George Ward death: Drag Race UK star who performed as Cherry Valentine dies aged 28

·3-min read

Drag queen George Ward, best known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28.

The performer, who appeared on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, died on Sunday (18 September), his family announced.

A statement from his family was released on Friday (23 September), reading: “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.”

They 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.”

Read tributes to George Ward / Cherry Valentine here.

Ward 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 ofRuPaul’s Drag Race.

In his introductory video for the show, he described his alter-ego Cherry Valentine as “glamorous”, “dark” and “gothic”.

Upon entering the Werk Room, Ward explained that he had three jobs, as he did botox and worked as a mental health nurse alongside drag.

Nursing, he explained, “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,” he said. “And to understand people I think you go the extra mile.”

When filming was halted due to the pandemic, Ward returned to the NHS as a frontline vaccination nurse.

After appearing on the show, Ward worked with the BBC to produce a documentary exploring his Traveller heritage titled Gypsy Queen and Proud.

He performed publicly across the country and appeared in music videos alongside artists such as Charli XCX.

Many of Ward’s Drag Race UK co-stars have led tributes to the performer, with A’Whora writing that she was “heartbroken” and in “a state of shock”.

“We had so much planned and you had so much greatness ahead, and I know your legacy and talent will forever live on,” the drag queen wrote.

“I love you beyond words will ever understand! I will never stop being inspired by you and will continue to fight for your voice to be hear!”

In a statement, BBC Three controller Fiona Campbell also paid tribute to Ward.

“We are all shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of George, known to many as Cherry Valentine,” she said. “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.”