Drag performer Cherry Valentine — whose legal name is George Ward — has died, according to their family. They were 28 years old.
In 2019, Valentine gained notoriety after starring as a contestant during Season Two of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.”
World of Wonder — the production company behind the BBC Three reality series — confirmed the death of Valentine with a statement on social media.
"We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of George Ward, AKA Cherry Valentine," the statement began. "As an artist, nurse and an activist Cherry will always remain a beloved member of our 'Drag Race' family. Cherry’s love and irresistibly infectious laugh touched the lives of so many. Our deepest condolences go out to her family and friends."
According to Variety, Valentine's family released a statement as well mourning the loss of the queen.
“It is with the most heart wrenching and deepest sadness to inform you that our George — Cherry Valentine — has tragically passed away,” the statement reportedly said. “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,” the statement continued. “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.”
Valentine’s family did not disclose an exact cause of death.
In 2022, a BBC Three documentary called “Cherry Valentine: Gypsy Queen and Proud” examined Valentine's expulsion from the Roma community they grew up in after coming out. During the documentary, Valentine explored how to meld their drag persona and Roma roots. The documentary also followed Valentine's work as a mental health nurse throughout UK’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. War was asked by the COVID-19 vaccination they worked at to appear as Cherry Valentine to promote vaccines.
The impact of Valentine's presence in the drag community can be measured in response to the news of their death on social media.
RuPaul, who worked with Valentine during their time on the series, commented on the news with a post shared on Twitter.
“So sad to hear. A bright star and a lovely person. @TheCValentine, the host of the series, wrote. “Always in our hearts.”
The official Twitter account for “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” also confirmed the news in a post that described Valentine as a “kind soul.”
“We are heartbroken that Cherry has passed away,” said the tweet. “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.”
“Our hearts ache at the loss of #CherryValentine — a proud member of our community, a cousin, a shining star that paved a glorious path for young Romany seeking representation,” the podcast Roma Unraveled wrote in a tweet.” He brought bright smiles and laughter to all that knew him. May your final road be forever peaceful.”
Bimini Bon-Boulash, a fellow contestant of Valentine's during season 2 of “Drag Race,” also took to Twitter to grieve.
“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,” they wrote. “Their patience and kindness was their superpower. They saw you for you and not many people have that empathetic trait. My heart.”
Fans of Valentine also gathered to share sentiments and mourn. Many were quick to highlight their more memorable moments as Cherry Valentine while on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.”
“RIP Cherry Valentine,” another tweeted. “thank you for bringing so much fun & laughter during quarantine.”
“Cherry Valentine’s laugh appreciation post. She was great,” another fan wrote with a video compilation of Valentine on Twitter.