Who was Gypsy Queen George Ward: Remembering Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine

Drag performer George Ward, known as Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28

Who was George Ward? Remembering Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine
(Image credit: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images/Future)

The drag performer George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, his family have announced. Here look at who George Ward was and reflect on the reactions to his death.

George Ward, better known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, passed away on Sunday the 18th of September 2022, with a heartfelt statement from his family breaking the news. His cause of death is yet to be announced.

In the statement, Ward's family wrote, "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."

They added, "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."

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Who was George Ward?

George Ward was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller community. He left the community at the age of 18 after facing growing difficulties while growing up as LGBT within that space.

In 2015, he qualified as a mental health nurse before swerving into a different career path - drag. While the two paths seem like vastly different journeys, Ward noted that his work as a nurse had put him in the position to be able to understand people a bit more, giving his drag act an added boost.

He told the BBC in 2021, "If you are a drag queen you are working with people. And to understand people I think you go the extra mile."

In December 2020, Ward was announced as one of the 12 contestants set to compete in the second series of RuPaul's Drag Race UK, which brought attention to Cherry Valentine on a nationwide scale.

In Valentine's introductory video for the show, Ward described his drag persona as "glamour", "dark" and "gothic". As well as bringing jaw-dropping looks, the classic drag queen sassiness and some brilliant dance moves to the show, Cherry also spoke strongly and candidly about struggles she had faced and causes she believed in, giving a voice to subjects and people that many may not know about.

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Speaking about taking part in the iconic show, Ward told the BBC in 2021, "I just wanted to go on and show wherever you come from, whoever you are, you can do whatever makes you happy."

While Ward's time on the show was short, being eliminated in Episode 2, the drag star went on to front the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen And Proud. The eye-opening documentary explored his Traveller heritage and his coming out (opens in new tab) as he revisited the community he left aged only 18 as part of the programme.

Speaking to Dazed Magazine in 2021 about the documentary, Ward said, "I think primarily, as cliche as it sounds, the reason I did the documentary was to make people not feel alone. 

"Whether you’re in the GRT community and you’re LGBTQ, or whether you’re a drag queen who doesn’t feel accepted by their family, or whether you’re uncomfortable with talking about your background from any sort of community, I just want people to feel like they’re not alone"

Following the death of the drag star, Lauren Moss, the BBC's LGBT and identity correspondent, wrote, "She too touched the lives of so many who will be shocked by the loss of someone whose performances on stage were as inspiring as those away from the camera."

On Instagram, the official Drag Race UK page shared a photo of Valentine with the caption, "We 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."