RuPaul's Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine has passed away at the age of 28.
The performer, who was known as George Ward outside of drag, also worked as a mental health nurse. George's family shared the tragic news in a statement on Friday morning (September 23).
"It is with the most heart wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away," the statement read.
"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. 30 November 1993 – 18 September 2022."
The BBC paid tribute to George, with BBC Three controller Fiona Campbell saying in a statement: "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."
RuPaul's Drag Race UK's series two queens have been leading tributes to Cherry, also sharing details of an online book of condolence and a vigil to honour her memory and legacy.
Cherry appeared on series two of RuPaul's Drag Race UK, returning to the NHS while the show was forced to take a filming break and later and joining staff who were administering vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While on the show, Cherry had an emotional conversation with fellow queen Sister Sister about growing up in the Traveller community – and later revisited the community in an acclaimed BBC documentary called Gypsy Queen And Proud.
"It was a really crazy moment to just sit down with Sister Sister and talk about my family," Cherry previously told Digital Spy. "I got really emotional in the confessionals. I did cringe about that a bit because I hate to see myself cry.
"It was one of those moments I will never forget because it actually did help me to appreciate and respect myself a little bit more. It was a good thing to go through."
World of Wonder, the company behind Drag Race, paid tribute to Cherry in a statement, saying: "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 the RuPaul's Drag Race UK team read: "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 Drag Race UK. We will miss her so deeply."
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