much more than '˜Jet from Gladiators.' The 47-year-old from Teesside has appeared on stage with Daniel Craig, been in a feature film with Louie Spence and has even launched her own psychotherapy and wellbeing business.
Her nutritional and fitness expertise has gained her recognition both on and off screen and she is currently on secondment at The Centre for Whole Health, in Eccleston.
She even confesses she hadn’t planned a career in front of the camera, as she wanted to be a choreographer.
She says: “My first passion was gymnastics. I was a gymnast from the age of seven to 13 and I was the reigning junior champion of the North of England GB squad. I trained 15 to 20 hours a week. I loved the artistry and that you were competing with yourself. It is just you and your body.
“I quit gymnastics when broke my ankle. I was at the top of my junior league and wanted to end on a high.”
Diane then turned her focus to dance and choreography and she moved to London aged 16, where she attended London Contemporary Dance School and London Studio Centre.
Whilst there she became good friends with Louie Spence, of Pineapple Dance Studios fame, and lived with him for 18 months.
She recalls: “What you see on TV is what I lived with. It was a colourful 18 months.”
She also got accepted at the National Youth Theatre and worked alongside James Bond actor Daniel Craig.
She adds: “Daniel Craig was in my year group and I shared the stage with him at Shaw Theatre. We did Night Creek, which is a variation of a Shakespearean play.
“I was in London to be a choreographer. I didn’t want to be a performer, but I had to train to be a dancer in order to be a choreographer.”
Diane admits she almost got into trouble with her dance school when she got her first big break.
She says: “One of my first breaks was when I was 19. Louie and I auditioned for Danceworks to be in the 1988 feature film Anna Ballerina. We both got parts but, afterwards, we got told off as we were not supposed to audition if we had not graduated. But how many times does a film come up?”
At the age of 19 Diane got an agent and in between jobs, she embarked on another side of her career – teaching fitness, exercise and nutrition. She also had a small personal training business.
It was at this time she was approached to take part in a new UK TV show – Gladiators in 1993.
She says: “I was about 22 and by then I had got an agent. I had sent a show reel to LWT and they were looking for girls who were athletic for the show.
“I had seen the American version and I wasn’t very interested.
“The Gladiators were very muscular there, so I thought I would be asked to be a contender.
“But they were actually looking for a mix of athletic girls and fitness figures.”
Diane left after four years, following a back injury while doing The Pyramid challenge.
She says: “I went for a tackle and miscalculated. I landed on the top half of my body and I heard a snap. The contender was on top of me.
“The rest was a blur. All I can remember was being able to feel my legs and feeling relieved. I knew at that point I had to get out.
“If anything had come between walking up mountains with my gorgeous rescue dogs just for a big pay cheque, it wasn’t for me.”
With Jet being a household name, she was offered many roles as a TV and radio presenter for BBC TV and radio, ITV, and Sky.
She became a children’s television presenter as The Games Mistress on the video game show series Games World, and as a presenter on You Bet! and Finders Keepers. She also analysed housemates’ behaviour on the spin-off series Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit on the Side.
Diane was also partially involved in the Gladiators reboot on Sky TV, explaining: “I filmed the Videator, where James Crosseley (Hunter from the original series) filmed interviews with the new Gladiators and compared the old events with the new, including training tips for each event. I liked the new show and how they made it elemental.
“The new Gladiators were all fine athletes and looked great.”
But Diane’s main focus has been mixing fitness with the mind and wellbeing.
She says: “I had some knowledge of the science around food and fitness and producers realised I could contribute as a presenter.
“I considered whether I wanted to carry that on or side step and do psychotherapy. I chose psychotherapy because I was keen on knowing what the mind is.”
She set up her own freelance business, offering psychotherapy counselling and speaking at seminars.
Last October, she joined The Centre for Whole Heath, in Eccleston, as a psychotherapist, CHEK holistic lifestyle and exercise coach, as well as small group pilates/corrective exercise facilitator/teacher.
She says: “I work a couple of days a week, as I have a private client list, and I work in North Wales and down south.
“For the past 25 years I have been a big fan of Paul Chek’s work, who is one of the world’s leading integrative health experts. His work underpins the Centre for Whole Health ethos, which has joined up thinking with the body and mind.
“I’m enjoying my time here and meeting people of the North West who want to improve their health.
“Western medicine has become better at recognising that we are only as good as the sleep/rest, move/activity, eat/quality food and only then can we be sure of a foundation for greater happiness.
“Health is priceless and deserves us to be better educated to facilitate this. Once you become aware of who and what makes you healthy, there is no going back.
“Having a vital store of energy, great tools and skills that play to our uniqueness is all part of the work at the centre.”
As Diane works all over the country, she has several places she calls home at the moment: “I live between Manchester, South East, North Wales, the North West and the North East. At the moment it’s how it has to be for family and work.”
Whilst her clients’ wellbeing is at the forefront of her priorities, Diane has not completely left her TV work behind, as she has a few projects coming up.
She hints: “I’m always being asked to guest on mainstream and some not so mainstream shows.
“ I’ve a couple of programmes that I have written and I’m in the process of seeing where they would be valued in terms of production and placement.”
Diane admits she will never truly get away from her alter ego Jet, as she still gets recognised and is quite humble about the whole thing.
She says: “I am mortified as I am nearly 50. I am older looking and a bit wrinkly now. But I am comfortable with it. I have enjoyed each decade.
“With being on TV you are often scrutinized for your looks and body but if you are comfortable in your skin it should not matter.
“I was part of that as a role model. The 1980s had been about super skinny models, which is appalling.
“But I was muscular, I had chunky thighs, and abs. I did not look like everybody else. I was a TV personality who served a function.”