THE entertainment industry has been rocked this past year by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, leading many to seek alternative careers.
It has been particularly tough for X Factor star, Ray Quinn, 32.
On top of all his gigs being cancelled, he also had to handle the loss of his father due to cancer, in November.
In a Mirror exclusive Ray admitted he has joined brothers Robin and Darren in the carpet fitting business – and reckons dad Ray, 76, would be proud.
Ray's dad was a carpet fitter all his life and taught Ray's brothers the trade.
The performer, who was watched by 12.6 million people at the height of his fame, revealed he has had a “nightmare” year – but his career change has helped.
The former Dancing on Ice star said there’s no shame in having to get his hands dirty in order to put food on the table for his family.
Proving he is a Jack of all trades, Ray has swapped red carpets for laying carpets by joining the family business.
“Dad knew I was going to help Rob and encouraged me to do it – but laughed when I said I’d lifted my first tool," he explained.
Ray revealed that when he first started, he went to work in his dad’s old uniform.
He went on: “I’ve been recognised the odd time but not that often because of social distancing and masks. Everyone has been really lovely.”
Ray, who lives in Liverpool, became a household name after coming second to Leona Lewis on The X Factor in 2006, age 17.
He also won ITV’s Dancing on Ice in 2009 and the All Stars series in 2014.
When the pandemic hit, Ray was in a play at Liverpool’s Royal Court.
But like all other theatres across the country, it was forced to close in March, leaving Ray without any work or income for months.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Ray, who is engaged to teacher Emily Fletcher.
“The industry stopped. Then I lost my dad to cancer in November."
Ray's dad was told he had up to eight months to live – but tragically died six weeks later.
Before starting work with his brothers, Ray became a Hermes delivery driver after he discovered he was not entitled to any government support.
“I didn’t want to sit around and feel sorry for myself,” he said.
However, Ray only stuck with the job for three months.
He found it never stopped, and having 150 parcels to deliver from 8am to 6pm was overwhelming.
However, Ray, who has an eight-year-old son Harry with his ex-wife Emma Stephens, is proud to have learned a new skill as a carpet fitter – and has compared it to an apprenticeship.
“It’s good to have another trade under your belt, especially during these times. It’s good to have a back-up plan," he said.
In the entertainment industry,Ray has done everything from theatre, music, TV, ice skating, and impressions- so has tried his fair share of jobs.
The entertainment and carpet worlds even collided for Ray when he found himself back where it all began – on a job at Brookside Close in Liverpool.
He made his screen debut in the soap as young Anthony Murray back in 2000, when he was just 12.
Speaking of his return: “It was the most humbling feeling. Fond memories came flooding back.”
After his X Factor success, Ray’s first album, Doing It My Way, was released in 2007 and topped the charts.
It sold 127,000 copies in its first week before going platinum.
He also made British music history as the youngest male artist to ever enter the UK album chart at No1 without having even released a single.
In 2020, Ray released his second album, Undeniable, and he is looking forward to getting back out on the road again as venues reopen in June.
His next gig is in a Rat Pack-inspired UK stage show called All Singing All Swinging.
He remains proud of what he did during the lockdown as it kept his mind steady and helped him make better decisions, to appreciate the industry more.
“But as soon as the gigs start flying in, I won’t be doing carpet fitting any more!” he quipped.
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