Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

RuPaul's Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine dies aged 28

Drag Artist Cherry Valentine on Ladies Day during the Cazoo Derby Festival 2022

DRAG performer George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, his family have announced.

Ward, who died on Sunday, appeared on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, before launching a TV career and fronting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud.

A statement from his 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.”

George Ward died at the age of 28 at the weekend

Tributes begun flooding in for the former mental health nurse as the shocking news came out.

Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins wrote: "Very sad to hear that Cherry Valentine has died, aged just 28. We met back in June at Epsom - so full of life then, it’s hard to believe. Sending love to George’s family & friends, just heartbreaking."

The RuPaul's Drag Race UK fan group posted: "We are utterly heartbroken to hear the shocking news that Cherry Valentine has died. As we try and process this news, our first thoughts are with their loved ones. Sending our love and condolences to their family and friends."

Presenter Jack Remmington added: "RIP Cherry Valentine. A brilliant drag performer who did so much for this world both as a nurse, and as representation for the gypsy community. A profound loss."

Dundee drag performer Ellie Diamond, who appeared in series two alongside Ward, shared a photo of them together on Instagram.

The post said: “I am so sad to even begin thinking about posting this! Cherry brought so much life and laughs to whatever situation!

“Always someone who was caring and loving, her laugh lightened up a room like fireworks and will forever have a cherry red place in all our hearts! I love you my sister you will be missed!”

A fundraiser on the GoFundMe website has so far raised more than £5000 for a vigil in memory of Ward, with donations coming from Drag Race UK stars Tia Kofi, A’Whora and River Medway.

Ward was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller community, before starting his 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 his introductory video for the show, he described his Cherry Valentine alter-ego as “glamour”, “dark” and “gothic”.

He said his 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 joined with the BBC to produce a documentary exploring his Traveller heritage.

In the 2022 special, called Gypsy Queen And Proud, he revisited the community he left aged 18.

He also performed publicly and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.