BRIGHTON’s LGBTQ+ and Traveller communities have paid tribute to drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star Cherry Valentine, who has died at the age of 28.
The performer, whose real name was George Ward, appeared on the second series of the BBC reality TV show, before launching a TV career and fronting the documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud, where he opened up about his experience growing up as gay and a drag queen in the Traveller community.
A statement from his 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.
“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.”
Brighton drag queen Joe Black, who competed alongside Cherry Valentine on Drag Race UK, said he was in “shock” by the tragic news and described George as an “exceptional artist and person”.
I’m in shock and not quite sure how to process the news. RIP Cherry. I will cherish the times we had together. An exceptional artist and person. My love goes out to their friends and family and everyone who knew them. pic.twitter.com/ZiJ7mY5DJ6
— Joe Black (@misterjoeblack) September 23, 2022
He said: “I will cherish the times we had together. My love goes out to their friends and family and everyone who knew them.”
Pixie Polite, who is currently representing Brighton on the current series of the show, said Cherry was a “true talent” and passed her “heartfelt condolences to all of her family, friends and all of her season two sisters”.
George was raised in Darlington as part of the Traveller community and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015, before starting his career in drag.
He served on the NHS frontline during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and featured on the second season of Drag Race UK at the start of last year.
In a documentary released earlier this year, George revisited the Traveller community he left at age 18 to explore his heritage.
Argus readers have also expressed their sorrow at George’s passing, with Ben Perkins describing them as “kind, a healthcare hero and an incredible drag queen”.
A spokesman for the Brighton-based charity Friends, Families and Travellers described the news as “totally devastating” and said: “George was a kind, beautiful and caring soul who touched many lives as Cherry Valentine, but also as a mental health nurse.
“His work and bravery will live on through those he inspired, within the LGBTQ+ Traveller communities and beyond.”