by LAUREN CODLING
WHEN Dr Ranj Singh was growing up in Kent, he felt he had no ethnic role models in the creative arts industries to look up to.
From a traditional Sikh-Punjabi household, Singh had no visible examples of creatives who could inspire him from the outlet he now thrives in. It inspired his motto in adult life: “Be the change you want to be”.
“From my perspective, there weren’t many diverse role models when I was young and that is why it is even more important that we have those opportunities to try and change that,” the British Asian TV personality said.
Another mantra he lives by is: “Be who you needed growing up.”
Singh has been a vocal advocate for diversity since he burst on to the entertainment scene in 2012 with his successful CBeebies show Get Well Soon. He believes media should reflect society – something which has not always happened.
In a recent Arts England Council report, it was revealed that there had only been a “small increase” in BAME representation across the arts workforce and leadership. Numbers had risen slightly from 10 per cent to 12 per cent.
“It is important for us to try and push those boundaries as much as possible to show people what ethnic minority communities are capable of, and also to bring our own flavour to it as well,” he said.
“Diverse cultures have a lot to offer that people may not have seen.”
Although he did not personally encounter any barriers within his creative career, Singh acknowledged that others may not have had such a positive experience. Singh has been fortunate with the prospects he was provided with, but revealed he also worked hard.
“Yes I have been extremely lucky, and I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity that has come along,” he said. “I haven’t been afforded any opportunities without having to work for it, and that is only fair.”
The qualified paediatrician has been open about his sexuality since his profile began to rise. However, it was not always the case.
Admitting in an interview with Attitude that Asian communities were not traditionally “gay-friendly”, Singh felt he was obligated to conform to expectations for many years.
When he was in his early 20s, he was married to a woman. Despite years of happiness with his partner, Singh ultimately felt he was unable to continue with the relationship.
Following his divorce, he came out to friends and family.
“I found the whole process really painful because at the time it felt like my world was crashing down and I didn’t know myself anymore,” he said.
Now, openly gay, he hopes others feel able to discuss their feelings as it could help so many.
He believes that inclusivity in showbiz could help the conversation. People’s differences should be celebrated in the industry, he said, and that also applies to the LGBT+ community.
“There is a lot that (the community) can offer in all industries, and it is important for them to be reflected in society so that people see them,” he said. “It is even more important because of the problems that those groups face, and a lot of it is down to a lack of exposure.
“People in society don’t have exposure to the community, and the media is one of the ways we can do that.”
Known for his work as doctor – both on and off screen – the 39-year-old is popular with audiences for his vital health tips and contagiously, cheery disposition. Last month his book, Save Money Lose Weight, was released.
It may come as a surprise to some that his career in entertainment was not intentional. In fact, by his own admission, it happened by accident. Although he adored his medical career, Singh did not have much time to “flex his creative muscles”.
He needed a creative outlet and, by chance, an opportunity with the BBC beckoned. He soon branched out, by becoming the co-creator and a presenter of Get Well Soon, which won BAFTA awards in 2016 and 2018.
Singh later became the resident doctor on This Morning. He also co-hosts the popular ITV show Save Money: Good Health, alongside journalist and 5 News presenter Sian Williams.
Having the break to be more creative while still pursuing his medical career was ideal for Singh. “It was still something to do with my day job, but using it in a creative way to do essentially the same thing,” he said. “It’s given me more variety.”
Get Well Soon – a child-friendly show centralising on health and hospitals – was perfect for the medic. Already passionate about the health of children and young people, he felt able to mix his artistic side with his medical profession.
Since the show aired, Singh revealed he still regularly receives messages from parents and carers who thank him for helping them. “I am proud of that,” he said.
His career has not just focused on health, however. Last year, he fulfilled his dream of appearing on the hugely successful Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1.
His Indian background contributed to his love of music and dancing, and he jumped at the chance to appear. “I loved every minute of it,” he said.
Despite his demanding schedule, Singh continues to work part-time as a paediatrician. He balances shifts in A&E and Intensive Care with his daytime job in TV. “It is busy, but I’ve never enjoyed my job as much as I do now,” he said. “I love the opportunities that I get, and I never get bored.”
Singh has a variety of projects on the go. He will be performing in panto later this year. As his own entertainment career progresses, he revealed his ambition for increased diversity in the creative sector.
“I’d definitely like to see more varied faces in the industry and on screen,” he said. “It only serves to make things better.”