Ella Vaday burst on to our screen during UK Drag Race’s third season. She became the third queen in franchise history to win four challenges in a singular season without winning. After making it to the final, the focus of the East London queen shifted after her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
The news came as Ella’s series was airing and made coming into the public eye a lot more difficult.
“It was really stressful. It was not till a couple of weeks into the show airing until she told us. She didn’t tell us until her proper diagnosis. Being the eldest I always want to be there to look after her and I couldn’t because I was so busy.”
The news massively affected how the drag queen wanted to use her platform of over 300,000 followers.
“I said to my manager, I really want to work with a charity that focuses on breast cancer. I came across CoppafFeel! and what stood out to me was how diverse they are on who they’re aiming it at, it doesn’t matter your gender. I loved that they focused it on young people regardless of your gender.”
Ella and her mum recently partook in a campaign with CoppaFeel! where they talked about her mum’s diagnosis whilst Ella put her in drag.
CoppaFeel! is a charity focused on encouraging young people to check their breasts, pecs or chests . They exist to educate and remind every young person in the UK that checking their chest could save their life. They are the first breast cancer charity in the UK to solely create awareness amongst young people focusing on knowledge and tools to know their body.
“You forget when you’re young, you think I’ll only get ill when I’m older. It’s important to shift that idea in younger people. They’re not daft, they know what’s going on in the world. It’s more important to prevent, there is strength in knowledge.”
To help young people, CoppaFeel! offer a variety of resources on their website to educate. This includes digital resources or material packs you can request free of charge. They also work with universities, schools and festivals to ‘speak to young people in their natural habitat.’
“There is something CoppaFeel! do where you can sign up for a reminder to help.”
They remind you once a month to check your boobs, pecs or chest via a free text message that you can sign up for on their website.
We chatted about the best time to check yourself. Although there is no right or wrong way to check, CoppaFeel! recommend in the shower, in front of a mirror or wherever you feel most comfortable.
“The main thing is to know what your normal body feels like.” This way you are aware of any changes in your breasts, pecs or chest, and can seek medical advice if concerned.
A common misconception within breast cancer is that it doesn’t affect men. This comes down to the idea that men don’t have breasts, however, everyone has breast tissue, and therefore should be regularly checking themselves. Around 400 men a year get breast cancer in the UK, so although uncommon, it does still occur.
“There is such a stigma in men, they think ‘I’m not going to get breast cancer,’ but the figures are there. Men get it, we all can get breast cancer.”
When asked what one thing they wished they knew more about, Ella commented on how many people are unaware of the different forms of breast cancer. It can look and feel very different than the stereotypical lump.
“It always comes in so many different forms or variations; my mum’s cancer was not a lump. For her it wasn’t, it was a rarer form called Paget’s disease, which is in the nipple. Her nipple inverted and she had dry skin around her nipple, and she didn’t know what it was.”
Support is crucial for those going through breast cancer as well as those supporting a family member or friend.
“I talked to my friends and was very open with everyone from my season of Drag Race, I have a close bond with some of them. I found it helpful to keep checking in with my mum. There were moments during the treatment that were very hard, like the chemotherapy part of it is the most horrific part of treating cancer. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and especially witnessing your mum go through that is difficult.
“For me it’s so important that the person going through the cancer has someone to speak to and have a support network as some people don’t. They will need you as much as they say they don’t, they’re probably British saying ‘it’s fine,’ but I guarantee you they would like to have a chat or a cup of tea.”
CoppaFeel!’s website to find more resources on checking yourself, donating or fundraising is https://coppafeel.org/.
Featured Image Credit: Jasleen Dhindsa
Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe
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