Drag Race UK’s Ella Vaday opens up about mum’s cancer journey

Drag Race UK star Ella Vaday wears a pink wig, hot pink sleeveless shirt with a white 'Race for Life' logo on it and baby pink short skirt. She poses with one hand on a tree while holding one foot, which has a white high heel on it, in her other hand

Ella Vaday was riding high off the back of her Drag Race UK debut when she got the news that her mum had been diagnosed with cancer.

Ella was one of the breakout stars of season three of Drag Race UK, narrowly missing out on taking home the top prize.

But as the ‘beast from Dagenham East’ wowed fans with her theatrical talents and humour, in real life Ella, real name Nick Collier, was dealing with a family crisis.

Her mum Donna was formally diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2021, as Ella’s season of Drag Race UK was airing on TV screens.

“My mum has recently had a mastectomy and is still going through treatment for breast cancer,” Ella tells PinkNews.

“She got diagnosed properly in October. She had been concerned about her breasts for quite a while but kept it to herself.”

Her mum was previously diagnosed with thyroid cancer “at least 10 years ago now”, and Ella says it was shocking to learn that she had cancer again.

Balancing fame with supporting her mum was “really difficult”, Ella admits.

“I’m the eldest child so I’ve always been there to look after my mum,” she explains.

“I live in London, my mum lives in Norwich so I can’t go home as much as I’d like.

“Plus, it was the busiest time ever for me and also the most stressful, most exciting [period].”

For a while, it was a “waiting game” as the family waited for Ella’s mum to get a date for surgery.

“There’s not much you can do until the surgery is done, because until my mum could have surgery and then start chemo, that’s when everything starts.”

Drag Race UK star Ella Vaday wears a pink wig, hot pink sleeveless shirt with a white 'Race for Life' logo on it and baby pink short skirt. She poses on top of what appears to be a hill with one hand raised up in the air while her other hand rests on her hip

Ella Vaday says it was difficult for her to juggle her rising Drag Race UK fame as she also wanted to be there for her mum after her cancer diagnosis. (Provided)

Though times were tough, the family bonded over watching Drag Race UK. Ella says her mum “found it a great distraction from everything going on” and even wanted to be there for the finale to “see what would happen”. 

“It was great to just have some amazing times, to celebrate and actually be together as a family, because it’s really hard to do that,” Ella says. “My two siblings live in London so we managed to see each other loads, which was great.”

She adds: “A programme like Drag Race, you know, it’s light-hearted most of the time, so it is enjoyable for the whole family – much like Race for Life, which anyone can do.”

Ella Vaday is among a host of former Drag Race stars, along with Kitty Scott-Claus and River Medway, who have joined forced to encourage people to sign up for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life this summer.

The all-star group is joined by Brighton drag queen Scarlett Fever and London drag artist Boss.

There are hundreds of events taking place across the UK this summer including non-competitive 3k, 5k, and 10k races, as well as Pretty Muddy obstacle course events for everyone to enjoy. 

Race for Life raises vital funding for Cancer Research UK – an independent research organisation and charity – that goes towards life-saving work on new cancer treatments. 

Drag artists including Ella Vaday, Kitty Scott-Claus, River Medway, Scarlett Fever and Boss are seen running towards a finish line while outside

Drag Race stars Ella Vaday, Kitty Scott-Claus and River Medway along with Scarlett Fever and Boss are encouraging people to sign-up to Race for Life. (Provided)

Ella says the races are “all-inclusive” events where “any gender, any sexuality, any age, any fitness level” can “join in and have fun and raise money”. 

“The main aim of the whole thing is to keep raising money for the vital research into all types of cancer, not just one specific one,” she says.

“I’m sure everyone, at some point, has been affected by someone that’s either had cancer or is going through cancer,” she adds.

“I think we’re all connected to someone that has been through it which is why any of us could race and have someone in mind.”

On a personal level, Ella Vaday says her mum is “really up” for her sharing their story and using her immense platform for good. 

“Drag is my job, and so many people follow me, look up to me,” she says. “So I find it really important to do some good with what I’ve been given.”

You can sign up to your local Race for Life event now at raceforlife.org.