RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28, his family has announced.
Ward appeared in the second series of the show before embarking on a TV career and fronting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from his family said: “It is with the most heartbreaking and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has passed away tragically.”
The artist died on Sunday, with his family saying his passing “will come as a deep shock to most people”.
“As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same,” their statement continued.
“We understand how much he is loved and how many lives he has inspired and touched. All we ask is your patience and your prayers during this time. We love you Georgie.”
Ward grew up in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveler and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before continuing his drag career.
In December 2020, he was announced as one of 12 contestants entering the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Racein which he appeared alongside Lawrence Chaney, Bimini Bon-Boulash and Veronica Green.
In his introductory video, Ward described his Cherry Valentine character as “glamorous”, “dark” and “gothic”.
“When you’re a drag queen, you work with people. And to understand people, I think you go a step further,” he said.
Ward was the second contestant to be eliminated from the show after performing in the Rusical and giving a runway look for guest judge Sheridan Smith.
After his appearance, Ward joined the BBC to create a documentary exploring his Traveler heritage, revisiting the community he left at the age of 18.
He has also performed in a number of public shows and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.
‘A true queen’, ‘just heartbreaking’ and ‘a fan favorite’
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins was among those to pay tribute to Ward, saying: “Very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine has passed away, aged just 28.
“We met in June in Epsom – so full of life back then, it’s hard to believe. Sending love to George’s family and friends, just heartbreaking.”
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Fellow drag queen and author Glamrou, real name Amrou Al-Kadhi, said: “Shocked by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can’t believe it. A real queen. Rest in peace my dear.”
Fiona Campbell, controller of BBC Three, which broadcasts RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, described Ward as a “fan favorite” and an “inspiration”.
“We were privileged to work with him on BBC Three. He will be greatly missed by his many fans and friends. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”