- Words Thomas Stichbury Photograph­y Darren Black Styling Nick Byam Creative direction Joseph Kocharain

The prognosis for the doc’s future is looking healthy... as he collects our TV Award

Be careful what you put up your bottom. That’s one of many pearls of wisdom offered by Dr Ranj

Singh during a particular­ly, ahem, probing chat as he reminisces about some of the stranger medical emergencie­s he has had to wrestle with over the years.

“It usually involves anuses. Adults sticking things up their bums, everything from deodorant cans and batteries to a knife sharpener — handle first!” he clarifi es.

Fortunatel­y, Attitude’s appointmen­t with the in- demand doc has nothing to do with household items being stubbornly lodged in places they shouldn’t be. Well, not on this occasion anyway.

Whether you are familiar with Ranj from his razzle- dazzle run on last year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, where he waltzed his way into the nation’s heart, or his regular gig as a “couch doctor” dishing out advice on This Morning, he has become a firm fixture on the box, making him a deserved winner of our TV Award.

The man also has a Bafta- scooping children’s programme, Get Well Soon, under his belt. Indded, on his way back from the photoshoot in central London, Ranj is stopped in the street by a very appreciati­ve mum who thanks him for helping her diagnose her child’s serious skin allergy.

Modestly passing off his television success as a happy accident (“I’ve just pushed myself further and further to see what I can get away with”), Ranj’s appearance as an openly gay Indian man on some of the country’s biggest mainstream shows is testament to how far the TV industry has come in terms of diversity and representa­tion.

“I remember this guy tweeted a picture of me, Gok [ Wan] and Rylan [ Clark- Neal] sitting at the This Morning table discussing a phone- in,” he recalls. “It was the fact it was three diverse men from the LGBTQ community on daytime TV and it wasn’t even a ‘ thing’.

“People from ethnic minorities, people of colour, or LGBTQ people are still at a slight disadvanta­ge [ in the media],” he notes.

“That will last for a while but it’s going in the right direction.”

Keen to use his public platform to exact positive change, Ranj is especially vocal about young people’s mental health and, going hand in hand with that, LGBTQ lessons in schools, which will be mandatory from September 2020.

“Some people think it’s about converting

Not just our favourite TV doctor, Ranj Singh is also an advocate for diversity and the health of children through LGBTQinclu­sive education “AT SCHOOL, I LEARNT ABOUT DINOSAURS. IT DIDN’ T MAKE ME A STEGOSAURU­S”

children into other genders and sexualitie­s but I learnt about dinosaurs at school and I’m not a fucking stegosauru­s, am I?” he exclaims. “It will reduce levels of bullying and mentalheal­th issues, 50 per cent of which start by the age of 14, and by which the LGBTQ community is disproport­ionately aff ected.

“It’s about saving those children and making their lives easier.”

Despite being one of showbiz land’s friendlies­t residents, Ranj has squared off against online trolls in the past because of his sexuality. “There was one instance where it was brought into a discussion about parenting,” he says. “I won’t name who this lady is. However, she is notorious for having these kinds of views. She’s a journalist who has a Catholic background, and it was to do with single- sex and same- sex parenting.

“Her point was that children need a mother and I pointed out that that’s not true. Children need a carer, it doesn’t matter what gender they are. The important part is that they have somebody who supports and loves them, someone they can turn to. For some reason, she brought my sexuality into it and I said: ‘ That’s completely irrelevant, you are just using it to beat me with’.”

Having studied medicine at King’s College London, Ranj still works part time in the NHS as a specialist paediatric­ian – and he has no intention of hanging up his stethoscop­e and permanentl­y swapping hospital wards for the

bright lights of the telly studio. “People often ask me that, but I’d feel lost,” he explains. “Even though the medical job isn’t perfect, or easy, I could never give it up.”

His face lights up when you ask him to cherry- pick the most rewarding moments of his medical career. “It can be anything from saving someone from abuse, to literally saving a life,” he says. “Or when you’re at a baby’s delivery, the baby comes out, things aren’t quite right, and you’re the person who sorts it out and hands the baby back to the parents — pink, screaming and kicking.”

Ranj knows all too well, though, how cruelly fine the line between life and death is. “I’ve cried with parents when their children have passed away. You can’t help but get emotionall­y involved.

“There was a time when people used to think that doctors needed a stiff upper lip, that there had to be a separation between you and the patient. I don’t agree with that at all. The best doctors are the human ones who show emotion.”

Conversati­on drifts like a wayward car into that smoking political wreckage called Brexit, and Ranj’s prognosis of the potential ramifi cations on the NHS is far from hopeful.

