RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine, real name George Ward, has died at just 28 years old.
Ward, from Darlington, County Durham, became the first-ever queen of Romany descent to appear in the entire Drag Race franchise when they competed as Cherry Valentine in the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
They had also been a qualified mental health nurse in 2015, before starting their drag career as the gothic Cherry Valentine.
When the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ward went back to nursing because they felt it was important “to be doing something”.
The gender-fluid Drag Race icon later fronted the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud, exploring their experience growing up gay in the Traveller community and going back for the first time since they left at age 18.
“One of the other reasons why I wanted to make this documentary was to show people that Travellers are everywhere,” they told PinkNews at the time.
“Gypsy people are everywhere. LGBT+ people are everywhere. We’re just part of society, and that’s OK.”
A statement from Ward’s family said their death had come as a “heart-wrenching” and “profound shock”.
“It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away,” the family said.
“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’s family confirmed that he died on Sunday (18 September), but have not shared any further detail on what happened.