The drag performer George Ward, better known by their stage name, Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, their family has announced.
Ward, who died on Sunday, appeared on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK before launching a TV career and hosting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.
A statement from their 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 of him, we are still processing his death of him 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 raised in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the Traveler community and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015, before starting a career in drag.
In December 2020, Ward was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In their introductory video for the show, they described their Cherry Valentine alter ego as “glamour”, “dark” and “gothic”.
They said their 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.”
After appearing on the show, Ward teamed up with the BBC to produce a documentary exploring their Traveler heritage. In the 2022 special, they revisited the community they left at 18.
They also performed publicly and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.