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Canterbury Christ Church University student Jess Smith, from Chatham, starred as Teletubbies' sun

As a chuckling baby, Jess Smith was one of the most familiar faces on British television in the 1990s.

As the BBC prepares to make 60 new episodes of the hugely popular Teletubbies, the laughing tot in the sun – who featured in all 365 programmes – is now 19 and a university student.

At the age of nine months, Jess Smith was selected to be the giggling Baby Sun who looks over Teletubbyland.

Jess as seen in the Teletubbies
Jess as seen in the Teletubbies

The news will come as no surprise to people who have known Jess for a long time, but she said it is not something she really talked about as she was quite a shy child and “everyone knowing would have been a bit scary”.

The former Chatham South and Horsted Primary School pupil made the decision to tell people during her first week at university, when they all had to say something about themselves that no one else would guess.

Jess Smith, from Chatham, now aged 19
Jess Smith, from Chatham, now aged 19

She said: “I thought I may as well tell them as I’m going to be spending the next three years with them.”

Jess, a first-year dance education student at Canterbury Christ Church University, then broke the news on Facebook.

She wrote: “So I’ve recently celebrated my 19th birthday and after a lot of thought, I’ve decided it’s time to tell everyone. I used to hide it but after a lot of encouragement from my friends at university, I’ve gained the confidence to come out with it.

“I am the sun from Teletubbies. There has been quite a few people pretending to be ‘the sun’ but only I could tell you the real story.”

In 1996, her mother, Anji Smith, took her to Edenbridge Hospital to be weighed and a health visitor, who had been asked by Ragdoll Productions to find smiley babies, put Jess’s name forward.

Jess Smith with Tinky Winky, Laa Laa, Dipsy and Po
Jess Smith with Tinky Winky, Laa Laa, Dipsy and Po

Mrs Smith said it was never intended to be a big thing: “It was just something a bit different to do and we didn’t expect it to be as big as it was.

“They just sat her in front of a camera and she just laughed and smiled at her dad. We didn’t hear anything until we got a letter when she was 18 months old saying she’d been picked. It was really weird seeing her on television.”

And as no one could predict the success of the show, Jess was paid just £250 for filming and given a box of toys to take home.

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