Vela came to New Zealand in 1979. After years of touring with Pacific Theatre he was encouraged to pursue formal training. He became the first Niuean to graduate from Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School in 1996.
In 1997, he was the recipient of the Best Male Comedy award at the Chapman Tripps as one half of the comedy duo The Brownies, widely regarded as the pioneers of Pacific comedy. In 1995 Vela was nominated for Best Newcomer for The Chapman Tripp Award for the role he played in Albert Wendt's The Contest. As successful as The Brownies were, he soon realised that as a Pacific Island actor, mainstream acting roles were hard to come by. This led to the formation of the Kila Kokonut Krew in 2002.
His first ever play, Taro King in 2002 was an instant hit. In 2004, Taro King had a season at BATS Theatre in Wellington earning Vela a Best Writer nomination at The Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. In 2005, he won the Philip Fuemana NZ Music Award for producing nine original Niuean albums from his South Auckland backyard studio formerly known as Nafanua Records.
Independently, Vela has worked on New Zealand films including The Tattooist, for which he is credited for the original idea for the film. In 2008, he was selected as one of six writers to participate in the preliminary workshop for the NZFC First Writers Initiative for the feature film project Cold Sun. The original idea for The Factory stage musical was Vela's vision, which also lead to him working on The Factory web series as Executive Producer and Actor.
Vela is joint recipient of a New Generation Award for Kila Kokonut Krew, alongside his partner Anapela Polataivao.