Drag Race UK’s Ella Vaday on alternatives to ‘daunting’ gyms and her new comedy film role

Drag Race UK's Ella Vaday (right) and out of drag as Nick Collier (left)

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Ella Vaday talks to PinkNews about her body confidence journey, her new fitness venture FITTI, and her role in brand British comedy film, Sumotherhood.

On the hottest day of this year, Drag Race UK season three finalist Ella Vaday was in a studio, in full drag, recording a workout video. Sweat was pouring from her wig line. “I’d basically have to go and use a hairdryer just to dry my face off,” she tells PinkNews, smiling over Zoom.

Ella was recording the fitness routine for FITTI, a new workout programme led by the drag superstar, as well as by the man behind the make-up, Nick Collier. Released on 18 September, FITTI has two six-week fitness plans, aimed at putting “that Big Drag Energy” back into working out.

Ella was inspired, in part, by the barriers she encountered on her own fitness journey. Post Drag Race and with all the tours, press and parties that come with being the drag beast of east London, keeping healthy was tricky.

“Towards the end of last year, I was basically run ragged, and I felt not myself. I looked in the mirror, and I almost didn’t recognise myself. I got stuck in a rut of eating badly on the road all the time, and I just felt and looked stressed,” Ella recalls. “I almost didn’t look well, to be honest.”

Throughout 2023, she’s tried to fall back in love with the weights and treadmill, and she’s finally back in a place where she feels confident in her skin. “I’m almost halfway to 40,” she says, “and I feel in the best shape possible mentally, physically, everything.”

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Ella Vaday in a purple leopard skin leotard for her FITTI workout programme.
Ella Vaday wants to bring big drag energy to exercising. (Supplied)

Gyms are complex spaces for queer people, though. For some in the LGBTQ+ community, they’re seen as safe spaces to connect, but for others, they’re hives of toxic masculinity and trigger-points for negative body image. With nine in ten young queer folk feeling dissatisfied with their bodies, it’s clear that the fitness world is a uniquely challenging place for some in the community.

Ella knows that gyms can be “daunting” places for queer people, particularly those who feel unhappy with the way they look.

“I’ve been one of those insecure people, you know, going through puberty, into [my] twenties, even in [my] early thirties. I’ve been really insecure, a lot of my life,” she admits.

“The gym I go to where I live is predominantly a very straight gym. I don’t always feel comfortable myself. One of my best friends who lives near where I live stopped going to the gym, because they didn’t feel it was a safe place for them to go. They didn’t feel particularly comfortable.”

FITTI, she explains, is one solution. The fitness programme is for everyone, regardless of whether they’re queer or not, or what fitness level they are at.

It can be accessed on a laptop or phone, at home or in the gym. Those who aren’t fitness fanatics needn’t even get dumbbells – a couple tins of beans would work just as well. There’s full, hour-long sessions, or far shorter workout options, too.

Nick Collier, aka Ella Vaday our of drag, in a blue vest and black shorts for FITTI.
You can also take on the Nick Collier workout programme on FITTI. (Supplied)

“I really want to spread the message that exercise is so good for you, for your mental health, your physical health,” she urges. “Everyone’s got a little bit scared of it due to a lot of really boring exercise programmes out there. We’ve lost the fun, and I think to want to exercise, you’ve got to enjoy it. It’s got to be a bit more fun!”

While the Nick side of the fitness plan is a little more intense, the Ella Vaday side is all about the B.D.E. “You get to watch me doing sit ups in a corset,” she laughs. “I mean, that’s not recommended, but that’s what I do!”

It’s been nearly two years since Ella came inches away from snatching the Drag Race UK season three crown, just losing out to a then 19-year-old Krystal Versace. Though she didn’t take the title, she became a winner anyway. 

Alongside taking on fundraising for charities close to her and her family’s hearts, like Cancer Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, she’s also been nominated for a Queerty award, and will soon make a pretty huge return to our screens.

No, not for All Stars – Ella Vaday is about to become a film star. She’s featured in Adam Deacon’s Sumotherhood, a hilarious crime parody and the follow up to the 2011 hit Anuvahood, alongside the likes of Ed Sheeran, Jeremy Corbyn, and Jennifer Saunders. It’s out on 13 October.

She plays a drag performer working in a club, but this isn’t just another drunk drag queen film sequence. Ella’s name is featured on the film’s poster, and she stars in its trailer.

“The part is quite a naughty character. It’s not me, it’s not the Ella Vaday that you’d know from Drag Race UK,” she says. In the trailer, she appears alongside British rapper Lethal Bizzle in a dingy club loo. “Imagine two people that are not from the same world in a toilet cubicle. The jokes write themselves,” she says with a chuckle.

Could a Hollywood career be on the cards, then? “I don’t know if I’m right in saying this, but I think I might be the first Drag Race UK queen to be in a feature film,” she says. It’s a direction she’s more than happy to continue in.

“I love acting. [I’m] just just waiting for the right roles to come along, really. Whether it’s in drag, out of drag or both,” she explains. Later this year, she’ll appear as Nick on ITV’s festive dancing series The Real Full Monty.

“I’d love to move into more films and TV. Once all the [actors’] strikes have finished in America, I’m gonna go over to the US [and] do lots of meetings, and see how we go.”

Ella Vaday’s FITTI is available now.

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