As the world remembers the 20th Anniversary of Diana’s death, most adults are recounting the stories of where they were when they heard the terrible news out of Paris. (I had just bought my first house in Los Angeles and was having a backyard BBQ with friends, a UK journalist among them. It was surreal when a satellite truck arrived in my driveway so that we could live-broadcast commentary from my living room…unpacked moving boxes stacked just out of camera range.)
But what I still remember most about Diana isn’t the soap opera of her very public/seldom-private life, nor even her winsome face…dazzling smile…glamorous style. It is the inadvertent gift she gave me: a career.
Having moved to Hollywood from NYC in 1990 to further my career as an actor, I was paying bills by working as an aerobics instructor. Those were the days of that hot new workout, “Step,” and I had a lot of hair and a lot of lycra. Teaching in a popular beachside studio in Santa Monica, I had many celebrity clients in my classes (Margeaux Hemingway, Kristin Davis, Helen Hunt, Pia Zadora, Alfre Woodard spring to mind) as well a slew of British tourists and flight attendants who stayed at the hotel down the street and were keen to try out new workout trends. I was approached to travel to the UK and personally deliver a Step workout to everyone’s favorite Royal, Diana (we share “July 1” birthdays, so I thought this was certainly destined in the stars!).
To say I was excited was an understatement and off I flew to Merry Olde England. Once on the ground, however, I learned that I would only be enlisted to train her own Personal Trainer and teach Master Classes to the staff of instructors at her posh gym. I may not have gotten to meet the Princess, but I had a ball! I even got an invitation to Princess Margaret’s country home that still ranks among one of the most wild weekends of my youth…and that is saying something!
I was also asked to appear on the British breakfast show, “This Morning,” demonstrating “Diana’s new workout” and in true “wacky Morning TV” style, I had to do it in the middle of Liverpool’s Mersey River…on a floating map of the United Kingdom. I still get a little sea sick just thinking about that! Maybe it was my mullet hairdo or American accent, but I somehow struck a chord with the audience and was immediately signed up to be the show’s “Fitness Correspondent” from Hollywood. My first assignment was a story on “Pet Fitness” that included my very first celebrity interview with gorgeous Golden Girl, Betty White. (Recently unearthed you can see it here: https://youtu.be/HdPUScCbzb8 ) “Ladies Boxing with Michelle Phillips,” “How to Hypnotize Your Boobs Bigger” and so forth. It was tons of fun and eventually led me to another UK show, “GMTV” and then on to national morning shows for Ireland, New Zealand and Australia’s “Sunrise” where I have been working since 2003.
I’ve covered big news stories ranging from the deaths of superstars like Michael Jackson & Whitney Houston to Superstorm Sandy. I’ve walked Oscars red-carpets, interviewed world leaders and movie stars, authored books and performed at the Sydney Opera House. I have an extraordinary life and career that can be directly traced back to the late great Lady Di.
I thank my lucky stars that, like me, she had such a keen interest in fitness and fun. In addition to her already rich legacy, isn’t that a wonderful thing to remember about her?