Notable Deaths ›

Elly Mayday (1988 - 2019), model and body positivity advocate

Getty Images / Paul Morigi

She continued modeling as she battled ovarian cancer...

Elly Mayday, born Ashley Luther, was a Canadian model and an activist for body positivity and women's health. After receiving both a modeling contract and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2013, she battled the disease for her entire modeling career, continuing to model after losing her hair to chemotherapy and undergoing surgery that left her with scars. She turned these visible signs of her cancer into badges of honor, inspiring others who fight the disease.

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Died: March 1, 2019 (Who else died on March 1?)

Details of death: Died in Vancouver of ovarian cancer at the age of 30.


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Body positivity: Mayday advocated for women to love their bodies at any size, embracing her own size 14 figure and successfully pushing for a lingerie modeling career after being told she was too short and too curvy to be anything but a pin-up model. Her focus as an activist widened after the intense pain that brought her to the emergency room was dismissed and she was told she'd feel better when she lost weight. Mayday knew there was something truly wrong, and after three years of demanding her pain be taken seriously, she was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. She spoke out to encourage women to be advocates for their own health, and her message of body positivity included the scars, hair loss, and drastic weight loss that cancer can bring.

On posing in lingerie after her cancer treatments: “I'd always preached body love and being okay with yourself exactly as you are. And I thought being diagnosed with this type of cancer really needed to be talked about. So I decided to embrace the baldness and embrace the scars and think of it as a really wonderful thing that happened in my life.” —Mayday in an interview with Chatelaine

Remembered by her fans on social media: “Elly Mayday died of Ovarian Cancer at age 30. I won't be embarrassed about my body shape anymore. She taught me a lesson. I'm a 13 year ovarian cancer survivor. I will think of her every day. #GodBlessElly” —Twitter user Sharpie100

“She was such a big part in keeping my mind positive during my cancer fight. My mind went to dark places. But her videos and positivity helped push through them.” —Instagram user miss_beenna

“Another bright light has dimmed. Model Elly Mayday thank you for taking us on your journey, holding our hand and giving us HOPE Brave beyond words #OvarianCancerAwareness” —Twitter user Janine DeFeo

“Read her story. Inspirational. Her story is one of many that would inspire a generation of women not only fighting #ovariancancer but teaching women to love themselves. #ellymayday you were a legend in your own right.” —Instagram user jo_kardamash

Full obituary: CBC

Related lives:

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  • Naomi Sims (1948 - 2009), barrier-breaking African American model
  • Bimba Bose (1975 - 2017), Italian model battled breast cancer