Cherry Valentine, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, dies aged 28
Drag performer George Ward appeared on second series of hit show before launching TV career.
George Ward, better known by the stage name Cherry Valentine, was an English drag queen and mental health nurse from Darlington, England. He was best known for competing in the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, and for his BBC documentary Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud.
The drag performer George Ward, known by their stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28.
The performer was “an inspiration to many”, the BBC said, after Ward’s family announced their death at the age of 28.
Ward’s career in television began after appearing on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in 2021.
Born and raised as George Ward in the Traveller community in Darlington, County Durham, they presented a BBC documentary about their life, Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud, in January this year.
In a statement, 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 qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 and three years later began performing as Cherry Valentine. During the pandemic they worked in a Covid vaccination centre.
Ward was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race in December 2020.
In an introductory video for the show, Ward described their Cherry Valentine alter-ego as “glamour”, “dark” and “gothic”.
They said working 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.”
The controller of BBC Three, Fiona Campbell, said: “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.”
In the BBC documentary, Ward describes how they did not feel accepted growing up and moved away at 18, only staying in contact with their mother. The film follows a return to their roots.
Talking about their motivation for making the BBC documentary, Ward said in a promotional video: “It was something that I wanted to do because if I was younger and saw something like that, it maybe would’ve helped me feel a little bit differently about it.”
Describing their struggles growing up, Ward said: “My first memories playing out with all the lads on one of the camps, I felt like I should be playing with the girls in the trailer with the dolls and doing my hair and I just didn’t ever feel like I fitted in properly.”
Speaking about their alter ego, Ward said: “Cherry is just the part of me that I want to be when I’m out of drag. Obviously we’re the same person.”
The Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins tweeted: “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.”
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