Olly Alexander is currently playing cheeky Ritchie Tozer in Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin, but the actor thanks surgery on his ears for his own confidence.

The Years & Years singer and actor wasn’t always so confident in real life.

He admits to a decade-long struggle with body issues, and had surgery to help his self-esteem.

Here’s everything you need to know!

Olly Alexander and Shaun Dooley star in It's a Sin
Olly Alexander and Shaun Dooley star in It’s a Sin (Credit: Channel 4)

Read more: It’s A Sin: Dancing On Ice’s Matt Evers praises Channel 4 drama as he reveals his uncle died of AIDS

Has Olly Alexander had surgery on his ears?

Olly used his first Years & Years record advance to pay to have his ears pinned back.

He admits that the change made him a much more self-confident person.

He told ShortList magazine: “I was almost embarrassed by how overwhelmingly confident I was after [surgery on my ears].

“I thought, ‘God, is it really that simple?’”

However, Olly subsequently also experienced some feelings of shame.

He added: “I had this weird moment… Did I not love myself enough to just keep the face I was given?”

Olly and body issues

The lead singer of electronica band Years & Years has spoken of his damaging body image issues which he had for 10 years.

The Blackpool-born musician has frequently been vocal about his anxiety and being bullied.

Talking at a Facebook Live event organised by BuzzFeed News, Olly said his problems first emerged at the age of 10 at a local gymnastics class.

He said: “I started to have body issues and not eating. Like I wouldn’t eat.

“I was stuck between this place of being really, really, really skinny and hating it – because I wanted to be muscly like other boys.

“But, at the same time, I didn’t want to put on weight because that was bad as well. I struggled with it for a really long time actually.”

Olly said he would skip meals, hate his body and obsess over what he ate, but was never diagnosed with an eating disorder.

He has recovered with the help of therapy and a strong support base and has gone on to explore the root sources of his anxiety.

Olly Alexander ears 2009
Olly Alexander pictured at the UK premiere of Tormented in 2009 before surgery on his ears (Credit: Splash)

Read more: It’s a Sin on C4: What was the terrifying AIDS advert in the 80s? Watch it here

How old is he?

Olly was born on 15 January 1990.

As of 2021, he is 30 years old.

Why is Olly famous?

Olly is a man of many talents. He is an actor, singer-songwriter, musician and LGBTQ advocate.

His breakthrough acting role was while appearing in two episodes of Skins in 2013. He has gone on to star in a slew of independent films, starring alongside the likes of Greta Gerwig and Helena Bonham Carter.

He’s also appeared in several major plays, including playing Peter Pan in the West End play Peter and Alice. He starred alongside Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw.

But he is perhaps best known for being the lead singer of the group Years & Years. Olly joined in 2010, and the band has enjoyed several hit singles and albums. A synth-pop trio, Olly has been particularly praised by music critics for his unique voice.

To date their biggest hit is their single King, which reached number one in March 2015. As of 2021, they have released two albums – Communion and Palo Santo.

Meanwhile you may have spotted him on Celebrity Gogglebox. He appeared on the special series in 2019 alongside mum Vicki Thornton

Olly and his Years & Years bandmates
Olly and his Years & Years bandmates in the early days (Credit: Splash)

Is Olly Alexander in a relationship?

Olly Alexander identifies as a gay man. For much of 2015, Olly dated ex-Clean Bandit member Neil Milan Amin-Smith. However, they split up by the end of the year, blaming conflicting schedules.

It is unknown if he is currently dating anyone. But he has said he was previously in an open relationship.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “My last relationship was an open relationship which was the first time. You have to be very honest with your partner.”

Before adding: “I don’t think we should be pitting [different relationships] against each other.”

Who does Olly Alexander play in It’s a Sin?

Olly plays Ritchie Tozer in It’s a Sin. The five-part series is brand new to Channel 4, and explores the 80s AIDS epidemic in London through the eyes of three close gay friends.

Richie is an 18-year-old favourite child from a close family in the Isle of Wight. But they have no idea he is gay. When he moves to London he is finally able to explore his sexuality. And within days his entire life changes forever.

olly alexander on the graham norton show
Olly Alexander proudly shows off his new and improved ears on The Graham Norton Show (Credit: Channel 4)

What has Olly Alexander said about Russell T Davies?

Russell T Davies is the creator and writer of It’s a Sin. He is also known for writing Years and Years, A Very English Scandal and Queer as Folk.

According to Olly, he named his hit television series Years and Years after Olly Alexander’s band. While appearing on The Graham Norton Show, Olly explained their first meeting.

Olly said: “I said to him, Why did you call your TV show Years and Years? Because that is also the name of my band.

“And he said ‘Well I’m a fan.’ So I was like fine – I’ll allow it!”

It’s a Sin continues on Fridays on Channel 4 at 9pm. The entire series is available to stream on All 4.

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