RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28, his family have announced.
Ward appeared in the show’s second series before launching a television career and presenting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from his family said: “It is with the most heartbreaking and profound sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away.”
The entertainer died on Sunday, with his family saying his passing “will come as a profound shock to most people”.
“As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same again,” the statement continued.
“We understand how loved he is and how many lives he has inspired and touched. All we ask is your patience and prayers at this time. We love you Georgie.”
Ward grew up in Darlington, County Durham, in the Traveler community and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before continuing her drag career.
In December 2020, he was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Racein which he appeared alongside Lawrence Chaney, Bimini Bon-Boulash and Veronica Green.
In her intro video, Ward described her Cherry Valentine character as “glamorous”, “dark”, and “gothic”.
“If you’re a drag queen, you work with people. And to understand people, I think you go the extra mile,” he said.
Ward was the second contestant to be eliminated from the show after performing in the Rusical and delivering a runway look in front of guest judge Sheridan Smith.
After his appearance, Ward joined the BBC to create a documentary exploring his traveling heritage, in which he revisited the community he left behind when he was 18.
He also performed a number of public shows and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.
‘A true queen’ and ‘a fan favourite’
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins was among those who paid tribute to Ward, saying: “Very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine has passed away, aged just 28.
“We met in June in Epsom – so vibrant then it’s hard to believe. Sending love to George’s family and friends is just heartbreaking.”
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Another drag queen and author Glamrou, real name Amrou al Kadhi, said: “Blown away by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can not believe it. A real queen. Rest in peace my darling.
Fiona Campbell, controller of BBC Three, which broadcasts RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, described Ward as a “fan favourite” and an “inspiration”.
She said: “We had the privilege of working with him at BBC Three. He will be sorely missed by his many fans and friends. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”