Heartbroken Ru Paul’s Drag Race stars have paid tribute to co-star and ‘incredible queen’ George Ward, known as Cherry Valentine, who has died aged 28.
George, who died on Sunday and went by Georgie, 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.
Georgie’s season two co-star Bimini Bon Boulash led tributes to the star and described them as ‘one of those souls so pure, so raw, so real’.
A statement from their 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.
Drag performer George Ward, known by their stage name Cherry Valentine, has died at the age of 28, their family have announced
Georgie, 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
‘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.’
Georgie, who identified as gender-fluid, was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller community and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015, before starting their career in drag.
The drag queen has been praised for her ‘infectious spirit’ by Bimini Bon Boulash, who also took part in the second season of the BBC Three show.
After hearing the tragic news, Bimini – whose real name is Tommy Hibbitts – wrote on Twitter: ‘At a loss for words. One of those souls so pure, so raw, so real. I’m 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.’
Cheryl Hole – real name Luke Underwood – lamented the world had ‘lost an incredible queen’ as she expressed her sadness at losing her loved one.
She said: ‘I never thought I’d have to write something like this about such a talented and beautiful person that was Cherry. We have lost an incredible queen and I’m honestly devastated! RIP @TheCValentine I LOVE you.’
Sum Ting Wong posted: ‘Jesus f*** I’m actually crying.’
The drag performer – real name Bo Zeng – added in a follow up tweet: ‘My cab just stopped for a second at a sign pointing to ‘gypsy hill’ and I started crying again ffs. Everyone check in on your friends and loved ones, you never when’s your last chance x.’
Georgie said their work as a nurse had ‘put me in that right position to be able to understand people a bit more’
Pop star Self Esteem – real name Rebecca Lucy Taylor – tweeted: ‘RIP Cherry’.
Tia Kofi – real name Laurence Bolton – was ‘completely devastated’ to hear the shocking news about her pal and former co-star.
She tweeted: ‘Completely devastated and shook by the news about our friend Cherry. She was extremely kind, generous and talented’, before appealing for donations for her vigil and sharing a link.
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins was also among those paying tribute to Georgie following their death.
She 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.’
Drag queen and author Glamrou, real name Amrou Al-Kadhi, said of Georgie: ‘Winded by the devastating news about Cherry Valentine. I can’t believe it. A true queen. Rest in peace my dear.’
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins was among those paying tribute to drag performer Georgie, following their death
In December 2020, Georgie was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
In their introductory video for the show, they described their Cherry Valentine alter-ego as ‘glamour’, ‘dark’ and ‘gothic’.
They said their 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.’
When filming of the show had to pause mid-season due to the pandemic, George started working shifts in a vaccination centre in Manchester.
Georgie had said: ‘Covid was such a massive shock to everyone and I felt, ‘Well, I’m a qualified nurse I need to be doing something.’
‘Drag is my passion and my dream but I do love being a nurse – it’s something I’ll always do.’
Pictured: Georgie as Cherry Valentine with Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 2 winner Lawrence Chaney and fellow contestant Asttina Mandella
They also performed publicly and appeared in music videos by artists such as Charli XCX.
After appearing on the show, Georgie joined with the BBC to produce a documentary exploring their Traveller heritage.
In the 2022 special, called Gypsy Queen And Proud, they revisited the community he left aged 18.
Georgie opened up about the difficulties of growing up as a queer person in the Gypsy community in the eye-opening documentary.
They grew up as part of Romany Traveller community in Darlington, but left at the age of 18 after receiving a negative reaction from their family when they came out as gay.
Pictured: Chery Valentine appearing in a Charlie XCX music video with fellow contestants from Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK
When filming of the show had to pause mid-season due to the pandemic, George started working shifts in a vaccination centre in Manchester
The drag artist revealed they struggled to view their sexuality in a positive light after being spat on, physically assaulted and harassed with homophobic slurs at school.
Appearing on BBC Three documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud, Georgie revealed that they no longer have a relationship with the Traveller community or members of their extended family.
‘My experience growing up as a queer person in that community really affected my entire life,’ said George.
‘I constantly have this pressure on me of trying to be perfect all the time. I’ve built this image of who I should be and it’s not who I am deep down. The feeling of being someone I don’t want to be, Cherry doesn’t feel that as much as I do’.
After their stint on Drag Race UK, Georgie revealed they had received messages on social media with racist, anti-Traveller slurs.
In January 2021, Georgie said: ‘At the minute I’m very fluid in my gender… and growing up wasn’t easy.
‘There were times where I left home for a bit and just had a bit of a meltdown.
‘In the Traveller community, there’s a lot of pressure on young people to marry, to settle down, to have a family and to get a job to support the family.
In January 2021, Georgie said: ‘At the minute I’m very fluid in my gender… and growing up wasn’t easy’
Georgie was raised in Darlington, County Durham as part of the Traveller community and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015, before starting their career in drag
‘I think that’s why I used to lie so much and say I had girlfriends.’
In Gypsy Queen and Proud school Georgie said they ‘felt different’, and faced harassment from bullies who would verbally and physically abuse them.
As Georgie got older, they felt pressure to conform to gender roles within the community and decided to write their parents a letter revealing they were homosexual.
‘There was a lot expected of me when I was 16 or 17 and I didn’t know how I needed to act. I was sick of pretending’, they said.
‘I felt like I was weak because I couldn’t pretend, I couldn’t just fit in. Why was I different? I hated myself for it.
In Gypsy Queen and Proud school Georgie said they ‘felt different’, and faced harassment from bullies who would verbally and physically abuse them
As Georgie got older, they felt pressure to conform to gender roles within the community and decided to write their parents a letter revealing they were homosexual
Georgie had briefly left home after writing the letter, and says they were left suicidal after opening up about their sexuality.
After moving away at 18, Georgie met more like minded people and developed their drag alter-ego Cherry, calling their stint on Drag Race a ‘massive eyeopener’.
‘I was around so many people who accepted themselves a lot more than I felt I did, said Georgie. ‘Being around people who accepted themselves a bit more made me realise I have a bit more opportunity than I felt I did.’
In the 2021 documentary Georgie said they now had a good relationship with their mum and dad, and had begun speaking with their brother – insisting the best way to make progress was ‘educating people on things they don’t understand’.