Drag artist George Ward, better known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has passed away at the age of 28, their family has announced.
Ward, who died Sunday, appeared in the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK before embarking on a TV career, presenting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from their family said: “It is with the most heartbreaking and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has passed away tragically.
“This will come as a big shock to most people and we understand there is no easy way to publicize this. As his family, we are still coping with his death and our lives will never be the same.
“We understand how much he loves him and how many lives he has inspired and touched. All we ask is your patience and your prayers at this time. We love you, Georgie.’
Growing up in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the Traveler community, Ward qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before embarking on a career in drag.
In December 2020, Ward was announced as one of 12 entrants to take part in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In their introductory video for the show, they described their Cherry Valentine alter ego as “glamour,” “dark,” and “gothic.”
They said their work as a nurse had “put me in the right position to understand people a little more. When you’re a drag queen, you work with people. And to understand people, I think you go a step further.”
After appearing on the show, Ward teamed up with the BBC to create a documentary exploring their Traveler heritage. In the 2022 special, they visited the community they left at the age of 18.
They also performed publicly and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.