We had the pleasure of chatting to actor, theatre star, dancer, and Drag Race finalist Nick Collier – otherwise known as Ella Vaday – ahead of their trek along Hadrian’s Wall in aid of breast health awareness charity CoppaFeel. We started by asking about how Nick first got involved…  

 “I first got involved with CoppaFeel last year with my mum and we did a really nice video on their social media”, he explains. “My mum had breast cancer and we were just chatting about her journey and her experience and how she spotted her own cancer because CoppaFeel are obviously trying to make sure people have the ability to get their breast cancer diagnosed as early as possible. We talked about my mum’s experience and how it affected me and her and it was a really important part of educating people about this. I got involved with them last year and I actually found them myself because I really wanted to work with them. I liked the fact that they aim to educate people of all genders, all races and all ages on spotting the very first signs of breast cancer.” 

So how are you feeling about the trek? 

 I’m really excited. I’ve not done anything like this before. I think it’s gonna be tougher than I imagined – I’m used to walking my dog and doing lots of gigs in heals for hours so I know the hardship of walking and feeling a bit tired but the camping element is something I’ve never done before so that in itself is going to be hard because I don’t think I’ve ever had to sleep in a tent before so that’s a first. I’ve never walked 100km and I’ve never slept in a tent but it’s going to be such a lovely experience being surrounded by all the love and support people have shown, whether they’ve been affected by cancer in some way, have recovered from it or whether they have had a loved one who’s had it. Cancer hits everybody, doesn’t it.  


Have you got much good advice ahead of your trek? 

 I got my boots ages ago because the one thing that everyone has said is you must get your hiking boots as soon as possible and break them in. Everyone said if you don’t do that your gonna have blisters and sore feet, so I’ve had my boots for a couple of months now and we’ve done loads of walking. I’ve been on a bit of a fitness journey anyway so it’s kind of helped to have that goal as well. 


Where did your drag career begin? 

 Well, I’ve watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race since it first came out. My best friend and flatmate was on a royal Caribbean ship going around America when drag race first came out and he came back and said ‘Nick you need to watch drag race, you’re going to love it’. So, I started watching and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was really fun, seeing the LGBTQ+ community on the screen being really funny, being shady just really, really great. It wasn’t until 2017 that I did my first charity drag gala to raise money for a charity. That was my first experience – and I looked awful – it was in 2017 on the Pride London main stage in Trafalgar Square as part of a big group of Westend performers in drag so that was pretty cool. The following year I did it once again, I got a little job handing out leaflets in 2018 in drag – again I didn’t look like what I look like now. Then in 2019 when I left The Book of Mormon musical that I had been doing for two years I didn’t have a job to go onto so I just thought, I’ve got a wig and I’ve got some makeup, so I could try put myself out there and try to get some drag jobs. I did a few bits and bobs, went back and did a musical again and then when I was out of consistent work, I had about four different jobs until I managed to get a regular drag cabaret job every Friday. At that point, I started my Instagram, and it wasn’t until lockdown that I started rehearsals for Hairspray. We had done literally three days and then lockdown happened, and I was stuck at home with nothing to do. I had got a job at Morrisons stacking the shelves which wasn’t really fulfilling my creativity, so I ended up just sitting at home and playing with makeup and wigs and just building a platform and doing loads of drag, until I auditioned for Drag Race. It’s kind of a different way of getting into drag really but it’s been a real whirlwind. 

Are you planning on attending a lot of pride festivals this summer? 

 This year I’ll be performing at a few including Bournemouth Pride and Milton Keynes Pride. They’re usually just really fun events. My first ever solo performance was at South End Pride and then I went to Weston Super Mare Pride and I didn’t earn any money but I just felt like it was the best way for me to get experience and just to throw myself into the deep end. That’s what’s so good about these Pride events, they often have the main stage and then a little cabaret stage which is great for local performers to get a little try at performing. I’ve been a performer all my life but performing in drag is a completely different art form in itself because you have to be able to talk to the audience and be reactive, so I used Pride as an experience to learn what the hell drag is. 


You’ve performed to a lot of crowds both in the UK and abroad – do you notice a big difference between the audiences and how you interact with them?  

 I would say that across the board it’s similar because everyone is there for the same reason: to have a good time. People are there to celebrate drag and LGBTQ+ rights and it’s usually just a fab event. Although it was funny when I was in Australia because I do a Shakira set which goes from She Wolf into Whenever Wherever but it seemed like in Australia, She Wolf wasn’t very popular because no one was singing along.  


Well, you did them all a favour by introducing it to them then.  

 Well exactly. They probably thought it was my original song.  


What makes you most proud? 

 I’ve never had anything gifted to me, I’m not from a background of money I literally left home at 16 and I looked after myself and I’m nearly 35 now. I saved up every penny with my other half to be able to buy a house. I have literally worked for everything I have, and I think that it’s important that we do that. I would hate it if things were just gifted to me, and I hate when people assume that I come from. In terms of Pride, I’m proud that I was able to accept myself because, for a lot of people, it’s really difficult to kind of accept something which people tell you is wrong. Being able to overcome that and to be out and be proud to go on a show like Drag Race makes me proud. I’ve had people message me to say I’ve helped them to feel more like themselves. Even people who didn’t think they could do drag because they look a certain way, for example, guys who like to go to the gym and don’t consider themselves particularly camp or feminine watch me on drag race and see themselves in me.  


Providing more visibility.  

 Exactly – there are no rules when it comes to drag and there are no rules when it comes to sexuality or how you hold yourself and so I’m proud that I’m still 100% myself and I have not changed, and I never will change.  


What’s next for you?  

 Things are still under wrap but they’re coming very soon. I’m working on a really exciting project which is fitness related. I think it’s really important that we all look after ourselves mentally and physically so that’ll be a really fun project. The film that I did called Sumotherhood should be coming out this year I had a little part in a feature film so I’m excited to see that. You should be seeing more of me on TV this year as well… 




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