Drag performer George Ward, known by his stage name Cherry Valentine, has died aged 28, his family has announced.

Ward, who died on Sunday, appeared in the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK before launching a TV career and fronting the BBC documentary Gypsy Queen and Proud.

A statement from his family said: “It is with the greatest heartache and deepest sadness to inform you that our George – Cheri Valentine has tragically passed away.

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“This will come as a deep shock to most people and we understand that there is no easy way to announce this.

“As his family, we are still processing his d*ath and our lives will never be the same.

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“We understand how much he was loved and how many lives he affected and touched. We just ask for your patience and your prayers at this time. We love you Georgie.”

Ward was brought up as part of the Traveler community in Darlington, County Durham and qualified as a mental health nurse in 2015 before starting her career in drag.

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In December 2020, Ward was announced as one of 12 contestants competing in the second series of the UK version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In her introductory video for the show, she described her Cherry Valentine alter ego as “glamorous”, “dark” and “gothic”.

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She said her work as a nurse “put me in the right position to be able to understand people a little more.

“If you’re a drag queen, you’re working with people. And to understand people, I think you go the extra mile.

After appearing on the show, Ward produced a documentary with the BBC exploring his Traveler heritage.

In a 2022 special, called Gypsy Queen and Proud, she revisited the community she left at age 18.

He has also performed publicly and appeared in music videos for artists such as Charli XCX.

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