Reggie Yates – from CANDI to world-renowned journalist

Reggie Yates

Former City and Islington College student, Reggie Yates, now BBC presenter, actor, writer and filmmaker, visited the college this week to talk to our current cohort of media students.

Despite being just 31, Reggie who was born and bred in Islington, has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. He studied A Levels in Media, Art and Graphic Design between 1999-2001 at our Sixth Form College, and before that attended Central Foundation School for Boys’ near Old Street.

“I grew up on the Mersey Estate at the top of Liverpool Road. I grew up in a home where there was pressure on me to pursue academic subjects, but I wanted to take the creative route which led me to studying at City and Islington College. At this point I had already been working in the entertainment industry for ten years. Actually studying what I had been doing really helped me grow and develop. I was encouraged and I learnt from my teachers that it is ok to have an idea and to have a vision of what you want to achieve and to go for it.”

Reggie’s first role on TV was in the cult series “Desmond’s” where he appeared alongside another former college student, Zawe Ashton. At the age of 11 he began presenting and has since gone on to present “Top of the Pops,” “The Voice UK” and, last week, traced his family history on hit BBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Asked about his subsequent work writing and directing documentaries and how young people can break into the industry, he said: “Always be prepared, have your work ready on your YouTube channel so that you can impress and take the chance when it comes. You don’t have to have money to do it and you simply have to give people your YouTube URL and how good you are will speak for itself.”

Sixth Form media tutor, Bernard Bulaitis, who taught Reggie during his time at the college, said: “What Reggie had in abundance when he was here was the ability to charm in a genuine way and he was always very polite. He has made a success of himself through that natural ability but also hard work, ideas, and always going the extra mile.”

Rebecca Morris, from the City and Islington media department, said: “I would say that it was hugely successful – probably the best ‘industry’ talk that we’ve ever had. Reggie was honest about his experiences and gave fantastic advice about how to approach working the media industry. The students found his story inspirational, and the fact he came from CANDI really encouraged them to believe that they can be successful too as he was one of them.”

Anyone who grew up watching children’s TV in the late 1990s and early 2000s will know Reggie Yates’s smiling face and friendly voice from shows like “Smile” and “Diggit.” Yet what many people won’t know about this former City and Islington College student is that he’s been working in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years, despite having just turned 31.

A talented TV presenter, radio DJ and actor, Reggie first appeared on TV screens at the tender age of eight in the ground-breaking sitcom “Desmond’s,” before landing roles in other TV stalwarts like “Grange Hill” and “The Bill,” and then becoming a host on CBBC.

A passionate music lover, Reggie was a key member of the DJ team at the launch of BBC Radio 1Xtra, hosting a show alongside his “Smile” co-presenter Dev. The show ran for two years and established Reggie in the music world. He was soon presenting legendary music show “Top of the Pops” before it came to an end in 2006, and still presents the show’s Christmas specials to this day. After his stint on 1Xtra Reggie was brought over BBC Radio 1, where he hosted a show with long-time co-presenter and friend Fearne Cotton.

A long relationship with the popular radio station followed, with Reggie presenting both “The Request Show” and “The Chart Show” before leaving the station to pursue other projects in 2012.

In recent years Reggie has reinvented himself once again, this time as an accomplished writer and documentary filmmaker. Documentaries such as “Autistic Superstars” and “Inside Teen Gangs” were very well received, while his short film “Date Night” recently won Best UK Short Film at the London Independent Film Festival.

Reggie’s recent work has shown us yet another side to him, though any readers with young children might know him better as the Jamaican mouse “Rastamouse,” in the hit children’s show of the same name.

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