HE is usually talking about hand-washing, coughs and Covid strains, but despite the pandemic pillow talk, Dr Ranj Singh has become an unlikely sex symbol during the recent crisis.
Fans regularly flock to social media to praise This Morning’s resident doctor for his soothing bedside manner as he debunks misleading information about coronavirus — not to mention him being “pretty damn perfect” and “gorgeous”.
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But Dr Ranj, who came out as gay in his late twenties after being married to a woman for six years, finds it difficult to accept his heart-throb status.
He says: “When I receive this fan mail, and see all these comments, it is hugely flattering, honestly. I have never considered myself a heart-throb. When people message me it gives me that bit of confidence.”
Growing up in Chatham, Kent, Dr Ranj took a long time to accept himself.
He says: “I grew up as the awkward, shy, geeky kid. I had body confidence issues. I didn’t enjoy being who I was and didn’t have great self-esteem, and I carried that into adulthood. I don’t see myself as sexy.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have that companion that young men need when they are going through any struggles.
“I never felt like my mental health needs were addressed. I was quite an emotional young boy. I had anxiety and low moods.
“I didn’t have very many people to talk to, and that was the hardest part.
“I felt like it was a sink or swim scenario, and luckily I had the resilience to be able to swim, but it took time.”
Dr Ranj grew up in a traditionally Sikh household, and focused on schoolwork. He gained his first GCSE at just eight years old, and went on to study medicine and specialise in paediatrics.
When he was 26 he married a pharmacist in a traditional Sikh ceremony in Nottingham — and later described it as the “best day” of his life.
But they divorced in 2011. Dr Ranj had come out as gay to his wife two years earlier, at the age of 30.
In an Instagram post addressing a news story about this period of his life, Dr Ranj wrote: “The process of realising who you are, and being able to be your truest self, is different for everyone, and often not easy.
"My realisation happened later in life and was heartbreaking for all involved.”
Since then Dr Ranj has openly discussed his sexuality, becoming an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. In 2018 he fronted the cover of Gay Times magazine as part of a special celebration of gay Asians.
Looking back, Dr Ranj, who has been working on the NHS frontline during the pandemic, says: “As a kid you go through all sorts of things. My parents always wanted me to make something of myself, which is why I went on to be a doctor.
“But throughout my childhood and growing up I struggled a lot, mentally. So that is why I wrote a book.
"It is called How To Grow Up And Feel Amazing! The No Worries Guide For Boys, and it’s about my childhood and the lessons to help look after younger people.
“When we are growing up it is not just our physical health that is important, but our mental health. What I struggled with was having someone there to say ‘Right, I am here for you. Let’s talk about these things’.
"Any young person who is struggling with their identity, first and foremost you have to know that there is nothing wrong with you.
"Life for LGBTQ+ people is difficult, but getting better. With my book, I wanted every boy like me to speak up or ask certain questions.”
These days Dr Ranj, who was on Strictly in 2018, knows he needs to look after his physical and mental health, and he does so with Zumba and cake.
He says: “I have learnt to be kind to myself. I have a serious job and I know it’s a time to be serious, but life is for living.
"I will be the first person on the dance floor, I will be that person who is making cocktails, and who goes to karaoke.
“When it comes to health, it’s all about finding the things that don’t feel like exercise, so for me it is dancing. I hate exercise but put some cracking tunes on and I am there. I love Zumba classes.
“I know my job is about healthy eating and living, but that doesn’t mean I have to deny myself anything. I love chocolate just as much as the next person.
“Food for me is about enjoyment. There will be days when I just sit and eat junk, like I just love cake. But then there will be other days when I am a bit more mindful and will nourish my body.
“I have got lockdown love handles that I’ve learnt to love. That is fine, I know what it is, and I don’t beat myself up for it.”
- Dr Ranj will be performing in the West End in the Scrubs To Sparkles one night charity show June 15.
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