Drag performer George Ward, better known by his drag name Cherry Valentine, died on Sunday, 18 September, aged 28. He will be remembered for his work as a nurse for the NHS, appearing on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and fronting the 2022 BBC Three documentary, Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud. The documentary was longlisted for a National Television Award.
In a statement, Ward’s family announced, “It is with the most heart-wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cherry Valentine – has tragically passed away”, and described his death as a “profound shock.”
From Darlington, Ward was part of the Traveller community. In his documentary, he discussed what it was like growing up gay in the Roma Traveller community and returning for the first time since he left at 18 years old. After leaving the community, Ward became a qualified mental health nurse in 2015 and worked for the NHS, later relocating to London. He was an advocate for mental health services and awareness.
You may also like
Ward appeared on Drag Race UK in 2021 and described his drag style as glamour, gothic and club kid. In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, Ward was a front-line nurse for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. In 2021, he released two singles, Iconic and Aesthetic, and appeared in a drag performance music video for Charli XCX’s song, Good Ones, the same year. Alongside this, Ward also ran a company called Throne Events, which he launched in 2021 with two friends.
Influencers and fellow Drag Race contestants have shared tributes since the news broke on Friday morning, 23 September. Ward was described as talented, a sweetheart and a brilliant drag performer. Singer-songwriter Jack Remmington called Ward’s passing a “profound loss” and Hazel Rose Dee remembered Ward for being welcoming and helping her when she was transitioning. In a Twitter post, she wrote, “Her legacy and impact will live on.”
Drag performer Cheryl Hole paid tribute on Instagram and shared, “[I] have no words to describe how talented and beautiful Cherry was and how the world has lost such an incredible queen. Makeup artist Dominic Skinner commented and wrote, “Cherry was one of a kind and a true powerhouse of strength and talent.”
View this post on Instagram
Ward’s family said they are still processing his death and noted in their statement, “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.”
There has been a GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for a public vigil and further announcements will be shared on Throne Events’ socials. On Throne Events’ website, there is a book of condolence for people to share their comments, stories, photos and videos.
Ward was a kind and welcoming person who helped people both in and out of drag, and he is survived by his family. He will be dearly missed by his thousands of fans, friends, the drag community and his loved ones.
By Caroline Edwards, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Cherry Valentine via Instagram