George Ward, a drag queen who went by the name Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28, TVLine reports. Ward is probably best known for taking part in RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2 and appearing in the BBC Three documentary Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud, which follows her struggle to become an LGBTQ+ To be accepted as a member of the Traveler community.
In a statement announcing the tragic news, Ward’s parents did not reveal how the beloved drag queen died. “This will come as a profound shock to most people and we understand there is no easy way to announce this,” they said. “We understand how much [they are] loved and how many lives [they have] inspired and touched. All we ask for your patience and prayers at this time.” The production company of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” also released an emotional statement on Instagram about Ward’s death. “As an artist, nurse and activist, Cherry will always remain a beloved member of our drag race family,” it said. “Cherry’s love and her irresistibly infectious laugh touched the lives of so many.”
Ward was a mental health nurse who balanced her day job with her drag career, and they didn’t abandon the former when the pandemic hit and put the lives of medical professionals on the line. In an interview with Attitude UK, Ward credited their stage work with giving them a much-needed break from the stresses of the front lines.
The drag community mourns the loss of Cherry Valentine
In a 2022 interview with BBC Three, George Ward spoke about what it was like to fear coming out as gendered to family members. “I had never had open conversations about my sexuality or gender with anyone in my family except my mother,” they said. Explaining that the Traveler community they grew up in doesn’t accept people who aren’t straight and cisgender, Ward said, “The community is very traditional and quite stereotypical in their views.” But when they started doing drag play, Ward found a welcoming community. “It sounds like an exaggeration, but drag really saved my life,” they said.
Upon hearing of Ward’s death, drag performers took to social media to pay tribute to their fellow queen, including a number of contestants who took part in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and its British counterpart. Taking to Instagram, Yuhua Hamasaki wrote, “Fly up and dance the angels our queen!” Recalling some of the good times she shared with Ward on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Ginny Lemon added, “Cherry my Honey, I love you so much, my heart is broken.”
A’Whora was another royal that Ward met on the show, and on her Instagram Story, she revealed that she and Ward had become close friends. “We had so much planned and you had so much greatness ahead of you and I know your legacy and talents will live on forever,” she wrote.