George Ward, otherwise known as drag performer Cherry Valentine (Photo: George Ward via PA Media)
Tributes are being paid to drag artist George Ward, who performed under the name Cherry Valentine, following his death at the age of 28.
On Friday, the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star’s family released a statement confirming that he had died last week.
“It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away,” they said.
“This will come as a profound shock to most people and 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.”
George as Cherry in the Drag Race UK studio (Photo: BBC/World of Wonder/Guy Levy)
Following the news of his death, a number of George’s former co-stars and fellow drag queens have been paying their respects on social media:
This is terribly sad. Such a sweetheart who had achieved so much for her communities. Condolences to everyone who knew her. So shocked. https://t.co/Ne3isO1q34
— Divina De Campo stream DECODED (@Divinadecampo) September 23, 2022
— Asttina Mandella (@AsttinaMandella) September 23, 2022
— Jonbers Blonde (@jonbersblonde) September 23, 2022
Winded by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can’t believe it. A true queen. Rest in peace my dear 💔
— Amrou Al-Kadhi 🦄 (@Glamrou) September 23, 2022
It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved friend and company director George - Cherry Valentine.
George's family have prepared the statement below which is accompanied by ours.#CherryValentine#RIPCherrypic.twitter.com/loVqVTwCrl
— Throne Events (@Throneeventsuk) September 23, 2022
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 😔 pic.twitter.com/OkqBwhZwLz
— Charlotte Hawkins (@CharlotteHawkns) September 23, 2022
Other queens, including Sister Sister, Tia Kofi, Gothy Kendoll and winners Lawrence Chaney and Blu Hydrangea, paid their own tributes to George with photos of Cherry’s past looks on their Instagram stories.
Meanwhile, fellow season two queen Awhora wrote: “I cannot even begin to process today’s news, I honestly have never been so heartbroken and in a state of shock so much.
“I’ve lost not only a sister but someone who for the last seven months had become my best friend, who I would call and text about everything and anything. We had so much planned and you had so much greatness ahead, and I know your legacy and talent will forever live on.”
Bimini also shared a picture of themself with Cherry on Instagram, writing: “I can’t find the right words. I’m not sure they exist.
“You saw what others didn’t and showed nothing but kindness, patience and grace. A pure soul. I’ll cherish our memories and the things you taught me. You will continue to inspire me, forever.”
Bimini pays tribute to Cherry Valentine on Instagram (Photo: Instagram/Bimini)
A spokesperson for World Of Wonder, the production company behind Drag Race, also said: “We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of George Ward, AKA Cherry Valentine.
“As an artist, nurse and an activist Cherry will always remain a beloved member of our Drag Race family. Cherry’s love and irresistibly infectious laugh touched the lives of so many. Our deepest condolences go out to her family and friends.”
A statement from BBC Three said: “We are devastated at the passing of George, who we also knew as Cherry Valentine.”
The station’s controller Fiona Campbell added: “We are all shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of George, known to many as Cherry Valentine.
“A fan favourite and an inspiration to so many, 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.”
We are devastated at the passing of George, who we also knew as Cherry Valentine.
Fiona Campbell, BBC Three Controller says:
“We are all shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of George, known to many as Cherry Valentine.
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) September 23, 2022
A fan favourite and an inspiration to so many, 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.”
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) September 23, 2022
George was raised in Darlington, County Durham and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015, before starting his career in drag.
In December 2020, he was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
After appearing on Drag Race UK, George teamed up with the BBC to produce a documentary exploring his Traveller heritage.
In the 2022 special, called Gypsy Queen And Proud, he revisited the community he left aged 18.
He also performed publicly and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.