“It was hilarious,” Nick Collier says of stripping to raise awareness of cancer in The Real Full Monty.
Nick is perhaps better known to many through his drag persona, Ella Vaday, who appeared on series three of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Speaking to Attitude ahead of the return of The Real Full Monty on ITV this holiday season, Nick shared the personal reasons for getting involved in the show and feeling empowered.
What was your first thought when asked to do the show?
I think for the cause, I was well up for it. Having seen my mom go through breast cancer and my cousin is currently going through breast cancer, I was up for it. When I was younger an auntie died of breast cancer. The element of stripping I forgot was the whole aim of the show. Even when we were filming, I kept forgetting that this would end up with us getting naked on stage, I was very excited to join.
I’m sorry to hear that, I hope the family is ok. You have very personal reasons to get involved. How did your mum react?
She was dead pleased. She’s watched the show in the past and thinks it’s for such a great reason, raising awareness. For me, that’s a big part as well. I want to make more people aware that anyone can get breast cancer. Yeah, my mum was very excited as you’ll probably see.
Have you done anything like this before?
I did a photoshoot for West End Bares years ago. I was turning 30 and decided to try and get into the best shape [and] say yes to everything. So, I was in the calendar, I think I was August or September. That was a big thing for me to do. I also was on the poster for MAD Drag but in drag. So in that same year, I had a poster of me naked and a poster of me in drag. That’s quite cool. But I never took part in the show. And to be honest, the thought of getting naked in front of people was too scary.
Was there a particularly scary moment in the process?
Body confidence is something I’ve always struggled with. I think people would be surprised to find that out. But, I’ve never been particularly comfortable, like, going back to school days, in a changing room, for example, I hated that environment. I’m not into sports so for someone like Ben Cohen, who was used to a locker room [he] doesn’t think about it. Whereas for me, and maybe it’s because I’m a gay man as well, I don’t tend to spend a lot of time naked with strangers in any aspect of my life.
So, one of the scariest bits for me was doing the Christmas photo shoot. Everyone had gone before me and just seeing everyone else doing it and embracing it kind of made me more nervous. And I think people were surprised with that, especially being a performer. But in a way, it felt very empowering. And it made me realise I need to stop worrying about it so much. All the dancing, everything else is fine. But stripping butt naked in front of the nation was the scariest bit.
I can imagine. Was there a moment where you thought ‘I don’t know if I can do this’?
No. I think for the very good cause that we’re doing it for never made me not want to do it. Because there are worse things than taking your pants off in front of a few celebs. You know, having seen my mum, and so many other people bravely fighting cancers of different types it put it in perspective.
You mentioned body confidence. How did you feel during the show having had those feelings in the past?
I think with body dysmorphia, it’s always going to exist. I do feel more confident than ever at the moment with how I look and how I feel. It stems, I think, from always being in a dance studio, staring at myself in the mirror, comparing myself to the next guy in the audition. It was nice to talk about those feelings with other people in the room. I feel like we really bonded and we just sat around with dressing gowns on completely naked underneath. And I’m sat there with Paul Burrell and Ben Cohen on beanbags completely naked like it’s normal. It was quite hilarious!
What was it like adding in the stripping element?
Oh, it was hilarious. When we started to rehearse it was carnage. There was underwear over there, a shirt, a tie, [we were] just covered in other people’s garments. At one stage two of the boys mixed up what thongs they had on. So it was hilarious! It was very fun, and it was so hot when we filmed in August.
A delicate question, were you worried about having any… reactions while stripping?
There was no way there was going to be any reaction with my body on stage. I think I was too nervous. A, to get the clothes off in time and B, not to slip over filming it. There was no issues. I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, everyone in the wings is looking at my profile.’ It was so quick, the routine was a couple of minutes long and it was over in a flash. No, there was no rises or falls with my performance at the end.
Would you do it again?
100%. It was the best experience I’ve ever had. Being in a room with celebs from very different walks of life was really cool. Hearing their different stories of why they were there as well was really powerful and really emotional. It was such a great experience.
The Real Full Monty is on ITV1 on 11 and 12 December 2023.