RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star George Ward, known by the stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28.
George, who died on Sunday, appeared on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, before launching a TV career and fronting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from George’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 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 Ward (Photo: PA)
George was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller community 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.
During his introductory video for the show, he described his Cherry Valentine alter-ego as “glamour”, “dark” and “gothic”.
He said his work as a nurse had “put me in that right position to be able to understand people a bit more.
“If you are a drag queen you are working with people. And to understand people I think you go the extra mile.”
The drag community has been paying tribute on social media following the news of George’s death...
RIP Cherry Valentine. Absolutely heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/V2PjfL1xEp
— Eve 6000 🦋 (@alsoabouteve) September 23, 2022
We are utterly heartbroken to hear the shocking news that Cherry Valentine has died.
As we try and process this news, our first thoughts are with their loved ones.
Sending our love and condolences to their family and friends. 💔
RIP Cherry 🌹#CherryValentine#DragRaceUKpic.twitter.com/1MjGXOesj8
— RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Fans (@rpdrukfans) September 23, 2022
— Jonbers Blonde (@jonbersblonde) September 23, 2022
What sad news to hear about the passing of Cherry Valentine. A completely out of this world talent and so tragically young x pic.twitter.com/xYlNWF7W1E
— 𝑆𝐼𝐴𝑁 𝑇𝐻𝑌𝑀𝐸𝑆 🥂 (@SianThymes) September 23, 2022
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.