RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, his family have announced.
Ward appeared on the second series of the show before launching a TV career and fronting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from his family said: “It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away.”
The performer 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,” their 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 in this time. We love you Georgie.”
Ward was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before pursuing his drag career.
In December 2020, he was announced as one of the 12 contestants competing in the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he appeared in alongside Lawrence Chaney, Bimini Bon-Boulash and Veronica Green.
In his introductory video, Ward described his Cherry Valentine character as “glamour”, “dark” and “gothic”.
“If you are a drag queen you are working with people. And to understand people I think you go the extra mile,” he said.
Ward was the second competitor to be eliminated from the show after performing in the Rusical and delivering a runway look in front of guest judge Sheridan Smith.
Following his appearance, Ward joined the BBC to create a documentary exploring his Traveller heritage, in which he revisited the community he left at the age of 18.
He also performed a number of public shows and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.
‘A true queen’, ‘just heartbreaking’ and ‘a fan favourite’
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins was among those paying tribute to Ward, saying: “Very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine has died, aged just 28.
“We met back in June at Epsom – so full of life then, it’s hard to believe. Sending love to George’s family & friends, just heartbreaking.”
Fellow drag queen and author Glamrou, real name Amrou Al-Kadhi, said: “Winded 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 favourite” and an “inspiration”.
“We were privileged to have worked with him at BBC Three. He will be hugely missed by his many fans and friends. Our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”