Middlesbrough's Gladiator 'Jet' has done it all
PUBLISHED: 23:10 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:37 20 February 2013
Gymnast, dancer, television personality and radio star, Diane Youdale, a daughter of Middlesbrough, has done it all <br/>Words by Sue Campbell
Anyone who remembers the very successful 90s television series, Gladiators, will remember the beautiful Jet.
She wowed audiences with her fitness and personality and for four and a half years was a national icon as she swung, ran, jumped and battled her way across the stadium floor to rapturous cheers from a huge fan base, screaming her name and waving banners - she was everyones Valentine.
Then Jet left the show and went on to more successful roles in theatre, presenting and broadcasting.
And now shes back where she was born - in Middlesbrough.
Jet is actually Diane Youdale and she looks just as lovely now as in those heady Gladiator days, but now its more likely that you will hear rather than see her.
Diane is now co-presenting the mid morning show on BBC Radio Tees with Neil Green and shes loving it. Shes been there about 18 months.
I was very scared at first, but Neils a great work partner who really knows what hes doing. I really like the idea of being company for people, of them listening to us as they go about their day.
Its certainly a long way from Gladiators. Its brought me back to the great North East and its fantastic fun.
Diane was born at Middlesbrough Maternity Hospital (which she cycles past every day to go to Radio Tees) and her tenure at the radio station carries on a family connection. Her father, Jack Youdale, an astronomer, had an astronomy programme on Radio Tees (then Radio Cleveland) for 25 years, only retiring four years ago.
Diane really looks up to her dad and is now able to see more of her parents, who live in Thorpe Thewles. Hes fantastic. Hes the really famous one up here - everyone knows him.
Diane was brought up in Billingham with her older brother and younger sister and had a very happy childhood. She showed great promise and determination as a gymnast and went on to be North of England Junior Gymnastic Champion.
She said: I gave up gymnastics at the age of 16, when I fell in love with contemporary dance. I moved to London and was accepted by the London Contemporary Dance School in London - it was a dream come true.
The same year, she was also accepted at the National Youth Theatre and the National Dance Theatre and The London Studio Centre. Her contemporaries included Daniel (James Bond) Craig and actress Tamsin Outhwaite, and for the next two years she had a great time, learning and perfecting her craft.
Then at 19 she became a screen star, working for a spell on a mainstream US television series called She-Wolf of London, which proved to be a great learning curve.
It helped me to become a really professional in front of a camera. It taught me to hit my mark, learn how to use the lights - and it was good money. I bought my first house - I still remember the excitement - and then moved on to become a teacher, working in contemporary dance.
Then came Gladiators.
London Weekend Television called me up out of the blue. My first reaction was "no". The US version of Gladiators was peopled with body builders and women with big muscles. Exactly what I wasnt. I couldnt see how Id fit in.
However, after a little persuasion and assurance that the UK version was to be more about strength, fitness and agility - which Diane has in abundance - she decided to give it a go.
And of course, she became a household name.
I still have difficulty getting my head round all that fame and adulation, she said. It was really amazing and I was recognised wherever I went.
Then came a serious accident which cut short her role in Gladiators, and she later ventured into the new challenge of teaching, retaining the disciplines of Physical Education and Dance.
This precipitated her return to a long and sustained period of studying at the University of Surrey as she worked towards qualifying for the title of Counsellor/Psychotherapist (BACP) and NLP Master Practitioner Coach.
The latter deals with neuro-technologies to improve conscious performance in our behaviours, new territory in the world of growth and behavioural change for enhanced performance and wellbeing.
Diane is enjoying being back in her native North East, even though she was away for a long time.
I just love the people here. They are very special. And being able to spend time with the family is just great, and Ive now got two nephews.
Diane loves discovering and learning about aspects of others lives, and brings a healthy background in fitness, teaching, counselling and psychotherapy to her role as radio presenter.
Shes also just completed a spell in panto, in Dick Whittington at Middlesbrough Theatre.
Diane likes to explore her home ground on foot where possible and always heads for Clay Bank and the Wainstones for her walks and runs.
I love being outdoors. I had been away for a long time, but the region and its people have welcomed me with open arms. Its good to be back.
Diane Youdale and Neil Green present the BBC Tees mid-morning show every week day between 10am and 1pm.