Olly Alexander might not be a household name, but that looks set to change following his dazzling performance at last night’s BRIT Awards.
The 30-year-old, best known to audiences as Ritchie Tozer from Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, joined Sir Elton John, 74, on stage to perform the Pet Shop Boys’ track of the same name.
The song, which has been released as a single to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation, has stormed straight to the top of the iTunes charts.
It is the latest success for Olly, who has performed at Glastonbury as the frontman of pop group Years & Years and has racked up roles in the likes of The Riot Club and on the West End opposite Dame Judi Dench.
Now he is preparing to release his first album as a solo act – no doubt buoyed by the fresh excitement and interest off the back of last night’s star turn.
Olly Alexander with his close friend Sir Elton John. The pair have been widely praised for their cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ It’s A Sin which they performed at last night’s BRIT Awards
Olly will be best known to audiences as Ritchie Tozer from Channel 4’s It’s A Sin, pictured with co-star Nathaniel Curtis as Ash
Olly with his mother Vicki, who raised him as a single parent after her split with his father
Born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Olly moved around a lot as a child thanks to his father’s work in marketing for amusement resorts.
The family spent time in Blackpool, where his father worked for The Pleasure Beach, before moving to Gloucestershire where he was singled-out at his primary school for being different.
‘I remember being in primary school and I had long hair and people would call me a girl,’ he told GQ in February.
‘I knew that was bad for boys. I didn’t like the things that other boys liked: I just wanted to play with the girls and watch movies. Which obviously straight boys do as well.’
The musician and actor is known for his flamboyant fashion sense. Pictured, at the GQ Men of the Year Awards in 2018
Living on the Welsh border, Olly attended secondary school in Monmouthshire where he continued to stand out thanks to his mop of curly hair and flair for flamboyant clothes which continues to this day.
Olly revealed he took to wearing a choker or makeup or non-uniform days while ‘trying to figure out who he was’.
Today the artist regularly turns heads on red carpets and on stage with his unique take on fashion. Last night he opted for a skin-tight lace stretch halter top and matching flared trousers for his performance with Sir Elton.
At 13, Olly’s parents split and he was raised solely by his mother, Vicki.
The pair are close. Olly proudly shares snaps of his mother on Instagram and the pair appeared together on Celebrity Gogglebox in 2019.
But as a boy, Olly felt he couldn’t confide in his mother about the trouble he was having at school.
Olly has played Glastonbury and has had chart-topping hits with pop group Years & Years
‘I’d never tell her about that stuff,’ he told Pop Justice. ‘It’s weird — my mum read an interview where I said I’d had a terrible time at school and she wasn’t aware.
‘It was surprising to me that she didn’t know. I guess I was quite good at not talking about it.’
Just like his character in It’s A Sin, Ritchie Tozer moved to London at 18 to pursue acting and found success on screen and on stage.
His first gig was 2008 four-part BBC children’s drama Summerhill, which he followed up with a string of films including Bright Star (2009), Tormented (2009) and Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void (2009).
In 2014 he appeared in all-star British film The Riot Club alongside a string of big names including Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Hollander.
But soon Olly found himself dedicating more and more time to Years & Years, the musical act he joined after co-founder Mikey Goldsworthy heard him singing in the shower.
Following a group of friends living in London throughout the eighties, It’s A Sin, which premiered in January, weaves its way through a decade of hedonism and horror for the young gay men as the AIDS crisis seeps into their life of parties, burgeoning careers and young love
In 2015 the band’s debut studio album, Communion, debuted at No.1 on the UK Albums Chart and produced hit single King, which reached No.1 on the UK Singles Chart. That same year the band won the BBC’s Sound Of 2015 poll.
The band has performed at Glastonbury on a number of occasions, with Olly using the platform to champion LGBT rights and causes.
Years & Years’ second studio album, Palo Santo was released in 2018 produced a top 10 hit.
The end of touring the album coincided with Russell T Davies casting his latest drama, It’s A Sin, and Olly said he ‘jumped at the chance’ to join the cast.
Following a group of friends living in London throughout the eighties, the series, which premiered in January, weaves its way through a decade of hedonism and horror for the young gay men as the AIDS crisis seeps into their life of parties, burgeoning careers and young love.
Olly Alexander strikes a pose on the red carpet at last night’s BRIT Awards in London
The show was met with critical and popular acclaim and became the most binge-watched show in Channel 4’s history.
Now Olly is turning his attention back to music and is preparing to release his first record as a solo act after band mates Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen left the group.
‘I’ve been working on an album for what feels like a million years,’ Olly told British Vogue. ‘But it’s only really been 18 months, and it’s finally almost finished.’
The artist has also become an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and has spoken openly about his struggles with depression, self-harm, eating disorders and anxiety.
In November 2020, Alexander won the LGBT Celebrity of the Year award at the British LGBT Awards.