The family of drag queen and Drag Race UK contestant George Ward, better known as Cherry Valentine, have announced the performer’s death.
Ward was 28.
In a statement, Ward’s family said, “It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away.
“This will come as a profound shock to most people & we understand there is no easy way for this to be announced.
“As his family, we are still processing his death and our lives will never be the same.
“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’s agent, Emma Bunning, said in an email to Queerty, “My heart is broken. George was a truly special person with enormous talent and a bright future ahead. He lit up a room, touched so many people’s lives and few could forget his infectious laugh which I will miss terribly.”
The Drag Race UK Twitter account posted a message saying, “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.”
Ward died on Sunday No further details about their death have been released.
Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud
Ward was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the traveler community. They left the community at the age of 18 and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015.
Ward appeared on season 2 of Drag Race UK in 2021. After their appearance, Ward also filmed a documentary for BBC3 entitled, Gypsy Queen And Proud.
In it, Ward spoke about their childhood in the traveler community.
“My experience growing up as a queer person in that community really affected my entire life.
“I constantly have this pressure on me of trying to be perfect all the time. I’ve built this image of who I should be and it’s not who I am deep down. The feeling of being someone I don’t want to be, Cherry doesn’t feel that as much as I do.”
The filming of Drag Race UK season 2 was placed on hold when the Covid pandemic hit. Ward used the hiatus to return to nursing.
Ward told Metro at the time, “I can’t just sit at home, I need to be doing something.
“I ended up going back into [nursing], working in neuro for a bit for a couple of months.
“It was a weird crossover because I’m obviously mental health-trained. During the pandemic, it was very physical health-focused, so it was dealing with Covid, which was a bit of a shock. I did that until we went back filming again.”
Fellow Drag Race UK contestants Bimini Boulash and Ginny Lemon were among those to pay tribute.
At a loss for words. One of those souls so pure, so raw, so real. I’m incredibly lucky to have known George and witnessed their infectious spirit. Their patience and kindness was their superpower. They saw you for you and not many people have that empathetic trait. My heart 💔🍒
— BÎмÎηÎ (@biminibabes) September 23, 2022
Just woke up, just found out. I’m devastated and I can’t stop crying
— Ginny Lemon (@GinnyLemon69) September 23, 2022