George Ward, best known for competing on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK as Cherry Valentine, has died according to a statement issued by his parents.
“It is with the most heart wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George - Cherry Valentine - has tragically passed away," the statement read. "This will come as a profound shock to most people & 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 a mental health nurse for England’s National Health Service before debuting on the BBC Three drag series. His drag persona, Cherry Valentine, rocketed to fame after competing in six episodes for the 2020-2021 season. Along with a statement from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, fellow contestants Bimini Bon-Boulash and Tia Kofi expressed their grief on social media.
\u201cWe are heartbroken that Cherry has passed away. She was a kind soul who brought joy and a distinctive laugh to everyone she met. She brought flair, verve and charm to #DragRaceUK, we will miss her so deeply.\u201d— RuPaul's Drag Race UK (@RuPaul's Drag Race UK) 1663925663
\u201cAt a loss for words. One of those souls so pure, so raw, so real. I\u2019m incredibly lucky to have known George and witnessed their infectious spirit. Their patience and kindness was their superpower. They saw you for you and not many people have that empathetic trait. My heart \ud83d\udc94\ud83c\udf52\u201d— B\u00ce\u043c\u00ce\u03b7\u00ce (@B\u00ce\u043c\u00ce\u03b7\u00ce) 1663926373
\u201cCompletely devastated and shook by the news about our friend Cherry. She was extremely kind, generous and talented. \ud83c\udf52\u2764\ufe0f\n\nPlease share your memories in the Book of Condelence and contribute to the fundraiser for her vigil here - https://t.co/2IlBcE4xiY\u201d— Tia Kofi (@Tia Kofi) 1663926063
Ward's Cherry Valentine persona was far-reaching, even landing him a role in Charli XCX’s "Good Ones" video. Born in Darlington, County Durham as a member of the Traveller community, he went on to publicly embrace his Gypsy identity in the 2022 documentary, Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud.
The BBC film detailed Ward’s journey of coming out as gay at 18 and being rejected by his tight-knit community. He described taking on the drag persona of Cherry Valentine as a means of re-inventing himself at the time. In 2022, he then sought acceptance as a queer Gypsy.
In the wake of Ward’s death, many in the drag community are mourning and expressing their heartbreak on social media, both those who knew Ward personally and those who didn’t. Tess Tickle wrote in an instagram tribute to Ward, “When someone in our community passes away we all feel it.”
A book of condolence, which has amassed over 1,000 comments already, is live online for anyone to share their memories of Ward and offer condolences to his friends and family.
Photo via Instagram/@thecherryvalentine
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