Cherry Valentine, RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. Season-Two Competitor, Dead at 28

Cherry Valentine, real name George Ward. Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

George Ward, known for their drag persona Cherry Valentine, is dead at age 28, according to a statement shared by their agent (Ward’s pronouns out of drag are he/they). “It is with the most heart wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George — Cherry Valentine — has tragically passed away,” said Cherry’s parents in a statement. “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.” As Cherry, Ward competed on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K., where they were the first competitor of Romani descent featured on any iteration of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Out of drag, Ward was a health-care worker in the NHS, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Cherry grew in notability, Ward used their drag persona at work to encourage vaccination, as can be seen in the BBC documentary, Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud, in which they attempt to reconcile both their identity as Roma and as a member of the queer community. “Is this going to change the community for LGBT travelers?” Ward said in an interview with BBC 3. “Hopefully more people will start to speak about it openly, will start more conversation, and that in turn will change opinion or just change someone’s viewpoint on something. I say it to everybody I meet — visibility is the most important thing. If you want to make a change you have to be visible about it. I really am ready now, to start having conversations with my family. The only thing that could do is bring us closer together.” Below, Drag Race alumni and RuPaul share tributes.

Cherry Valentine of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. Dead at 28