Drag Race UK star George Ward (known by his stage name Cherry Valentine) has died at 28.
Ward qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before launching his career as a drag performer. In 2021, he appeared in the second season of Drag Race UK, and later starred in a BBC documentary titled Gypsy Queen and Proud, which explored his background as a member of the Traveller community in County Durham. In the documentary, Ward said, “Being LGBT or being something different from the norm in the community, I think it’s so unlucky because it comes from such a traditional place. I say ‘traditional’ but it’s more binary. It’s just very binary – that’s the word. The men are the men and the women are the women and there’s no in-between. But we know there’s a lot in between and on either side.”
Following his death on Sunday, his family released a statement: “It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away.”
“As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same,” the statement continued. “We understand how much he is loved and how many lives he has inspired and touched. All we ask is for your patience and your prayers at this time. We love you Georgie.”
After his stint on Drag Race, Ward performed a number of live shows and has appeared in music videos by artists including Charli XCX, as well as continuing to work in the NHS throughout the pandemic.
Tributes began to pour in today from fellow drag queens, venues, fans and the queer community. Drag queen and author Glamrou tweeted, “Winded by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can’t believe it. A true queen. Rest in peace my dear.”
Singer and presenter Jack Remmington said, “RIP Cherry Valentine. A brilliant drag performer who did so much for this world both as a nurse, and as a representative for the gypsy community. A profound loss.”
Drag Race UKtweeted, “We are heartbroken that Cherry has passed away. She was a kind soul who brought joy and a distinctive laugh to everyone she met. She brought flair, verve and charm to #DragRaceUK, we will miss her so deeply.”