RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has passed away at the age of 28, his family has announced.
Ward appeared in the show’s second series before launching a television career and starring in 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 died.”
The artist died on Sunday, with his family saying his disappearance “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 again,” 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 right now. 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 pursuing his driving career.
In December 2020, he was announced as one of 12 contenders in the UK version of RuPaul’s Endurance 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”.
“If you’re a drag queen, you work with people. And to understand people I think you do what you can,” she said.
Ward was the second contestant to be eliminated from the show after performing at the Rusical and offering a runway look in front of guest judge Sheridan Smith.
Following his appearance, Ward joined the BBC to create a documentary exploring his legacy as a traveler, in which he revisited the community he left at the age of 18.
He has also performed numerous public performances and has 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 who paid tribute to Ward, saying, “It’s very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine is dead, aged just 28.
“We met in June in Epsom – so full of life then, it’s hard to believe. Sending love to George’s family and friends is just heartbreaking.”
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Fellow drag queen and author Glamrou, real name Amrou Al-Kadhi, said, “Came stunned by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can’t believe it. A true 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 have had the privilege of working 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.”