“We’re talking medical shortages, staff shortages, research being culled because we don’t have that relationsh­ip [ with the EU] any more,” he warns. “A lot of naysayers are calling this scaremonge­ring, but this is an expert body telling us we have a potential outcome to deal with and prepare for.

“I think we are going to be sadly surprised and shocked at what happens.”

TURNING 40 earlier this summer, Ranj has come a long way since publicly speaking about his sexuality for the first time — in this very publicatio­n four years ago.

“Attitude was a big part of my coming out. That’s why you hold such a special place in my heart,” he beams.

Ranj is known for his trademark grin — the kind that adorns the posters on your dentist’s walls — but there is barely a hint of it as he revisits his darker days, notably the painful breakdown of his marriage to a woman a decade ago. “I grew up in a relatively religious, traditiona­l, Indian family,” he says.

“I didn’t know anyone who was LGBTQ and being gay was nowhere near as accepted or understood as it is today. I’d always had this idea of the life I wanted: to have a good job, to get married and have a family. That’s my happiness, I thought, that’s what will make me feel good.

“I got into my twenties and I met my partner. It wasn’t an arranged thing, which some people might assume. We met, fell in love, got married and were going to do all these wonderful things that I’d dreamt about.

Only when I was going into my thirties did I realise, ‘ Hang on a second, something doesn’t feel right’. I don’t believe that sexuality is a black- and- white thing. There was always a side of me… you’d have what might be considered a gay thought or whatever, and you’d put it away, with a ‘ that’s not me’,” Ranj continues. “My relationsh­ip broke down at

the same time as my sexuality was evolving. I went through a period of counsellin­g to find out why I was feeling the way I was.

“That was when the process of accepting myself came about.

“Imagine if everything you hold as your truth unravels, that what you thought were your boundaries, your rules, your world isn’t true any more,” he says. I didn’t know me any more.” He hit rock bottom, to the point of having suicidal thoughts.

“There were dark times and I’d think: ‘ Do I want to carry on living this way and feeling like this?’ I had so much guilt. My ex- wife didn’t deserve that, our families didn’t deserve to go through that.

“I felt like the worst person in the world and, looking back, nobody deserves to feel like the worst person in the world when all they’re doing is being themselves.

“Luckily, I had a lot of people around who made me feel otherwise, who made me feel it was possible and OK to be me.”

As for staying in touch with his ex- wife, Ranj regrets that they weren’t able to salvage some sort of friendship. “We could have ended more amicably than we did. Weirdly, in hindsight, I think we could have been really good friends. Unfortunat­ely, it was the infl uence of family that tarnished that possibilit­y. Initially [ after coming out], she was like, ‘ It is what it is’. It was only when other people found out that it started to go wrong. I will always miss her.” Ranj credits his first boyfriend for making him feel comfortabl­e in his skin.

“I was having a relationsh­ip with somebody of the same sex. That was something I never thought would happen.

“He was the making of me, and in many ways he’s responsibl­e for who I am today.”

Currently single, Ranj pronounces his dating life dead on arrival.

“People probably look at me and think

I’m stuck up my own backside, but in those situations I’m painfully shy,” he stresses.

On the flip side, a relationsh­ip that has gone from strength to strength is the one he shares with his beloved parents, who only fully came to terms with his sexuality during his stint on Strictly — and not just because of the camp costumes.

“I was outed to my parents when my marriage was breaking down but we’d never actually spoken about it,” he reveals. “I wasn’t ready to talk. It never felt as if it was the right time, and over the 10 years that it took me to deal with it and get to where I am now, I feel my parents had a bit of that as well. It was only last year when something came out in the newspapers, somebody brought it to their attention that we had a chat.

“I naively assumed that they were going to have a knee- jerk reaction, which a lot of ethnic parents do — I’ve known people who have been kicked out of their homes because of that.

“I thought I was going to be ostracised, that they were going to freak out, cut me out and cut me off . But it was the total opposite.

“They came to this country with nothing, could barely speak the language [ but] built everything up, so my sense of pride for my parents is huge anyway, but it grew immensely at that point and I remember thinking, ‘ You are so much more than I thought you were’. I can’t say that they’re completely 100 per cent, ‘ Yay, let’s go on a Pride march’, but it’s a journey, as much as I hate that word,” Ranj says, his infectious smile returning.

And which parent did he inherit his brilliantl­y bushy eyebrows from?

“Dad,” Ranj laughs.

“My eyebrows used to be the bane of my life when I was younger. I even used to get teased by the teachers at school.

“Now I just think: ‘ Hey, babes, I started this trend’.”


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Ted Baker
NOVEMBER 2019 Ranj wears Topman, Baker Ted Ted Baker
 ??  ?? Ranj wears blazer, by Topman
Ranj wears blazer, by Topman
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Ranj wears blazer. by Topman

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