RuPaul’s Drag Race star George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28, the family have announced.
Ward appeared in the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, before fronting a BBC Three documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud.
Growing up in Darlington, County Durham as a member of the Romany Traveller community, Ward documented the difficulties he faced growing up as LGBT+ for the documentary.
Ward, who died on Sunday, previously worked as a mental health nurse before launching his career in drag.
A statement from 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 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.”
Ward was announced as one of the 12 contestants for Drag Race UK in December 2020.
He said his training as a mental health nurse put him “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.”
Tributes have started to pour in on social media following the news of Cherry’s tragic death.
World of Wonder, the production company behind Drag Race, 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.”
One person said: “The Cherry Valentine news is heartbreaking. 28 is no age at all, and she was such an important voice in UK culture.”
Another said: “What awful news. Such a talent and taken from the world far too young. RIP Cherry Valentine.”