Learning from the best: How to create like Reggie Yates


Matt Pallett & Shenelle Kassie, Journalism Undergraduates, University of Roehampton

“Don’t be scared to figure yourself out in your work.”

That’s the key piece of advice Reggie Yates aimed at the slew of young creators listening to his every word at Wimbledon BookFest, but it’s a piece of advice that can resonate with anyone, young and old, regardless of their creative flair. Yates is an accomplished actor, presenter, DJ, producer and author so if there’s anybody fit to tell you that it’s okay to find yourself within your work, it’s him.

Another significant piece of advice to take from Yates is the importance of self-belief. “The power of self-belief and also the power in knowing who you are and not being scared of that” is imperative not only in your creative or professional ventures, but in everyday life. However, whilst self-belief is important, Yates makes it clear that there’s strength in understanding your limits; “It’s all well and good saying ‘I believe I can be as good as Lionel Messi’, but you can’t do seven kick ups- it’s important to believe, but it’s also just as important to be self-aware,” he suggests, “understand and know what you’re good at and focus on that, make that the core of whatever it is that you’re trying to do; I guarantee you’ll do well.”

Yates also shared many profound experiences of his journey being a filmmaker and storyteller. With regards to filming documentaries, he openly expressed his passion for diving into issues first hand. The project that resonated with him the most was the film he made in Chicago, one of the most dangerous cities in the Unites States - “the film was shot beautifully, it’s cut brilliantly, but it’s an organic story that happens in front of us.”

As Reggie Yates has been on television for almost 29 years, h estates that “the audience have kind of grown up with me…as someone who has had a relationship with their audience in quite a one-directional way for a long time, I can understand why they would associate me with specific issues or ideas.” He reveals that the impact of his films upon his audience are extremely important to him because he wants to get his audience thinking. Therefore he always concludes his documentaries with a question – to start a conversation and opening his audience’s eyes to various issues and different ways of seeing.

The topics in his programmes are all things that worry him, things that he cares and thinks about off-camera. It’s just a matter of casting light on these problems and creating change through understanding.

Reggie Yates placed significant importance on aiming to bring authenticity, raw, uncut and organic stories to stimulate his audiences’ minds – in order to help show that there is a world beyond what their eyes can see.

Reggie Yates left his eager audience with one final piece of advice: keep believing that “you’re creating a piece of work that’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes and affect change in a positive way.”