Television presenter and journalist Ranvir Singh was born and bred in Preston and is now a familiar face on ITV’s Daybreak. She tells AASMA DAY about her rise to fame and the heartache of losing her dad as a youngster...
HER crowning glory is the envy of most women who wish they had her glossy locks.
However, Ranvir Singh’s wide smile hides a tragedy which left a lasting impact on her hair.
Ranvir, 36, who was born in Preston and grew up in Ribbleton, explains: “My parents came over to Preston from the Punjab in India in the 1960s.
“My dad Rattan Singh came over first and my mum Charnjit followed five years later by which time she already had my eldest sister.
“My dad used to work at Courtaulds Mill but he spent the majority of his life working for British Rail.”
When Ranvir, who has two older sisters, was just nine, the family was thrown into turmoil when her dad Rattan died of a heart attack at the age of 42.
Ranvir recalls: “I can remember everything so vividly. My dad had suffered a heart attack the year before and it hit me very hard at such a young age.
“My hair fell out due to all the stress. It was horrible. It never really grew back and I suffer from alopecia.”
When I express surprise at this news as Ranvir’s hair always looks so perfect without a strand out of place, she throws her head back in laughter and says: “That’s the miracle of modern hairdressing!
“I am very lucky as I have my hair, make-up and wardrobe sorted at the studio and they have all sorts of magic ways of making my hair look good.
“I never tie my hair back. If I did, you would see little bald patches.
“This is very hard to deal with – especially for a girl.
“But I have lived with it for years so it doesn’t really bother me. It is something you learn to live with.
“At the time when my hair fell out, I had just lost my dad, so it was the least of my worries. Luckily, I wasn’t into fashion or looks.”
Ranvir admits losing her dad at such a young age affected her deeply and she feels she missed out on getting to know her father properly.
“It changes everything when you lose a parent when you are young. I was only nine when my dad died and I think our best years together were yet to come.
“I never really got to do the nice things with my dad or chat to him about my career aims and my options at school.”
Ranvir’s mum Charnjit brought up Ranvir and her two sisters alone and worked at the Vernon Carus factory.
Ranvir went to Woodlands Primary School in Preston and before his death, her father had expressed to his wife and other daughters that he wanted his youngest daughter to go to the best grammar school around.
Ranvir says: “When it came to looking for secondary school for me, we knew we were looking at a grammar school as that was my dad’s wish.
“I think it was because I was their last child and they wanted me to have the best possible education.
“I went to Kirkham Grammar School which is a fee-paying school. But I got in on an assisted place.
“For this, I had to pass my 11 plus and if you passed at a certain rate, the school provided a full grant.
“I was very lucky to get this as I wouldn’t have got into the school otherwise.”
While at school, Ranvir admits she had no idea what she wanted to do as a future career.
“Typically, in an Indian culture, you are going to be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. This was the normal path for children from Indian families.
“But none of these appealed to me.
“I enjoyed school.
“I wasn’t necessarily in with the ‘in crowd’ but I was reasonably friendly with everyone.
“Kirkham was a really sporty school but I was terrible with all sports as I had no co-ordination or balance. Even though I enjoyed my school days, I remember feeling ungainly and awkward in my body. I did not feel ‘cool’.
“I felt different because I came from a single parent family.
“In those days, it was very different and I was the only Indian person at the school for a long time so I knew I was different.”
While at school, Ranvir discovered she enjoyed drama, poetry and theatre studies and this became a massive part of her life.
After school, Ranvir went to Lancaster University and studied English and Philosophy. In her second year, she went to the careers library and was strongly considering doing a law conversion course and becoming a barrister.
But when she looked into it, she realised it was going to be very expensive and the family could not afford it.
Ranvir explains: “My mum stopped working when I was in the Sixth Form after she was knocked down by a car and I knew she needed support.
“Otherwise, there is a strong possibility I would have tried to get into acting and theatre and tried to get into RADA.
“However, I did not want to give up on my dream of having a career that excited me.
“Some people said, ‘Why don’t you become a teacher?’ but that did not excite me and I felt people should only go into teaching if their heart was wholly in it.
“I did not want to short change myself.
“I loved the ‘now or never’ of being in a theatre and I wanted something that would give me the same adrenaline rush every day.”
Ranvir had her lightbulb moment while in a Sikh Temple in Preston when a girl she was chatting to told her that her friend who had done an English degree now worked for the BBC.
Smiling, Ranvir says: “It was like divine intervention!
“My dad had been an avid watcher of news programmes and I had grown up with it and had a natural interest in news and current affairs.
“But until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that you could actually step inside the box and do it as a career.”
Ranvir studied a Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and began doing weekend news bulletins at Radio Wave in Blackpool.
She then did voluntary entertainment bulletins on Asian Word at BBC Radio Lancashire.
It was here that she got her big break.
Ranvir recalls: “I was the lowest on the rung there and on my second week there, I was sitting in the kitchen when Steve Taylor, who was managing editor of the whole station, walked in.
“He told me he had heard me reading the bulletins on Asian Word and wanted to offer me a six-month contract.
“I was absolutely blown away. It was my lucky break.”
After 15 months at Radio Lancashire, Ranvir became the main bulletin editor at breakfast. She then moved to BBC GMR and covered the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Ranvir then felt she was ready for a new challenge and went for a screen test and became a reporter and producer at North West Tonight and in September 2007, she was asked to co-present the programme with Gordon Burns.
Ranvir says: “I had such fun as Gordon is so funny and we created a real partnership. I had a brilliant four and a half years presenting that programme and it didn’t even feel like work as there was so much giggling and silliness. Gordon and I had a genuine friendship and bond and we constantly took the mickey out of each other.”
Ranvir admits she could happily have stayed at North West Tonight forever, but Daybreak approached her and she realised it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Ranvir recalls: “By this point, Gordon had left and I was working with Roger Johnson who was lovely.
“But being on a national platform was very tempting and breakfast TV is an institution and I felt it was too soon to stop moving in my career.”
By this time, Ranvir, who is married to Ranjeet Singh, was pregnant and, after giving birth to a son who is now one, Ranvir had to deal with a new job at the same time as becoming a parent.
Ranvir says: “When you become a new parent, you do not know what has hit you. There is nothing that can prepare you for the level of tiredness.
“But I was going to work to do a job I adored every morning and at the end of my day, I was going home to a beautiful baby boy I adored, so both ends of my day were so rewarding and that carried me through.
“Being a mum is the best thing in the world and my son is so funny and he makes me laugh all the time as he is so funny and sweet.”
Ranvir currently co-hosts the breakfast programme on Daybreak with Matt Barbet. It has been announced that Daybreak will be axed and a new show Good Morning Britain will start later this year.
Ranvir says: “I’ve reported on some inspirational, memorable and shocking news stories on Daybreak.
“One of the most memorable was my trip to Sierra Leone to look at the charity work being carried out there.
“Meeting women who fought hunger and infant mortality on a daily basis made me appreciate more than ever my family and how lucky we are to live in the country we do.
“I absolutely love working on Daybreak and Matt is great fun to work with as he has a very dry sense of humour and we share the bond of having a young family.”
Despite now living down South, Ranvir is very proud of her Lancashire roots and one of her proudest moments was receiving an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Central Lancashire last year for her contribution to broadcasting.
Ranvir says: “I am a Preston girl born and bred and I miss the place and everyone from my neighbours to the Sikh community.
“When I first joined Daybreak, they teasingly called me Hilda Ogden because of the way I spoke.”
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way and am proud of who I am.
“There is nothing quite like the sense of humour of people up North and I do miss that.”