Singing Surgeon Dr. Elvis Reveals the 'Deeper Meaning' Behind His Serpent Masked Singer Costume
"If I told myself when I started medical school like, 'Hey, there's going to be this crazy pandemic, you're going to sing a couple songs and then you're going to be on PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive list,' I'd probably be like, 'You're crazy,'" Francois, 35, tells PEOPLE.
Although the spine surgeon, known for his viral cover of John Lennon's "Imagine", didn't advance to the Super Six, participating in The Masked Singer allowed him to perform on stage for the first time.
"I'm not a performer. I'm not a professional musician or entertainer at all," Francois says. "Out of everyone else [on the show] I was probably the newbie. It was cool to see it all come together."
Francois, who recently wrapped a three-month spine surgery fellowship at Harvard, shares the way in which his medical background helped him on the Fox singing competition, the significance of his Serpent costume and how going viral earlier this year changed his life.
Why did you want to be on the show?
For me, the biggest thing was an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. I'm training to be a spine surgeon — this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to share music and hopefully put smiles on people's faces in a different way than I'm used to.
How did you balance doing The Masked Singer with your surgery schedule?
It was pretty hectic. I was able to take a little time out of the hospital to step away, especially with how busy things have been. It wasn't easy, but it was one of those things I couldn't turn down.
What made you decide on the Serpent costume?
As soon as I saw it, I knew immediately that it was probably the coolest costume I personally have ever seen. The tentacles are moving! The serpent itself is analogous to what I do as a spine surgeon. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the medical symbol of caduceus: It's the Hermes staff, and the staff has two snakes that wrap around the symbol. It had a deeper meaning with my passion for medicine and so it was the best crossroads. I was sold as soon as I saw it.
Were you surprised judge Nicole Scherzinger figured you out?
I've never met Nicole and I don't know her, but we did a cover of a song in the past together. When I said [as a clue] that I've sung with one of you before, I think she put two and two together with me possibly being someone in healthcare and music. I was pretty shocked, but she's smarter than the rest of the judges like that.
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Did some of the panelists' other guesses make you laugh?
Nonstop. Ken [Jeong] is hilarious. I don't know how he comes up with these guesses. The funny one was when Nicole said I was Brian McKnight and they're saying I'm much shorter than he is. I guess he's 6'5". Then they said I was 5-foot tall, but I'm actually, for the record, 5'11". Basically 6 feet. I think that was the most fun part, being on stage and hearing them sort of becoming detectives and put things together.
Was there anything from your day job as a surgeon that you felt helped with performing?
Yes. Because I've never performed before on stage, when I first was getting ready to go on I do remember feeling kind of nervous, like, man, this is completely outside of my comfort zone. But I remember the first time I would go into the OR to operate and do surgery, when you're in that mindset, you fall back on all the practice and all the hard work you've done before. So training and getting ready for the operating room, that mindset definitely helped in easing my nerves.
How did you get into music?
I grew up in a non-musical family. My dad, he's practically tone-deaf. He's a terrible singer, but he loves to sing and he would always sing on good days and bad days. So music has always had meaning to me. Whenever I would hear a song that had a good message behind it I would always gravitate toward it. I started singing when I was in high school and college. I just kept finding passion in music outside of medicine.
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In what ways has your life changed since finding fame earlier this year?
I think the biggest difference is just being able to reach a lot more people. I think that's been a very unique space to be in. I've definitely been busy — 95 percent of my time has been at the hospital, so it's been a unique way to kind of have this other side of life. It's definitely an honor and a humbling time.
What did it mean for you for Ken to tear up like that and say that your version of "Imagine" helped the nation through the pandemic?
It was hard for me to keep my emotional composure. So many of us are dealing with this global pandemic in our own personal ways. For him to share that story for all the people who work as caretakers who are truly on the frontlines was very, very special. I just remember standing there and thinking to myself like, I hope all of my colleagues are able to hear that because it definitely gives people an extra added pep in their step when they walk into the hospital and they are dealing with difficult patients and difficult diagnoses. So it was an honor to hear him say those things.
What's next for you since finished up your Harvard fellowship?
I'm actually interviewing for a spine surgery staff position at a few universities. I am working on some original music that I'll hopefully be able to share in the next weeks, months. The goal has always been to help people with surgery and I'm hopeful that I could do that. If I can share a little bit of music along the way, that'll be the icing on top. I'm just looking forward to be able to find my way to do both.
You can add being included in PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive issue in the Men of the Year section to your resume.
That crazy. That was completely unexpected. Wow. what an honor. That's incredible. I'm kind of speechless. That is wild.
The Masked Singer returns to Fox next week on Thursday 8 p.m. ET.
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